Winter Running Motivation

Here in New Jersey, we are in the throes of a bitch of a winter. There is no nice way to put it – that crotchety old man winter has us over his bony knee and he is spanking the hell out of us, over and over and over again. Now that I’ve put *that* horrible image in your head, please accept this photo of a kitten reading a bedtime story to make up for it.

I can’t promise I won’t do it again though.

I can’t promise I won’t do it again though.

As runners, we know that these polar vortexes and deep freezes just make us more resilient. Mentally and physically, we grow stronger with each slippery step. But at a certain point, even the toughest runner has to throw their hands up in the air and cry uncle.

so much ugh.

so much ugh.

I’m sure there are more seasoned, harder runners that may look at this path and think “HA! You can still see blacktop, that’s nothing! -15 degrees with 20mph wind gusts? Child’s play! 2 inches of fresh fallen snow? Nothing like it. Bring it on!” If that’s you, I tip my hat to you. You’re a tough cookie! I, on the other hand, am more like a wad of unbaked dough with a brand new ACL. My ass is not taking a risk on unstable ground, especially not after a year of rehab and physical therapy to get that new knee back in working order.

I managed to slip and wipe out 3 times in a half a mile on that icy path you see in the picture above before getting so frustrated that I screamed at the top of my lungs, punched a snowdrift, and trudged through another half mile of 8 inch-deep snow back to my car. To say that I hate the winter is an understatement.

But, as a runner, I have to find a way to get those miles in. Much like many of you probably did, I signed up for a spring race to keep me active through these frigid months. The biggest challenge I’ve faced is finding the motivation to do just that.

I’ve explored lots of different motivational tactics. Some are really effective, and others… well, let’s just say sleeping in your workout clothes to get out the door easily for an early morning run just makes it harder to get *out* of bed because the blankets are that much warmer when you’re wearing running shorts.

Here are some of my favorite motivational things to get pumped up for a workout when I’ve got about three pounds of Valentine’s Day chocolate in the cabinet 10 feet away from me, and about 5 inches of perma-frost outside just waiting to slip me up:

1. New gear – sometimes you just have to embrace your inner mallrat and shop for inspiration! Admit it. A run just feels easier when you’re wearing a badass new tank with parrots on it.


yes, parrots.

2. Switching it up at the gym – or even joining a gym in the first place! After 4 years of embracing the streets and the living room as my workout spaces, I finally bit the bullet and re-joined a traditional gym this winter, and I couldn’t be happier. Knowing that I can disappear in a warm room filled with every kind of workout equipment known to man for as long as I want – there’s nothing like it.

3. New music – When those long runs are breathing down my neck (these days, mostly on the treadmill too), I take to Facebook or Google to find a batch of 5-10 new songs to mix up my running playlist. This recent find turned out to be an awesome middle-of-the-run “get it done” song that I find myself replaying over and over again:

4. Involving a friend – This one is my favorite! A month or two ago, I started going to our local Lululemon for free yoga classes on weekend mornings, and now I’m going with two other friends and having a blast! Knowing that one friend has been up since 4am taking care of her sick 4-year old and doing an Insanity workout before yoga? Yeah, I’ll do my damnedest to drag my hungover ass out of bed and meet her there. That’s motivation.

These are just a few of my favorite motivational tactics through these cold winter months. Do you have any other go-to’s? Instagram feeds, inspirational quotes, etc? Share the love in the comments!

Race Recap: The Color Run

Something I’ve come to enjoy (and actually seek out) on other blogs are the writer’s race recaps. There’s something satisfying about reading about someone’s race experience. Seeing them go through the same anxieties – and joys! – makes it not as scary to think “Hey, maybe I could take on a half marathon!” So here we go 🙂

Today, I’m going to recap my experience at The Color Run of New Jersey. Although I’ve got some reservations about calling it an actual “race”, it was a great experience! It was September of 2012, and I was looking for something fun to break up the monotony of my October half marathon training. The fact that the event was only a few miles away in Englishtown, NJ was a huge bonus, and hey – free t-shirt and great photo ops. How could I pass it up?

