Runners World Half & Festival Recap: Day 1

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ve probably noticed I’ve been ALLLLL over the place with the great stuff happening at the Runner’s World Half & Festival this past week – but now that I’ve finally got some time, I’m so excited to recap everything for you! Let’s start from the beginning and take it one day at a time, shall we?


Back in August I was asked to be an Ambassador for the Runner’s World Half & Festival, and I’m not going to lie: I thought they’d made a mistake by asking me. The other bloggers and ambassadors were SO much more well known! I’d already been following all of them in some form or another, and couldn’t believe I had the good fortune to get selected. So after geeking out for pretty much the entire two months leading up to the weekend, I found myself loading up my car and heading out to Bethlehem, PA on the Thursday before everything went down.

After I got into my hotel room I squealed at myself in the mirror for about an hour and dove into the ridiculous goodie bag the sponsors dropped off. Seriously, it was like the Oscars Gift Bag of Running: Balega, KT Tape, White Claw Hard Seltzer, Krave Jerky, Cal-Ez, Real Time Pain Relief… craziness.

At around 5 we all met down in the lobby for the first time and I nailed my first interaction with a famous blogger: when Jason Saltmarsh of Saltmarsh Running introduced himself to me, the conversation went something like this:

Jason: Hi, are you here for the Runners World thing?

Me: Yes, hi!

Jason: Hi, I’m Jason Saltmarsh, from Saltmarsh Running… ::extends hand in normal person handshake::

Me: ::floundering and stuttering, thrusting clammy claw-like hand at him:: gah yes! Hi! Jason, yes! ::shakes hand and nods during awkward silence before realizing this is where I introduce myself:: Ahh, this is Jess! ::points at self:: Jess runs happy! I’m on instagram mostly…


basically me

To his credit, he did not laugh at me (thank you, Salty) – in fact, just the opposite happened. Because he is one of the kindest, most encouraging folks I’ve ever met, just like the rest of the gang that soon joined us in the lobby for the party bus ride to Runner’s World HQ in Emmaus:

These folks are seriously amazing. We all had such a blast together. If you haven’t heard of them, you must go follow them all, immediately, on every social channel they’ve got. Go ahead. I’ll wait. I’m just hanging out with my tea at Starbucks… OK.

So after a round of introductions, we all piled into a sweet party bus for the 15 minute drive out to RW, during which I got to chat with Hollie up there. A fellow NJ runner, she and I bonded over our love of Jersey diners, chatted about local races, bonded over our recent injuries, and more. It was so fun to talk with someone I’ve followed on social media for a while and discover that we have so much in common (i.e. our love of sweet things follows roughly the same order: buttercream > whipped cream > caramel, and butterscotch ranks in there somewhere too).

Once we got to Runner’s World HQ, I won’t lie: things started happening FAST and I legit had to pinch myself a few times. Bart [FREAKING] Yasso came out to meet us outside the bus, showed us the garden that the RW folks grew right outside the building, and led us into the building, Willy-Wonka-style, to a dining room where a BBQ buffet had been set up and about 30 Runners World staff members were there to greet us.

They assigned us to tables with our ambassador partners and placed a few editors and staff members at each table too, so while we ate we chatted with folks like Reporter Kit Fox and Editor-in-Chief David Willey. And the Wassner twins were right next to me too! Full disclosure: I was starving, but I did not eat very much. You try looking cool eating a burger the size of your face in front of world class athletes and the editor in chief of Runner’s Freaking World. Go on, I dare you! I guarantee you’re going to be staring, starstruck, as these folks chat nonchalantly about how to balance real life with training for and winning international events, all while your burger goes cold.


Having said that, I DID eat the whole burger. It was incredibly delicious. I also had a brownie and a lot of White Claw Hard Seltzer to take the edge off. It worked.

For the weekend, we were paired off into teams of two for what they called the Altralympics: a weekend-long competition sponsored by the main event sponsor Altra Running, where we would complete challenges to earn points towards a grand prize pack. I had the great fortune to be paired with social media guru Ty from Seeking Boston Marathon  who had already been killing it online. Ty, if you’re reading this, THANK YOU.

Our first official game in the Altralympics was a Flag Contest: in this tumultuous political scene, the idea of seceding from the union is all too enticing, so we were tasked with creating our own countries, complete with a flag and a motto – in 20 minutes. Ty quickly found a quiet spot to brainstorm while I grabbed tape, construction paper, glue and scissors. Clearly our teamwork skills were already ON FIRE.


the artist at work. paper, marker and glue, 2016.

Starting with the idea of a running utopia, we began tossing out the things our new country stood for. Unable to move off the idea of running for donuts and wine, I tried out a few versions of a motto and after Ty tweaked a few words, a lightbulb literally went off over our heads; thus, our beautiful nation was born. The idea of the blue & yellow Boston colors and the stripes was mine, while Ty figured out the 4-image quadrant in place of a sea of stars, and down to the last minute we worked furiously gluing and cutting washi tape into donut sprinkles. Once time was called we all got to present our countries to the applause and laughter of the RW staff and our fellow ambassadors:

There were lots of laughs: namely over the sucking up almost every team decided to do by including Bart Yasso somehow in the name or motto of their country. Finally, Ty and I presented our creation: Runtopia, where We Count Miles, Not Calories.


