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.

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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.

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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!

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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.”

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Clearly, I AM A LYING LIAR WHO LIES.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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

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

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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).

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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…

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… 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:

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Thursday Thoughts

So now that I’m properly caffeinated this morning – and I’ve had some time to unload the past 2 months of photos from my phone – I realize that it’s high time I update here! But because I’ve had a LITTLE too much coffee and not enough sleep, here’s a photo-heavy update on what I’ve been up to and what I’m looking forward to (in no particular order):

I ran another race in the city! 

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Back in July I ran an (uneventful, hence no recap yet) average 4 miler with NYRR at the Boomer’s Cystic Fibrosis Run to Breathe. This was smack in the middle of my “off” period between spring racing and pre-fall training, so I purposely went out just to run, take in the sights of Central Park in the summer, and earn another race in my 9+1 for the 2017 NYC Marathon. Speaking of:

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I’m only one race away! On October 30th I’m taking on the Marathon Kickoff 5M to earn my final credit for entry into the marathon! My first full, my first NYC… it’s getting real.

Training for the Rock n Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon has ramped up.

With my next half now less than a month away, I’ve been killing it on the mileage front – and my paces just keep getting better too. All of my long runs have been under 12:00/mile and I’m even gunning for a 5K PR at one of my two races this coming weekend.

But it’s taken a lot of work. As a result, my weekday nights are filled with post-work crosstraining and treadmill runs (because it has been HOT in NJ this summer), meaning I’m not getting home until late most nights. And on the weekend when I’m running long, I spend one full day prepping for, doing, and recovering from my long runs.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m SO lucky that my husband supports me in all this ridiculousness and cooks and takes care of the house while I’m out running, because otherwise we would be eating a lot of dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets and pasta. I mean, we ARE eating that a lot, but if not for him, we’d be eating it ALL the time. Plus the lawn would be a jungle. Thanks, babe.

I got a new bike!

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After struggling through two sprint triathlons last summer on my beat up old mountain bike, I finally caved and got myself a new, speedier bike. I noticed an IMMEDIATE difference – I’m so much faster and lighter, it takes virtually no effort to get going once I get on the bike. In my first tri on it, I shaved nearly 15 minutes off my time from last year to this year. And while I’m not 100% ready to make the jump from two legs to two wheels (I’m still Jess RUNS Happy, after all), this new toy has been an invaluable part of my training and fitness plans this summer.

I hung out with the Brooks team in NYC.

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A few weeks ago I had the chance to participate in a fun little video shoot with the Brooks folks in NYC. While I can’t spill the beans about it just yet, I promise you guys are going to love what’s in store.

While this is just a quick peek (I still owe you guys a recap of my triathlon!), there’s how my summer has gone in a nutshell. How about you? Tell me everything!

Sometimes…

Sometimes life throws you a curveball and your precious little older cat gets super sick and you sit up with her all night crying and googling what could be wrong with her then you take the day off work to get her to the vet where you find out it’s just a bad UTI and high fever and then you spend the rest of the day sitting on the floor next to her trying to get her to eat and praying the medicine starts working soon.

She’s doing mildly better now, 6 hours post-medicine and fluids, but I won’t be happy until she starts eating again. One unexpected bonus of being on the floor with my phone all day, though: it was super easy to shop away my feelings. 

I’ve been lusting after these Brooks Heritage babies for a while now and thanks to big online sales, I scored all 3 pairs for like 60% off. 

And now I’m about to uncork a fresh bottle of Cabernet because this mommy needs a drink.

Runner’s World Half & Festival-Bound!

For as long as I’ve been running I’ve wanted to participate in the Runners World Half & Festival; it’s literally around the corner from me in a beautiful area I’m familiar with, and the awesome events around the races were a huge bonus too. Unfortunately due to timing and other circumstances it just hasn’t made it onto my race calendar.

This year, because I planned on running the Rock n Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon as my goal race the week before the RW Festival, I wrote it off as another loss, but then the folks at Runners World surprised me and asked me if I wanted to participate in the races as an Influencer. Well, I almost fell out of my chair trying to respond to them with a big ol’ YES and now I’m ready to run beautiful Bethlehem, PA this October!

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I know for sure I’ll be running the 5K and 10K, but racing a half the weekend before, I’m not 100% sure I’ll be doing the half just yet. My training has been going really well so far and I don’t want to jinx anything, but if my legs are feeling good in the weeks before, I might consider it a “fun run” – how can I NOT jump feet first into such an awesome opportunity?

In addition to the races, I’m super stoked to check out all of the extra activities they offer: seminars, talks, advice, meet & greets – it’s going to be like Running Heaven. And because the RW Team is so cool they’ve even given me a code to give YOU 10% off your registration for ANY event! Simply register here with code JessRunsHappyBlog – and be sure to let me know, because I can’t wait to see you out there!