When we arrived, the line to pick up my number and t-shirt was ridiculously long. Like, think of how long you would consider “ridiculously” long, then double it. I think we waited almost 90 minutes. So while everyone around us enjoyed the party atmosphere, there we stood, growing more and more impatient (and desperate for a bathroom). Finally, I got my number and took my place in the corral. And I waited – again – this time for almost another 30 minutes. And I noticed that even after that ridiculous wait in line for my packet, they let just about everyone into the corral, bib or not! I had paid $35 and waited all that time, while people just wandered in and out of the crowd – more without numbers than with. But anyway…

blissfully unaware

blissfully unaware

Usually when I race, I race alone. This is OK. This is why I do it! It’s my “me” time. My time in the corral is spent getting loose, into the zone, psyched up, etc. This time, I went about it alllllll wrong. As I waited, I saw that I was basically the only person running alone. At times it seemed like I was the only one actually running. Because as it turns out, the Color Run is less of a “run” and more of a Color “Let’s All Meander Through a 3.1 Mile Course with Dozens of our Friends”. Which is awesome! But not what I expected.

So when it was finally my turn to start, I crossed the line and tore out of the gate feeling good! And then: the crowds. You know that frustrated feeling you get when you’re making your way through a crowded mall only to have the people in front of you stop dead in their tracks, forcing you to jolt to a halt and change directions? Yeah, that happened every 5 feet. Toddlers wandered into my path. People with strollers and groups of 5+ people walked in a horizontal line, blocking everyone from passing. Couples and friends stopped to selfie in the middle of the path. It was frustrating to say the least.

Now, why is it a “Color” run? At just under each mile, there were stations of people hurling different colored powdered cornstarch at you (pink, blue, green and yellow), and there were lines to walk through the stations. Actual lines just to continue through the crowd. After fighting it for so long, I finally just gave up and enjoyed it – if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right?

So where I could jog, I jogged. When I had to walk or even stop, I didn’t get frustrated. I encouraged the powder-throwers to hit me with their best shots. I even kind of wished I had just dragged my husband into the course with me. Hell, he hadn’t registered, but neither had half of the people on the course with me! At least we could have had some good photo ops!

Either way, I made my way through the winding course and enjoyed myself. The crowd even thinned out towards the end of the race, and I got to sprint for the finish line on my own, giving the hubs the chance to snap this awesome picture:

I really need a new race face...

I really need a new race face…

After the finish, they encouraged people to stick around for the post-race party, which was really just a crowd of people gathered around a stage/truck blasting techno music and holding cheesy dance contests, with “color bombs” every 15 minutes, where people would stop everything and blast each other with packets of colored cornstarch until we couldn’t breathe. So my husband (my poor, long-suffering, still clean by this point husband) held my gear while I dove into the crowd and got nice and colorful, until I finally called it quits.

and he finally realized that I'd have to get into his car like that.

…and he finally realized that I’d have to get into his car like that.

With the race done, we went back to our car and dusted me off, then sat in close to 90 additional minutes of traffic to get out of the Raceway parking lot (there was a lot of waiting that day), and I spent close to an hour in the shower that day washing cornstarch out of places I never want to see cornstarch ever again. My shirt had to be thrown out, but my shorts and sneakers fared just fine with a good washing.

Overall, I would recommend The Color Run to someone who’s definitely *not* serious about their race. This is a purely fun, have-a-good-time get together where they don’t time you at all, and you’ll spend more time waiting and walking than actually running.

Would I do it again? Maybe. With a big enough group of people. But you have to admit, there are some pretty cool photo ops.



ACL Surgery Part 3: Physical Therapy

When we last left off, I was making my way through life post-ACL surgery recovery and having a rough time. But after a week of recovery, the doctor had me start an aggressive physical therapy plan that ended up improving not just my knee but my whole self.

I went to A&A Physical Therapy, a tiny little office I had passed probably hundreds if not thousands of times in my life – it was a small family-owned practice that my father highly recommended after having great experiences with them through his multiple knee and back surgeries.