Not ashamed to admit that flag is hanging proudly in my home office right now.

After our country presentations, Bart Yasso himself took us on a private tour of Runner’s World Headquarters, and he delivered with a personal touch. He’s like the great laid-back uncle you wish you had.

Every corner we turned, he had a funny anecdote to share about this person’s working habits or that department’s history. It was one of those moments in life where you find yourself in the middle of it, telling yourself, “Remember every second of this, it’s truly incredible.”


Where the magazine is built, page-by-page, each month.

After our tour, the bus took us back to the hotel where I called my mother and squealed for 15 minutes about everything being so cool, called my husband and squealed all the same stuff to him, laid out my flat runner for the following morning’s 5AM wakeup call, and passed out HARD.


I fell asleep smiling and reliving all of the craziness that had happened in the previous 6 hours, completely oblivious to just how great the next few days were going to be.

Stay tuned for Day 2!

Things are Happening…!

Yesterday, Hopper reminded me that prices on flights to LA were dropping, which means that the Star Wars Rebel Challenge is coming up FAST. As in, under 100 days fast:


And that was yesterday! We’re at 98 today!

When I saw the countdown up there, I promptly reacted like this:

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My outfit is ready, I’m researching hotels, reading blog recaps by other runners, and saving money to spend on every little piece of Star Wars running-related crap my heart desires. I’m all ready! But wait… I’m running almost 20 miles over two days when I get there.


Kinda forgot about that part.

Now, this isn’t some impossible task – I’ve run a lot of miles in my day. But doing two races back to back is something I need to train for. And I will! I just have to be careful in how I build up my mileage, because it’s official: I’ve got plantar fasciitis.


In the grand scheme of things, plantar fasciitis is probably the one injury that I’m OK with having. It’s not SO terrible that I cannot walk normally. I can kind of run with it. Hell, it actually doesn’t hurt much WHILE I’m running. And after rolling and stretching and icing and doing all the good things for the past 24 hours, it feels enormously better than it did Sunday and Monday.

But it’s still there, and I don’t want to make it worse by injuring something else with the undoubtedly altered gait I’ll probably adopt from running a suicide pace with a bum foot for 13 miles.

On one hand: yay! Finally a name for the pain that’s been bugging me for weeks, if not months! On the other: boo. Another f*cking injury to deal with. 5 days before the RnR Brooklyn Half Marathon! And two weeks before the RW Half Festival where I’m set to run the 5K and 10K in one morning!!


I know. I’ve got to be smart. Listen to my body. I’ve heard all the things. And I’m doing them. Icing. Stretching. Resting. Hell, I’ve downgraded my PR attempt at RnR Brooklyn this week to a “just finish”. I’m not happy about it, but it is what it is. I’m no longer the type of runner to push through the pain, injury be damned, get that PR no matter what. I used to be. I wish I still was.

But I also want to be able to RUN the Rebel Challenge in January. So that means I’ve got to alter my running plans slightly on the fly and be smart about not further injuring myself.

So that’s where I’m at. Saturday I will run the RnR Brooklyn Half with a smile, walk when I need to, finish, and be happy with my time no matter what it is. Because even though I’ve dealt with injuries and setbacks, I worked hard to get here and I’m not going to let an achy foot put a damper on that.

One More Tri 2016 Recap

I’ll admit: I had no intentions of participating in the One More Tri triathlon this year. After a pretty miserable experience last year (almost entirely of my OWN doing, mind you), I wrote off the sport of triathlon as a fun distraction from my usual running and that was that. But when Jeanene Leppert, the Special Events Director of Special Olympics New Jersey, reached out to tell me about the positive changes they’d made to the race and invited me to this year’s event, how could I say no?


There’s Jeanene: one of the sweetest, most hard working women I know!

To keep things low-key, I registered for the Super Sprint distance; knowing I’d be smack in the middle of half marathon training, I didn’t want to push too hard and this .1 mile swim, 6 mile bike, and 1.5 mile run was just the right effort. It worked out even better because I ran a solid 11+ miles the day before, my longest run since May, and I was tired!

On Sunday morning I packed up the bike and headed down to Asbury with Mike, arriving with plenty of time to check in, get my packet (and a BIG hug from Jeanene!), set up in transition, and go wait in the car while the temps rose from a chilly 49 degrees!!

Once the sun came up it got warmer, and we made our way to the boardwalk for race announcements, the national anthem and the reciting of the Special Olympics motto: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” And that’s when I was reminded why I was SO happy to do this event again: being able to compete alongside Special Olympics athletes is a true honor. No matter how rough the water is, how strong the winds are, and how hard it is to keep running on tired legs, the fact that I get to take on all these challenges with these inspirational folks by my side is one that I will never not be moved by.


As we marched to the beach for our swim start, we were informed that the swim portion had been shortened for everyone due to the rocky surf. Seeing the crazy waves the day before during my long run I figured as much, and we all clustered on the sand to keep warm after shedding our layers. It wasn’t long before our wave – the last wave, of course! – was next, and I laughed with some of my fellow Super Sprinters as we calmed each other’s nerves and passed the time. One woman had us roaring about how we should just “go to Waffle House – we’ve got the shirts already!”