Back to Training and Lumo Run Review

I officially kicked off training for the Rock n Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon (my fall goal race) earlier this month, and I’m following roughly the same plan I used for the NJ Half Marathon where I set my current half PR. The addition of a few more 9+ mile runs during that training cycle (5 or 6 vs my usual 3 or 4) made a huge difference and helped me clinch that 15 minute PR, so I’m hoping to see similar results this time. Well, maybe not another 15 minute PR, but you know what I mean😉 With 6 weeks to race day I’m already up to 9 mile long runs, and my pace is still pretty on par with where I was back in May, so yay for that.

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Training began uneventfully with 3-4 mile runs twice during the week and a long run on the weekend, and I was super stoked to try out a new training tool: Lumo Run.

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A little sensor you clip onto the back of your waistband, Lumo Run isn’t just a tracker; it’s a tiny trainer that observes five key metrics during your run to help you improve your running form through real time audio feedback via an app on your phone.

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Full disclosure: the folks at Lumo Run sent me this sensor to test it out in exchange for my honest opinion, but I will say that I was interested in a tool like this even before they reached out to me. I don’t have the luxury of being able to work with a personal running coach, so this little tool is the next best thing.

To start, it had me run a 10 minute calibration run to see what my form and mechanics looked like, so I went out for a 5K with a friend on a hot sticky night after work.

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During the first 10 minutes we covered .87 miles while the pleasant trainer voice (Australian?) coached me to keep my posture straight and told me I was doing great. Once the calibration run was done, however, the real work began. And this woman made us WORK.

The first thing she suggested I work on is cadence, meaning the number of times my foot strikes the ground in a minute. My steps per minute were around 156 during my calibration run, so Lumo had me work on getting up to 163 SPM. To help us stay on track I played a song with a beat of about 168 BMP and the Lumo Run trainer immediately saw that we were hitting our goal. A happy little chime sounded, with the voice explaining that I’d hear the chime when I was successful. In addition to checking my cadence, the trainer also offered reminders to keep my posture straight, and announced my pace and time at the half mile and mile marks. You can change the settings on how often you hear feedback, which is a nice feature.

Once the song ended, we almost immediately slowed down without realizing it and were treated to a sad trombone “womp womp” and the instructor telling us that we weren’t meeting our cadence goal. After 2 miles of chugging along at this new rhythm, we were shredded – but ultimately we hit our goal. To help me improve my cadence after the run, it offered some post-run exercises, complete with explanations and videos too. Very helpful.

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One of the exercises to help me work on “Bounce”

After that run, I wanted to run again to keep improving. So I took it out a few days later and quickly learned just how hard this thing was going to make me work.

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Hello, little Lumo Run!

At the beginning of the run, the trainer announced my new goal was now 172 SPM. But, I turned on some music with a faster beat and set out from my house up the crazy hills of my neighborhood. And there was my first mistake. Up a small hill: Womp-womp. Flat: Ding ding! Yay! Up another larger hill: Womp-womp. Dammit! Finally after a mile of struggling to avoid the sad trombone of failure, I stopped at a red light and discovered the one minor thing I don’t like about Lumo (and can’t figure out if it’s a setting I haven’t discovered or what): even though I “paused” my run on the app, it automatically ended my run after about a minute of waiting! It was frustrating: now that the run was “over”, it marked me as not meeting my goal even though I wanted to keep working towards it, and even if I restarted, my distance and other stats would restart at 0. Overall not a dealbreaker, but kind of irritating.

Because I was now obsessed with nailing a full workout at 172 SPM the whole time, I had to take it out for another run last night – and while it was a struggle, I did it!

Even though I stacked the deck by running on an almost entirely flat course, it was still hard as anything to maintain that cadence without hearing the womp womp. A few times I even cursed out loud at the sound because I was so sure I’d been nailing the goal but wasn’t!

In short, Lumo Run is a ridiculously good motivator. I’ve only run with it a handful of times and worked on ONE metric with it, so I’ve still got a ways to go. But with a tool that’s so clear and immediate with its feedback, for the first time I’m actually looking forward to putting in the work because I know it’ll pay off. It’s like having a tiny trainer in my ear at every step, and the results are right there in my run.

And in addition to having this really cool tool, Lumo is also currently hosting the #ThisIsMyCoach Instagram contest: simply submit a photo or video of your coach using the hashtag #ThisIsMyCoach explaining why they are an inspiration, and you could win a grand prize VIP trip for two to the Kona Ironman Championships! For more info, visit their site and be sure to enter by 5pm PST on September 1 for your chance to win. 

Have you ever used a training tool like this before? What do you think? What’s your current cadence (and if it’s over 172, HOW??)