I remember being hopeful – I couldn’t wait to get right into it and start moving that leg, get on that treadmill and see the miles per hour number climb back up to 6 and 7 like before. Boy, was I in for a rude awakening! That first day, all we did was massage the leg and assess the situation before sending me on my way. I hobbled out of the office after an hour, feeling kind of let down. This was going to be a lot more work than I thought it would be.


my first day in therapy, not on the set of a new Hostel sequel.

On Day 2, my therapist asked me to tense my quad muscle and I stared at my leg, willing it to tighten, only to find the whole leg dead. It was like the muscles had dissolved! They were completely numb; I had no strength. Three times a week I found myself laying on that table, focusing on each muscle and every tendon. Small movements – tiny, almost imperceptible! – but they caused huge pain and huge payoff. My mantra became “Do today what you couldn’t do yesterday, and do tomorrow what you couldn’t do today.” After a month, I was on the treadmill at one mile an hour and crying tears of happiness when I graduated to using one crutch.


first, the treadmill… next, the WORLD!

Where I found physical victories, I could also see mental improvements too. Being out of work for so long was like hitting my mind’s Reset button. Going through my days focusing solely on healing brought me a new inner peace – each day I found new gratitude for something else, whether it was the fact that I could lift my leg into the shower without blinding pain or the fact that the sun was out and the weather was 10 degrees warmer and I could open the windows and breathe fresh air.

Soon, I came to love it at therapy! I grew there. I thought there and healed there. Each little step made me realize that I was capable of so much more than I previously thought, as long as I kept that positive attitude.

They say to be truly happy with yourself, find a memory of yourself at your most relaxed, happy, and perfect. Whether it’s on a beach during your honeymoon or under a tree as a child, find that one place where you remember being perfectly content, and remember that that person STILL exists inside of you.


there was a *lot* of time for selfies in therapy. don’t judge.

Through the recovery process, I found that person. When things get stressful now, I think back to being strapped into that CPM machine on the couch, watching Frasier and Dinosaurs. Or driving from therapy and singing along to Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend”. Or hobbling into my favorite pizza place up the street on the first nice day of March and singing along to the Ramones on the radio while I waited for my lunch.

I especially remember that day – after I ate, I stopped by my parents’ house down the street and found my father cleaning out the basement. It took me 5 minutes to get down the stairs, but once I was down there, it was worth it. He had found a whole cabinet filled with mementos from me: he had kept every drawing I ever did for him, every handmade father’s day card, even the ones I made when I was 12 or 13 and knew I was growing out of the usual “Dear Daddy” stuff. He kept every Citizenship Award, every meaningless honor roll certificate I got in grade school – he had folders of them all, lovingly labeled and stored.

I don’t know if I can ever express how much that morning meant to me. Even now when I think about it, my heart swells and I get kind of choked up. But that’s my moment – when I felt perfectly content and happy and grateful and alive. That’s when I realized that I am truly lucky.

In fact, I’m the luckiest person I know. All because I tore my ACL at mile 12 of the 2012 Atlantic City Half Marathon.

Weekend Recap: A Frozen Run, Yoga, and Whiskey

This weekend has certainly been an adventure! After celebrating Valentine’s Day Friday night, I woke up at the crack of dawn on Saturday for the Manasquan Mid-Winter 2-Mile Beach Run. It was a huge surprise to wake up to clean pavement – they had predicted 2-4 inches overnight and I was dreading a snowy run. Yes, it’s been a full year since my ACL surgery, but I’m still so scared of doing something to damage it – or to hurt my good knee! – that I take extra care when it comes to the snow/ice.

But, the weathermen were wrong (in other news, the Pope announced he’s Catholic), and we had a nice easy drive down to exit 98. Then just before the start of the race, the rain decided to join the party. In a big way. With some sleet. And whipping winds. While we waited for the gun, I popped my headphones in and wouldn’t you know it, my new favorite run-dancing song came on and lit up the day:

I’m gonna paint you a picture. Imagine if you will: you’re standing in a herd of soaked runners, icy rain pelting you from all angles with each wind gust. You think to yourself, “Why do I do this? I’m paying to do this?? I must be a special kind of stupid…” When suddenly, the girl in pigtails and an over-sized snow parka standing next to you jumps up into the air and lands with a shimmy, shaking her hips as she points to each of her neighbors and urges them to “clap along if you feel like a room without a roof”.