After just a few more minutes, our gun went off and we ran into the water (which was almost 20 degrees warmer than the air!) and quickly discovered that the “swim” turned out to be a “fight for 35M through the waves and walk to the lifeguard who keeps getting knocked over”.

It was BRUTAL! I’ve never felt the surge pull me back so strongly – once one wave crashed over us, the current pulled my legs from under me and I had to fight to stay upright. After a few minutes of walking through the waves – and laughing and screaming – we made it to about 5 feet from the lifeguard. While the goal was to go around him, it was like running into a brick wall when each new wave pounded us! I laughed the whole time, and finally when a wave pushed me out, I grabbed onto the lifeguard’s shoulder to keep from getting swept out, rounded him and promptly got swept right up onto the shoulders of the guy in front of me, who got pushed into the girl in front of him, and so on! After apologizing and laughing, (“Thanks for the ride!”), the water calmed down enough for us to make a break for the shore again, and I ran. It was TOUGH. My legs burned from running against the strong current & jumping over waves, but I finally made it out.

The run back from the water to T1 was long – I’d estimate about a quarter of a mile or so, mostly on sand – but when the course is lined with volunteers and spectators cheering you on it’s hard NOT to feel awesome. Once I got into transition I rinsed my feet off, tossed my sneakers on & ran out with my bike. The volunteers were super organized, pointing me in the right direction with clear instructions and lots of encouragement, and I jumped on the bike in no time, speeding off for one loop of 6 miles.

There was a headwind for the first 3 miles out, but the course was clearly marked and filled with volunteers pointing us in the right direction (and police blocking traffic for us, thanks guys!). As I turned back at mile 3 and took a gel, I couldn’t help but smile and notice the absence of blue bibs around me. There weren’t that many folks in the Super Sprint wave at the swim, I wonder if I could Age Group place?? That was enough to make me pick up my pace and push for a bike finish of 26:10.


After Mike snapped me bringing my bike in, I tossed my helmet off and headed onto the boardwalk for the 1.5 mile run, going slowly. My legs were now pretty shredded from the ocean, sand, and bike, but as I made it to the boards I fell into a rhythm and kept pace at a surprisingly fast 10:30. I’m just always faster when I bike!

It was on the boardwalk that I realized just how good my chances were to place – I saw only a few other blue bibs around me, and none were in my age group. The volunteers on the run course were phenomenal – SO many more this year than last year, and their enthusiasm was contagious. Once I got to the turnaround ahead of the full distance folks and headed back for the finish, I picked up the pace and couldn’t stop smiling over what a completely different, positive experience I had this year compared to last year!. When I spotted the folks at the finish line I broke into a sprint and crossed in 15:23 (a 10:15/mile pace!) and a total time of 51:41.

And of course I burst into happy tears when the little 5 or 6 year old Special Olympics rep placed my medal around my neck and gave me a high five, because that’s what I do.

After finding Mike and celebrating with him on a great finish, we wandered to the food tent where they had a CRAZY spread of amazing food – sandwiches, muffins, kale salads, Girl Scout cookies, donuts, recovery shakes, iced tea… you name it, you got it!


::Liz Lemon voice:: I want to go to there…

After eating and sitting for a bit, we hung around for the awards and cheered on as the winners were announced in all divisions. It was so fun seeing everyone get recognition for their hard work. But the biggest shock of all came when they announced the Top Three Super Sprint Female Winners – and I placed THIRD OVERALL!


Seriously, you could have knocked me over with a feather. Standing nearby helping organize medals and presenters, Jeanene screamed and grabbed me for a huge hug when she heard my name, and I went up to the podium for my first ever Overall medal!


I was so stoked – sure, it’s really a numbers game when the field of participants is that small, but I still came in 11th overall in the Super Sprint, and 2nd in my AG too! I’ll take it!

Needless to say, this race is now a Must-Do for me every year. The Super Sprint distance the perfect way to challenge myself while not interfering with my half marathon training, and I can definitely see myself doing this one again next year – maybe I’ll see you too?😉

Running is the Worst (and the Best)

Depending on my latest run, I’ve noticed that I flip flop between calling running the best and THE WORST thing in the world.

It [sometimes] costs a lot.


I love when people say “running is such a cheap sport”! Sure, all you really need is sneakers and your legs, buuuuuut…. sometimes those sneakers can cost $100+. And then you can’t run without knowing how fast you’re going, right? So add on a GPS watch or smartphone with tracking apps. Then there’s the cute tech fabric gear that makes it so much more comfortable (why oh WHY do the cutest Nike tights have to be $100+??). And when you race, it adds up even more! Registration fees, travel costs, parking, etc… I’d get a part time job to pay for all this running if I weren’t spending all of my free time running. Which reminds me…

It’s time consuming!


Granted, this is more for distance runners or folks who are training for a half or full, but sometimes running takes up a LOT of time! When I’m in the thick of training, I can spend basically a whole day preparing for, running, and recovering from a long run of 2+ hours. It’s kind of a drag. Also…

It’s physically uncomfortable.


It may seem obvious, but let’s face it: running is not easy. I mean, we can call something an “easy” pace, and yes, some paces are easier to maintain than others, but putting one foot in front of the other at an accelerated rate, jiggling everywhere, pushing yourself forward, sweating, chafing, grinding away under the hot sun or in freezing wind – none of that is comfortable.