No, seriously, that's exactly how it happened.

No, seriously, that’s exactly how it happened.

As you can see, I pretty much smiled like a fool the whole time. Even with the skies raining Liquid Ugh (TM) all over us for the full 2 miles through puddles, potholes, and over frozen sand. Ordinarily I would have complained. But this was a whole new experience, and since I’ve technically never “raced” at this distance, I set a brand new PR for myself too!

Then, in keeping with this weekend’s active theme, I woke up nice and early again today for free yoga at our local Lululemon. This is about as perfect as it gets, because hey, free yoga, and hey , post-yoga shopping spree! I met up with a few friends and had a blast. But the three of us are clearly not allowed to take the class next to each other again, because we couldn’t stop pinching each other and giggling when one of us ate shit when tumbling out of crow pose. While we did have fun, I currently can’t feel my calves or remove my hoodie without tears of agony thanks to spending what felt like 80% of the class in down dog. So, mission accomplished?

After class I picked up a cute new post-practice wrap sweatshirt and finally joined the local YMCA too. Given the approximately eleventy billion tons of white bullshit covering every square inch of hope outside, I seriously doubt I’ll have clean pavement to run on before my half marathon in April. Add this ridiculous weather to the fact that I’m seriously afraid of slipping and twisting my knees on the ice, and my training situation is getting pretty dire. So $24/month later, I’ve now got a great little gym around the corner from my house that has a great view of the waterfront and a nice Olympic-sized pool too!

this blog post wouldn't be complete without a ymca selfie & obligatory cat picture

Clockwise: ymca selfie, new lulu shorts & mula bundle wrap, furry friend Emma, Cocoa Diablo & BWW time!

The rest of the weekend was normal weekend-y-type stuff: MarioKart (I suck), laundry (it sucks), Buffalo Wild Wings (does NOT suck!), etc. I even met up with my parents this afternoon and joined them for a Cocoa Diablo, or a highball of hot cocoa spiked with about 3 shots of Fireball Whiskey. It is about as delicious as it sounds, and twice as potent as you’d expect. Which brings me to now!

So how was your weekend? Did you manage to stay active? Tell me all about it 🙂

Treat Yourself Day

It’s Valentine’s Day (yay?), and instead of doing the usual post about how you need to go love everyone around you and blah blah blah, I’m here to tell you that today you should love yourself.

Yeah, it’s good to love everyone around you – significant others, friends, family, nice people in traffic, etc. Don’t *not* love them today. But in the midst of all the love-giving, don’t forget about yourself. Take some time today to really think about your journey up to this point. You’ve come a long way, baby!

fatboy slim

Yeah, well, it was either this or an old Virginia Slims ad.

Maybe you’re working towards a big promotion. Or perhaps you’ve tried a dozen times to learn how to knit and you refuse to give up as you slowly drown in a mountain of half-finished knitting projects. Or maybe you’ve beaten cancer? Run an ultra marathon? Made it to level 30 on Flappy Bird? The point is, wherever you’re at now, you’ve worked for it. And while some days you may not feel like a winner, today is the day to realize that you actually have a lot going for you!


So, on this day of love and hearts and warm fuzzies, I say – treat yourself. Take 10 minutes to go all Stuart Smalley in your bathroom mirror before bed tonight. Go get a pedicure. Pet a kitten. Or, do what I did, and splurge on that ridiculously obnoxious pair of Lululemon running shorts you’ve been stalking for 2 weeks that are finally in stock in your size.

tracker shorts

Of course if they gave me those legs I would have bought them 2 weeks ago.

So go ahead – treat yo self! And be sure to share in the comments how it goes. Unless treating yo self involves something NSFW, in which case, get down with your bad self and I’ll see you tomorrow.