But even though it’s expensive and it hurts and it’s super time consuming, we KEEP DOING IT. Why?

It’s cheaper than therapy.

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I’m not going to lie – if I didn’t get to work my issues out in my head while logging my miles, I’d look like Miss Owl up there. Running is my time to analyze, process, and sort through everything bouncing around in my head on a daily basis, and without it I might go batty. But while running alone is good for the soul, running WITH people is sometimes even better, because…

It connects you with amazing people.

I used to be a strict loner. At the back of the pack I trudged along because I was ashamed of my pace, didn’t want to slow others down, and spent probably more time in my head than was healthy. Then I discovered the joys of running with other people, and haven’t looked back. It’s one thing to be friendly, but runners are a whole other breed, and I love them. I’ve never met a more supportive bunch of people, and am endlessly grateful to running for bringing such amazing folks into my life. Alongside some of these people, I’ve logged miles and crossed finish lines and done things I never thought possible, which leads to my favorite reason why running is the best:

It helps make dreams come true!



I know, I know… it’s supremely cheesy. But it’s true! If you told me 10 years ago that I’d lose a  bunch of weight, run these amazing races, win awards, work with brands I love, and eventually take on the NYC Marathon in 2017, I would have called you a liar. But running has made all that possible. And I wouldn’t trade it all for the world.

How about you: why do you think running is the worst – or the best? 

Things I Wish I Knew About Running (Before I Started)

It still amazes me that after almost 6 years of running, I’m still learning new things about this sport every day. Some of these things I wish someone had told me about before I started running. Not to deter me, but to warn me, in the gentlest way possible that…

You’re going to want talk about it. A LOT.


You’re going to find yourself really excited about something running related: new sneakers, conquering a new distance, registration opening up for a race you’ve been dying to go to… BUT. Try to refrain from going on and on about it (much like I do here on this blog!). I’ve learned the hard way from some friends that talking about nothing but running all the time can be exhausting for those around you. I’ve actively tried to get better at this in the past year, but I’m still a major PITA with it. Just this morning I got all worked up over being assigned my Rock n Roll Brooklyn bib number and corral assignment…. and had to refrain from shouting it from the rooftops. I’m SUPER excited to take on this race. But my coworkers? Are not.

You’re going to chafe. A LOT.


Do you see that girl up there? Do you know how CHAFED she is in that moment? I used to think I had the chafing game figured out: just keep the skin covered, go for longer length shorts in warm weather, use some chafe guard products when needed, boom. Problem solved. Then I ran an 11K race in a total monsoon and discovered that there are OH SO MANY MORE SPOTS to chafe in when it’s raining or you’re wet all over. Like your butt. And your lady parts. And… you get the gist. Let’s just say I screamed so loudly when the water hit my newly chafed spots during my post-race shower that housekeeping knocked on the hotel room door to make sure I was OK. I found myself at a corner bodega later that day desperately searching for diaper rash cream to smother basically my entire bathing suit area and allow me to walk without looking like I rode a horse across country. Something similar happened during the NYC Triathlon when I was running under firehoses and dumping cups and cups of water over my head to completely soak myself and stay cool on the run course. Lesson learned: water (in any form) + running = chafing.

It makes you hungry – but don’t use it as an excuse to eat!


You’ve no doubt seen the articles out there about “runger” and how you’re going to want to #eatallthethings while you’re logging lots of miles. Being firmly in the “I LOVE FOOD” camp, this is one of the major reasons running first appealed to me: if I’m running all the miles, I get to eat all the food, right? WRONG. For a while I was all “I get an extra glass of wine at dinner and maybe dessert. Then I do it again Monday on a rest day, you know, for refueling purposes. And Tuesday I get dessert because I ran again!”And so on and so forth. Then I wondered why I couldn’t lose weight! Thanks to MyFitnessPal, I learned that all those extra calories weren’t necessarily being burned off, especially during rest days. Now I stay conscious of what I’m eating, what I’m burning, and pay closer attention to how certain foods affect my body and my performance. It’s trippy, but a good mix of veggies and fruits throughout the week really DO fuel you better than McDonald’s and Burger King all week. Go figure.

Cut your toenails.

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Before I ran, I was big into pedicures at the spa: sanding down my feet to baby softness and sculpting each toenail to beautiful perfection then walking away with a beautiful French pedicure? Ahh… Now? I’ve got to hack away at my feet in the privacy of my own home or else I pay the price. On the rare occasion I get a real pedicure, I have to tell the nail tech to put the sanding stick down – trim my nails next to nothing and leave the callouses please, I’ll end up with blisters if you sand them off. And don’t judge me for a third black toenail in 3 months. I picked a darker polish on purpose, just paint it. Oh and that pinkie toe where the nail fell off? Just paint the skin and give me the illusion of a toenail please. Don’t look at me like that, just paint it! Or if you don’t want to, paint 9 and give me a 10% discount for using less polish.

How about you – is there anything you’ve learned about running that you wish you’d known before? 

How to Prepare for a Half Marathon (or any race, really)

When I first started running I had NO idea what I was doing. I showed up way too early to my first 5K in a cotton tank top and shoes I bought because I liked the colors, I didn’t eat enough before the race, and I had a miserable time. Ask my husband: after that race, I said “I don’t think racing is for me.”




Fast forward 6 years and here I am nearly 9 half marathons and countless 5Ks, 10Ks, and other distances later, and a lot smarter about how to prepare for race day. Whether you’ve run one race or 1,000, here are a few lessons I’ve learned that will hopefully help you get to the finish line with a smile:

1. Make a list

I am super Type A. I love order and planning and preparedness and lists. I will legit write something I’ve already done on my to-do list just to cross it off and get that feeling of accomplishment. Should I probably see someone about that? Perhaps. BUT, this character trait (flaw?) has served me well in my 6 years of racing, and it’ll help you too.

Make a list of everything you will possibly need for race day – and I mean EVERYTHING – like a week in advance, and start gathering it in one space like the dining room table or a box in the corner of the bedroom. Check the list often. And while you’ve probably got a handful of your own things that you know you’ll need on race day, here’s a list to get you started:

  • sneakers
  • socks (no cotton – spend the money on good running socks and your feet will thank you!)
  • top (tank, tee, longsleeve, layers, in tech fabrics – no cotton!)
  • sports bra
  • bottoms (capris, shorts, tights – same tech fabrics)
  • underwear (if you don’t run commando)
  • headband/hat/ponytail holder/bobby pins/any hair/head gear you usually need
  • headphones & music player (if your race allows them)
  • GPS watch or phone
  • anti-chafing gel or vaseline
  • lip balm
  • deodorant
  • sunblock
  • sunglasses
  • race belt
  • extra safety pins
  • fuel (Gu, energy gels, etc – 2x what you normally need just in case)
  • race number (if you already picked it up)
  • toss away water bottle
  • toss away top layer (if it’s going to be cold at the start)
  • garbage bag (if it’s rainy)
  • phone holder
  • any good luck charms or jewelry (I’ve always got to have my MARSOC Foundation bracelet and an inspirational wrap)
  • dry top & bottoms (and underthings) for post-race
  • flip flops or a second pair of sneakers & socks for post-race (because trust me, you will NOT want to put the ones you ran in back on after you take them off)

I love to lay out a Flat Runner the night before to keep track of all my gear and double check that I’m ready – and it helps to post on social media so that folks at the race know who to look for and can cheer you on in the comments, too!

2. Figure out your race day fuel plan early

Depending on your speed, fitness level, what your stomach can handle & what you prefer, race day fueling strategies vary from runner to runner. My best advice is to treat your long runs like race day and figure out what works for you by testing out your options every run.

It took me a while to perfect my plan, but on race morning I have a slice of whole wheat bread with chunky peanut butter and a banana, and half a cup of coffee. Then I’ll take a chocolate Honey Stinger gel about 10 minutes before the race start with a few sips of water. During the race I’ll drink water as I feel I need it (every 1-2 miles depending on the weather), and take a gel every 5 miles or 50-55 minutes with a cup of water. For some people that’s overkill, and for others it’s not enough.


Not a wise choice: fueling entirely on Reeses. Although I’ve  never tried it…. brb, eating 5 lbs of Reeses and running a half marathon, will let you know how it goes.

It’s worth noting that I can’t take other gel brands – even other flavors of Honey Stinger! – without getting stomach cramps, so don’t give up on something if it doesn’t work the first time. I used to think that ALL gels gave me cramps, but after experimenting with different flavors and brands, I figured out what works for me and you will too.

3. Fuel your body right ahead of time

I’m the first to admit I’m not the best role model when it comes to food. I don’t deny myself wine and cake if I’m craving them, but I also do it all in moderation too. So what works for me might not work for you.


And I love pizza. Did I mention pizza?

But the week before a race, I cut back on cheese and greasy foods and load up on water and carbs – not pasta twice a day every day, but just a little more than usual. And the night before a race my go-to meal is a serving or two of regular pasta with plain tomato sauce and simple grilled chicken.

Just like you should use your long runs to find day of fuel, treat the day before your longer runs like the day before a race: drink lots of water throughout the day, find a pre-race meal that keeps you satisfied and doesn’t weigh you down – and get PLENTY of sleep!

4. Pace yourself

This may seem like common sense, but for me – and many others that I’ve talked to about it – it bears repeating: throughout your training, be honest with yourself about your pace and know what to expect on race day. You can’t run at a solid 12:00/mile for most of your training and expect to run a sub-2 hour half.


Not unless your name is Meb and you were phoning it in your ENTIRE training cycle. But I doubt you’d be reading this if you were.

It’s also easy to get caught up in the excitement of race morning and take off at an 7:30/mile pace with the folks around you at the sound of the gun, only to burn out like a tenth of a mile in because your usual pace is almost double that.


This is important especially if you’re just starting out. In addition to your GPS watch or tracking app, whatever you prefer to run with to track your pace, they make these neat little wristbands or tattoos that you can wear on race day. They’re a great way to stay on target and save yourself a bunch of mental math out on the course. I’ve used them at a few of my races and really like them!


5. Get there early, have fun and smile!


On race day, things get hectic very quickly. Plan to get to the start at least 45 minutes before you need to be there (or before your corral closes). It may seem like overkill, but the last thing you want to do is stress yourself out by running late. And once you’re there, remember that the hard part is over! You’ve already done all the work. Now you get to celebrate your hard work on the course with thousands of your fellow runners – and you’ll probably get a medal at the end of it!