“80/20” or, “Liz Lemon is my Spirit Animal”

OK, so I’m the first to admit that I’m not perfect. I try my best to eat healthy, clean, non-processed foods but sometimes (okay, most of the time) it’s a struggle. It takes a lot of time and effort to select and prepare healthy food to consistently stay on track. Also, let’s be honest: brownies, cupcakes, chocolates…? Yes, yum, and more please. I mean, come on:

Liz Lemon is my spirit animal

           Liz Lemon is my spirit animal.

Full disclosure: I totally understand the benefits of clean eating. I did the Whole Life Challenge back in September and it was a truly life-changing experience. You can check out their website for the details, but the short version is this: for 8 weeks you focus on your diet, exercise, and mindfulness habits to become a better you. The exercise and meditation parts are great, yes, but I found the most benefit from the eating part. You cut all processed foods, dairy, sugars, and starches out of your diet – no bread, sugar, cheese, potatoes, pasta, etc. Instead, the focus is on vegetables, fruits and pure protein. Sounds simple, but let me tell you: it was HARD! But to stay compliant, I found a ton of new (delicious and super-healthy) recipes that I never would have tried if it weren’t for the WLC: crab cakes made with almond flour, beef and spinach stir-fry, mashed cauliflower – days of tasty meals that have made it into the regular meal plan rotation and expanded our culinary horizons!

After the challenge, it was tough to stay compliant. As a compromise, I resolved to stick to the 80-20 rule when I eat now: 80% of the time, I eat clean, non-processed “good” food, while the other 20% is non-compliant “bad” food. I hate classifying it like that, but you get the idea. 

Which brings me to today. As I write this, New Jersey is smack in the center of a diet-ruining hat trick: a 2-day long blizzard, Valentine’s Day candy week, and Easter candy’s release week. Add to that the rungries I experience during half marathon training, and I’m in the eye of a perfect storm here. So to give myself a healthier option than eating every piece of chocolate in this house and that in all of the houses in the immediate area, I decided to bake my go-to 80/20 treat: black bean brownies.

I first discovered these little squares of magic (no, not that kind of magic) at a friend’s party a few years ago and fell in love. Yes, they’re made with a box of brownie mix, which is loaded with sugar and other processed things. BUT, instead of adding eggs, butter, and/or oil like you normally would, you simply mix it with a can of pureed black beans and voila: brownies! Delicious, dense, fudge-like brownies that are loaded with filling fiber. I usually make these for pot-luck parties or work functions – the trick is to not tell people what they’re made with before they try them. I’ve found that when I say they’re black bean brownies, people immediately wrinkle their nose and turn them down. “Hell no!” they say, “No way I’ll eat a brownie made with beans!” But then, they try it, and the clouds open up and angels sing and before I know it I’m holding an empty tupperware lined with bits of brownie. 

So trust me. You may need to make them a few times to perfect them, but I promise they’ll be a hit in your house. Bonus: no eggs in the mix means you can eat as much batter as you want. I may or may not have eaten half the batter tonight before baking my batch. No judgement here. Let me know how you like them, and feel free to share your favorite 80/20 recipes in the comments!

Black Bean Brownies

oh doughboy, you cheeky little bastard

          oh doughboy, you cheeky little bastard

1 box of brownie mix any flavor (13×9 pan size)
1 can black beans (15.5 oz)

1. Strain and rinse beans, put beans back in can and re-fill can with water to top.
2. Pour can of beans and water into blender/food processor (I use the magic bullet) and purée til liquefied. 
3. Combine box of brownie mix and puréed beans in a bowl and mix with a spoon til lumps are gone. It’ll take a while. Consider this your arm workout for the day.
4. Bake according to box, checking towards the end. Might take a few minutes longer than it says on the box, but stick a toothpick in the center – when it comes out clean you’re ready for brownies.

Run Dancing

My name is Jessica and I have a confession to make: I’m a run-dancer.

Actual footage of me run dancing.

Actual footage of me run dancing.