Have fun, make small talk with the folks around you (if they want to), soak in the atmosphere, high five spectators on the course for extra energy (I pretend every high five is like a Super Mario Super Star), and enjoy the ride. Keep an eye out for photographers and throw up the devil horns or peace signs or wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care, and cross that finish line with a smile – you did it!


There’s plenty of stuff I’ve probably missed and could write more posts about, but do you have any other advice to add here? Let me hear it in the comments!

Jersey Girl Triathlon 2016 Recap

Since it’s been almost two damn months I figured I might as well get you a recap of the Jersey Girl Triathlon! When I did this event last year as my first ever triathlon, it was a great experience. The training and group meetings ahead of time were extremely helpful, the folks who manage the whole thing were great, and it was a perfect first time event. This time around, things were slightly different but in a variety of ways. Let’s jump right in.


I signed up for this race with my running buddy and coworker Alex, who had just started dipping her toes into the triathlon world earlier in the summer and loved it. So we woke up bright and early and met as the sun was coming up over the Atlantic on a sticky, humid morning.


When we got to transition we had a good laugh: I warned her as I set up my area that I’d brought my good luck towel, a Star Wars printed number featuring my Space Boyfriend, Kylo Ren. “I swear, I’m not a 9 year old boy,” I said as I laid it out. She simply smiled as she unfurled her towel and said, “That’s nothing.”


So apparently we are BOTH children at heart, and that’s why we get along so well.


Also I had a small BB8 towel to wash my feet off after the swim. #sorrynotsorry


After milling around and getting marked up, we headed down to the beach with Mike and got into our wave start area. I learned from last year not to assign myself in the LAST wave, as that would set me up for a lot of disappointment later on in the race. Being last in meant being last out and as a solid back of the packer when it comes to triathlons, I need all the help I can get. So we signed up for Buddy Heat 1 and both got into 11 (out of 14 or 15 I think).


We watched as the earlier age group waves started and got out of the water and noticed that the water was QUITE choppy. I hadn’t done an open water swim since last summer (bad triathlete) and while I wasn’t nervous per se, those waves definitely gave me pause. After about a half hour we got ready to hit the water, and the same woman from last year was at the start, giving us all a pep talk and boosting our confidence. “You guys are going to rock this so hard! You’ve already done all the hard work, this is just the icing on the cake, and then you earn your ice cream or your beer or your pizza, or ALL THREE!” She was the best – I remember her calming my nerves last year!


Finally the gun went off and into the water we went – and it was much warmer than I thought it’d be! But it was also MUCH CHOPPIER than I expected too, which made for very tough swimming right from the start. It also made my motion sickness act up pretty much 2 minutes into the swim, which lingered with me for the rest of the swim and most of the bike. Every time I ducked down to swim and glanced ahead underwater, the rocking of the water combined with the totally blank view ahead of me didn’t mesh and my stomach would lurch. At about the halfway point in the swim I gave myself a short break and floated for a bit, then accidentally swallowed some water too. A big gulp of saltwater + an upset tummy = no bueno, let me tell you. Finally I turned the last corner and headed back to shore, where Mike snapped me getting out of the water before I ran up the beach to T1.


As I made my way to my bike I decided I wasn’t going for time, I just wanted to not throw up or fall off the bike from being so dizzy. I drank some Cocogo and a full bottle of water to rinse out the salty grossness in my mouth while I washed my feet off and got into my sneakers, then hopped onto the bike and out I went.

Miles 1-3 clicked by super easy – it was my first time racing on my new bike and I couldn’t believe how much faster I was going! Every mile that beeped by on my watch made me laugh out loud with joy. After a gel at mile 4, my stomach started to settle so I cranked up my pace a bit and pushed through the turnaround, so excited to finally be saying “On your left!” and passing folks! Compared to last year’s bike portion where I had to literally STOP on the course to ask a volunteer if I had to turn, I was surrounded by other bikers and knew where to go the whole time.

Before I knew it we were at the bike finish and I was running my trusty steed back into transition, dropping off my helmet and tossing on a headband/sweatband (that I later discovered made me look like Axl Rose, which was fantastic), spinning my race belt around for my number to face forward, and taking off on the run.

Or should I say, the walk. It was HOT. Too hot. 90+ and full sun hot. Within a few feet my legs felt heavy and my hips just didn’t want to move; I must have pushed a little harder than I thought on the bike. Combined with the weather, I knew I was going to be in for a long 3 miles. So I just shlepped along and told myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Quite literally, that’s how I managed to finish: by moving forward and not stopping. I walked a lot, drank even more, and finally took off in the last mile, but I did it.


Note the Axl Rose headband. Welcome to the jungle, baby.

I was even more psyched to realize as I neared the finish: they changed the race course this year so we didn’t have to pass the finish and loop back around! It’s the ultimate cruelty when you’re dying of heat stroke and have to run another 1/2 mile past the finish, turn, then go back. They must have gotten the memo, because once my watch said 2.8 and I could see the finish I knew I didn’t have much farther to go and I gunned it through the finish line for a sweet finish.