I wave, wiggle, point, jazz-hands, hip-pop, shimmy, bob and weave in time with whatever fun song that happens to pop up randomly on my ipod during my run.

But I’m not ashamed. Nay. I am proud of my affliction. I look forward to my next run for a number of reasons, one of them being the fact that I can rock out to some song or another with my headphones on and feel invincible as I run.

It may seem shameful, but I know I’m not alone. In fact, I’ve found quite a few fellow runners that admit to incorporating some sweet moves into their run, especially when the topic of running with music comes up. You know you have found a kindred spirit when you start trading songs:

“Have you ever run-danced to Pharrell?”

“OMG Yes! But I really love it when Lenny Kravitz pops up.”

“What about Sean Paul?!?!”

It’s truly the tie that binds, run dancing.

So, with that said – are you a run-dancer? If so, what’s your favorite song? PLEASE share so that I can freshen up my playlist!

ACL Surgery Part 2: Post Surgery Adventures

So if you’re following my surgery story, when we last left off I had just been knocked out.

The next thing I remember was hearing the chatter of the two nurses in the recovery room and the beeping of my heart monitor. I heard them talking about the tattoo on the back of my neck. One loved it, while the other one thought tattoos were tacky. I remember thinking “Wake up and fight her!” What can I say: even drugged I want to defend my body ink.

I tried to open my eyes but can’t, and the heart monitor started beeping quickly; too quickly. I heard their voices: “It’s OK, just try to sleep sweetie!” OK, I thought. But soon I heard a new voice – my doctor’s. I panicked – I should be awake for this! This is probably important stuff! I tried to open my eyes but couldn’t. Again, the monitor beeps sped up, and I got anxious.

I later learned that my body was still under the effects of general anesthesia at that point, while my brain had woken up before my body could move. Fan-tastic! But, as my husband and father told me, the anesthesiologist simply knocked me back out for 3 hours to keep me from trying too hard to wake up (thus elevating my heart rate), and my loving husband and father decided to pass that time at the McDonald’s across the street. That’s love.

When I finally came out of it, I remember worrying that I’d be nauseous. You see, I’m equipped with quite possibly the most sensitive inner ear of any human ever. I can’t even check my Facebook in a moving car without needing a barf bag and a Dramamine. Thankfully, I was pretty OK as long as my head stayed stable.

When the nurses sat me up, I slowly came to and found I was in a big dark recovery room with a TV in front of me. The doctor came back in to show me a sheet filled with pictures of the inside of my knee as he explained what they meant. I was in and out: “80% torn”, “meniscus was fine”, “lots of little tears”, “patella graft”… “smurf hotel”? The one thing I was certain of was that the pictures looked like bloody sushi, and my gag reflex was alive and kicking.

The nurses jumped to action before the inevitable happened (bless them) by shoving an alcohol pad under my nose. What the pan-fried hell? They explained that the alcohol cuts the nausea and I was baffled. How? Was it a placebo? Science? Black magic?? All I know was that it WORKED. So I stole a handful of them and clutched them like Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets.

They called my dad and husband in to help me – slowly – get dressed, into the wheelchair, and stretched out across the backseat of my husband’s Saturn Ion. Once I was home, hubby propped me up on the couch. The ultimate indignity came when he handed me a cowbell leftover from the race I tore my ACL in. “Ring it if you need me!” he said happily. Sure. I’ll jangle a cowbell that was last used to cheer me across the finish line of the race that put me in this position. Somewhere Alanis Morissette sensed a disturbance in the ironic force.

So we strapped me into my CPM (continuous passive motion) machine and cranked it up to 30 degrees flexion per the doctor’s orders. At this point I was feeling pretty damn awesome! I had a full ACL construction 6 hours earlier and I was already bending at 30 degrees? Who’s a rockstar?

Well, not me. Because after a few more hours, the anesthesia started to wear off and PURE FIRE shot through my body. I had to sleep on the couch for the first 48 hours because I couldn’t lift my leg into bed, but sleep became a mocking, distant memory. Two hours into my first night, I woke with shooting pains that ran from my left butt-cheek and down to the bottom of my foot – my leg was tired of being held at that angle for the past 12 hours, and the nerves were revolting as they woke up.