Oh that stupid headband.

I met up with Mike and Alex, who had finished ahead of me, and we walked over to the nearby snack shop and had the most delicious smoothies I think I’ve ever had (or maybe that was the exhaustion and starvation talking), then we headed back to check our times – where we discovered that all chips above 700 DID NOT REGISTER. Meaning MY CHIP. I didn’t have a time. Any times.

I was livid, but I lucked out and ran into the race director, who told me about the old chips that he had used were apparently deactivated or somesuch. He reassured me that they’d come up with a way to track our times and that they had backups that would take a few days, but still. It turns out that their “backup” was us looking at the timestamps on our race pics and entering them for the race officials in a Google Doc the following week for them to calculate how long we spent in each portion (transitions not included) then come up with our official time. It wasn’t a perfect solution – my leg times also include my transition times so I don’t accurately know how much better I did in each portion of the race compared to last year – but at least I had an official FINAL time of 1:47:39 (and that time was better than last year by more than a full minute).


Overall it was another great race and a fun way to challenge myself and keep my training interesting over the summer. I’d definitely recommend this event to anyone who’s looking for a first time triathlon with no pressure – heck, you might even see me out on the course next year again!

A Redemption Run & A New PR

After Saturday’s race going about as badly as a race can possibly go, I’m ashamed to say the rest of the day took a nosedive too, mostly because I stupidly spent the next 11 hours reading & watching the news about the developing story, overthinking everything instead of going about my business and getting out of my own head. By the time the news reports about the explosion in Manhattan broke, I was a basket case.

But I woke up Sunday ready to run and met up with my awesome coworkers in support of the Hannah Duffy Foundation. My co-worker and his wife lost their 14-year old daughter, Hannah Duffy, to brain cancer in 2013, and each year the Hustle 4 Hannah is held to raise funds for local scholarships, to give back to the community, and to support cancer research.


Team Gort ready to hustle for Hannah! L-R: NYC Tri teammate Chris, Nico (co-worker visiting from Uruguay), me, Sathya, John (Hannah’s dad), Alex (who was at Seaside with me on Saturday), and Joe

By the time we lined up to start at 9AM it was already warm and humid, but the 6 of us were having a good time chatting and laughing. Alex and I had planned to run together on Saturday so she could pace me to a 5K PR, and at the start she asked me if I still wanted to go for the PR. I all but laughed in her face (sorry, Alex). There was NO way I was in the right mental space to gun for a PR…


… she said a half hour before sprinting to a new PR.

ANYWAY… We took off at 9AM from the high school and wound our way through the neighborhood streets, almost immediately up the first hill at a pace of around 11:20. Alex and I stuck together and passed one or two of our teammates while a few took off ahead over the gently rolling hills through the first mile, at around 10:5x.

We were getting increasingly faster as we warmed up, and a little while later I glanced at my watch and called out our pace of 10:2x. When I asked Alex if we were going too fast, she responded, “Nope, you’re pacing me here.” That’s when I felt the pressure – she was supposed to be my pacer the day before, but now she wanted me to pace her?

I had a pace of 10:19 in my head as my PR, so when I saw we were at an average pace of 10:3x  and felt really good, I thought “wouldn’t it be funny if…?” We went down the next hill and Alex remarked that I was flying down it. Downhills are just easier for me, I said – and she admitted the uphills were easier for her. That’s when we figured out our plan of attack: I’d push our pace on the downs and she’d drag my ass kicking and screaming up the uphills. Unsurprisingly, it worked.

The sun was getting hotter and the humidity was scorching, but when mile 2 clicked by and our pace hovered around 10:20, I realized this PR was entirely possible. We didn’t talk for much of the last mile – there was a lot of cursing when I realized we were going WAYY too fast a few times (8:57? WHAT?), and even more cursing when I spotted the school ahead, meaning we were near the finish.

As we entered the parking lot at about mile 2.6 at a 9:5x per mile pace, I suggested we sprint when we got to the track for the final stretch. That’s when I spotted these guys:


Yeah, those are horses, chilling behind a school. I had a bit of this going on:


But when Alex told me to go ahead and sprint as we neared the entrance to the track, I said goodbye to the horsies and went for it. Coming around the final corner I dropped the hammer and spotted Mike in the bleachers, gave him a wave, found Chris cheering me in on the sidelines and gave him a high five as I passed, and crossed that finish line at 33:02.


I was shredded – when I realized I’d gone down to a 10:01/mile pace and nailed a new PR, I felt like crying but had no liquid left after sweating buckets for 3 miles. So instead I grabbed a bottle of water, Chris found me, Alex finished a few seconds later, Joe found us and we all had to sit down on the football field for a break.


and some Snapchatting, because yeah.

That’s also when I realized that the 10:19 I had in my head as my 5K PR was really my best 5M PR – my 5K was a 10:28 pace, meaning I’d blown BOTH records out of the water. Soon after, Mike came out to give me a big ol’ sweaty hug, we cheered Nico and Sathya on as they finished, and we snapped some more pictures.




After we toasted each other with pretzels and apples and hung out for the kid’s races and a beautiful butterfly release in memory of Hannah. By that point I was an emotional wreck, but I had to get home and add on 7 miles to my day for my first long run in two weeks.