So I cried. Good lord, did I cry. I cried like a baby, that night, and the next day, and the day after that. It was true anguish. I still remember sobbing after a making it to the bathroom on my own the first day I was home alone, three days after surgery. What a production!

I had to disconnect my leg from the ice machine, unstrap from the CPM, manually move my dead leg off the side of the bed, maneuver into the crutches, and inch the 15 feet to the bathroom. Every movement meant searing pain. Bending at the waist forced a wave of pressure down my leg, while standing flooded my knee with fluid, making it feel like my kneecap would pop off. When I finally made it back to the bed, I couldn’t even muster the energy to lift my leg back into the CPM machine in bed.

Instead, I sat at the edge of the bed and sobbed fat, hot tears, openly and loudly, for almost a full 15 minutes. I rested my hands against the wall opposite me and let my head hang down – I never wanted to run again if it meant I might damage my ACL and have to go through this again. I could find no comfortable position in this world, and I never would, ever again.

But I did. Time and Oxy became my two best friends – each day I felt tiny, almost imperceptible improvements, but they added up. Plus the wild, vivid dreams I had on the Oxy kept me entertained too! No lie, I spent a whole night on the Hogwarts Express trying to find my trunk while my friends Ron and Harry chased me with a big orange cat. It was truly sublime.

As I got more sleep each night, I felt better. I worked up to 110 degrees flexion in 7 days, and physical therapy was around the corner. The point is, it did get better. Even though I had those dark moments where I felt like it would never heal, it did. I learned the true meaning of things like determination, stubbornness, and hard work – and physical therapy taught me even more.

Stay tuned for my next post on rehab and recovery!

In the meantime, do you have a surgery story of your own? Share in the comments!

ACL Surgery Part 1: Surgery Day

A big part of my journey to health is my knee surgery – almost exactly one year ago, I had ACL reconstruction surgery after tearing the ligament at mile 12 of the 2012 Atlantic City Half Marathon. It’s a huge part of my story now, in that it’s taught me how to listen to my body, where to dig deep for true patience, and when to push myself beyond what I thought possible.

Now, I don’t plan on going in chronological order in this blog – I’ll do my best to tag and categorize if anyone wants to read about one part of the journey or another. But for now, let’s start with what’s still relatively fresh in my mind: the day of surgery.

I woke up early on January 29th, 2013. My appointment was for 1pm but of course I got there early. It was a sunny day, actually quite warm for the date. I remember seeing on the weather forecast that the next day (January 30th) would be the most unseasonably warm day yet. You know that one weird warm day you get every year in the dead of winter that reminds you that things are all going to be ok and you’ll make it through the winter after all? That was the 30th. But I had to get through the 29th to get there.

So at 11, my husband drove me into the surgical center and we walked in to find we were the only people in the waiting room. The kind woman standing behind the check-in window smiled as we walked in and asked, “Jessica?” Talk about service! Soon after I signed in and filled out a few forms, my father showed up for moral support. As it tends to do when he enters a room, everything around us seemed to swell with his presence. He always animates any space he’s in, my father. It’s nice.

After five short minutes of small talk, they called me in to change into my little gown and blue slipper socks, and popped a blue surgical hair cap over my head. I looked ridiculous. They put me in a big plastic arm chair in front of a tv hanging off the wall – King Arthur was on, with Clive Owen and Kiera Knightley – and reclined me and covered me in blankets. It was actually kind of nice. I was toasty. But I was alone.

One nurse came out and gave me a wrist band. Another told me she’d set me up with an IV. Then my surgeon came out. Dr. Ryan – he’s a reassuring presence for me. Through all my phone calls and questions he’s never lost patience or his serene smile. I relax when he’s there. He’s even had the procedure done himself, so that’s even better. Who better to have monitoring your recovery than someone who’s been through the same thing? Finally, the anesthesiologist came out and explained that I’d be entirely under, but would also have what they call a femoral nerve block, with 16-20 hours of numbness. Sweet!