I wasn’t in those 7 miles mentally until the final 2. I couldn’t focus on anything. My pace, my form, my breathing: while it wasn’t difficult, none of it felt right. My legs were tired from pushing in the 5k but it wasn’t impossible to keep going, just… boring. I even took a few walk breaks and told myself my pace was shot, psyching myself out. But when I added up my times I was shocked to see I still averaged at 11:28/mile.

It was the perfect way to end a crazy weekend. By bedtime Sunday night (at 8:45pm, I’m not ashamed to admit) I was exhausted, proud, and drained – and most importantly, my running mojo was restored. The past few weeks have been rough and training had to take a backseat, but now I’m back on my game and ready to rock the fall of 2016.

I’m Angry.

This morning I was supposed to run a 5k by the beach with a few thousand people in support of the Marine Corps in Seaside, NJ at the Seaside Semper Five. Instead, this happened:

According to the news, a pipe bomb exploded near the 3/4 mile point at around 9:35, which, if the race started on time, would have put all of us exactly in harm’s way. 

But, as luck would have it, the race was delayed because of  a suspicious backpack that turned out to be a false alarm, so we had already been evacuated from the area.

Now we’re hearing about two more bombs wired to the first that luckily didn’t go off. We’re hearing that the FBI is investigating the whole thing. We want to know what happened, who’s responsible, why they did this. Eventually we’ll find out, and hopefully we’ll run the race again despite what some coward with some pipe bombs might want us to do.

But right now, I’m going to sit on the couch with my cats on my lap and have a big piece of cake for dinner. 

I’m relieved that the race officials were so on top of their game and kept every single one of us safe. They deserve a huge thank you for doing that.

I’m thankful – beyond thankful, really – that luck was on our side today and everything happened the way it did. 

But most of all, I’m angry. Angry that someone would find it necessary to harm a group of people – runners and spectators and babies in strollers and volunteers and combat injured veterans  – that came out to support the MARSOC Foundation. It completely baffles me and frustrates me when I try to make sense of it.

Because it makes me feel like safety – even at a relatively small, local race on the Jersey Shore – is an illusion. 

I’m sure I’ll get over it eventually but for now, I’m just going to stay here with my cats and eat my cake.

Taking Time to Be Grateful

After doing this blogging thing for a few years now, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to me and how it’s changed my life. Which has caused me to get pretty introspective lately – in a good way.


Back in 2003 I was miserable, but I hid it by being overly confident and brash. Think Samantha Jones from Sex & the City but without all the ridiculous sex stuff.


but WITH the martini habit

I was in college, but instead of figuring out the balance of how to have a social life while excelling in school, I avoided going out almost entirely and threw myself into professional development instead.


Taking extra classes, loading up on extra-curriculars, networking, building up my resume and getting an awesome internship with the NJ Devils. I took no prisoners and managed to do some amazing things. But my confidence was SO delicate.

At the end of every day, I was truly miserable. I would either hang out with my friends in their dorm rooms and watch TV and eat and drink to oblivion, or go back to my dorm room and do the same, but alone.

When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, I knew something had to change. I HAD TO CHANGE. To beat the odds now stacked against me, I started to pay attention to what I ate at the dining hall. I watched an hour of Everybody Loves Raymond on the stationary bike in our dorm gym instead of on my bed. And wouldn’t you know it, I started to lose weight – and my confidence started to grow too.

Fast forward a few more years: I graduated, got a big girl job in the real world, and jumped into the dating scene. I reconnected with an old friend from my high school days and we started something serious – and I even convinced him to marry me! My friends started having babies and getting married. Throughout it all, I continued to lose weight and shape my new life along with my new body.


Fast forward even further, to when I discovered running. I ran my first race in 2010, started falling into a rhythm, and discovered the world of running bloggers. I would see them talk about all the progress they were making and all the opportunities they had and get all moon-eyed over just how awesome that would be, never expecting to do anything like that. But after realizing that in addition to these blogs there was a whole fitness and running community on places like Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, I decided to jump in too.


My first race ever: a Pink Ribbon 5K with my papa and cancer-free mama❤

Instagram was my first foray into the online fitness community. Then I started blogging, and soon Twitter and Facebook followed. When I started this ride I NEVER expected it to be as much of a blessing it has been, and that’s the truth. But I put myself out there in a few different – and scary – ways: offering to share my story, baring it all about my history with depression and anxiety, talking about the impact weight loss and running has had on my personal relationships, etc.

And then one day, those things I used to see the running bloggers talking about – they started happening to me.


Shape Magazine interviewed me. I was asked to take over the Brooks Running IG feed. I was invited to run the NYRR 5th Avenue Mile. I’ve been selected as an Ambassador for the 2016 RWHalf and Festival next month. And as I get ready for what is shaping up to be an unbelievable few months, I have to take this moment to thank you all for coming along on this adventure with me.

I am TRULY grateful for all of the amazing opportunities that I’ve been given; I’m one of the luckiest people I know. But none of it would be possible without you reading, commenting, liking, following, and being with me on this ride. Whether I know you in real life or have only ever “met” you online – or even if you never say anything! – please know that I appreciate you taking time out of your day and reading and looking at the stuff I put out into the ether.

Thank you for being here – and I look forward to seeing where this road takes us in the future!