After he left, it suddenly felt real. I had a pang of anxiety – I needed a familiar face. I asked a nurse if my husband could come in and they invited him in warmly. When he saw me, he smiled and reached for his phone to take a picture. I scolded him, having stared at the “NO CAMERAS” sign on the opposite wall for the last half hour. I kind of wish now that we’d broken that rule. I’d love to look back at my scared pale face in my stupid shower cap in my recliner.

We sat for a few moments but it went by WAY too fast – soon the little male nurse was there saying that I was ready. I didn’t want to say goodbye to my husband yet, but I had to. He took one simple silver ring that I forgot to take off, and my glasses. I was officially blind.

He kissed me and wished me luck, and helped me stand before going on his way. The little nurse wrapped me in my blanket and told me to carry it with me like a cape. I silently told myself to enjoy these steps, because they were the last I’d be taking for a while.

We walked down a few hallways and suddenly, boom; I was in an operating room. Like a full-on operating room with the big circular lights and hard metal table and freezing temperature. Oddly, Creedence Clearwater Revival was blasting on a stereo by the window where the shades were pulled tightly. Everything was blue. The anesthesiologist was there, and my surgeon, and the male nurse, and another female nurse.

The invited me to hop on the table – funny, I actually don’t remember the last step I took. Then there was buzzing activity all around me. The male nurse kept talking to me. Asking me how I was doing. Earlier that day, I told myself, “Don’t be chatty. You get chatty when you’re nervous. Just be quiet and go with it.” Now, I realized, I hadn’t been chatty at all. I guess when I’m truly nervous, I clam up. Because they kept asking me how I was doing, and all I could respond with was, “OK.” Or “Good.” Or “Still here.”

Finally, they gave me an IV. That’s where it gets really trippy. I remember every moment like it’s the present:

They tell me I’m not going to sleep yet. But I’m going to get warm and heavy and relaxed, and I’m going to taste metal for a moment. OK, I say. And sure enough, it all happens like they say.

I almost panic, but don’t want to. I worry that I’ll fall asleep before they can tell me they’re putting me out. I feel especially heavy and warm and tingly from my chest up. It’s as if I’ve been injected with hot, warm fuzz all around my lungs, neck, shoulders, and head. I feel like I should be tense, but I can’t muster the energy.

“How are you doing?” they ask. I want to respond, but everything’s slow. “Still here,” I start, but my words slur without me even trying. It’s like I’m in glue.

Next is the nerve block. The male nurse explains what he’s doing at every step of the way. This is just alcohol. This is iodine. This touch is just to prepare the area. This is the needle.

Suddenly – boom – my leg starts jerking around on the table. It’s an awesome feeling – I would laugh at it if I could, but I’m a melting wax figure. I smile to myself and stare at the pockmarked ceiling as it continues to jump. They’re talking to each other. “10, ok, here’s 10. Now let’s ease up to 15. 20. Ok, no, back to 15.” I want to care about what they’re saying, but I’ve got nothing. Nerves I didn’t even know I had are jumping in my leg, making the skin twitch and bounce. Right when they say it’s about to calm down, it does.

Now they’re ready. “OK, now here we go, we’re going to put you to sleep.” I slur, “OK.” But it sounds more like “ooogaayyy”.

The last thing I remember thinking was “Hurry – pick a rock star to run away with in your dreams! Ajay Popoff from Lit or Art Alexakis from Everclear?” then boom, I was out. I didn’t even have enough time to pick a man.

Next up: ACL Surgery Part 2: Post-Surgery and Recovery!

…and away we go!

After wanting to start my own blog for quite some time now, I’ve finally decided to dive in and join the “blogosphere”! Or whatever technical jargon-y term the kids are using these days. Seriously, I have no idea. My knowledge of what’s “in” rivals that of Liz Lemon.

The last time I blogged regularly, I can honestly say it was for lack of anything better to do. I recently revisited my old LiveJournal and found that the majority of the entries were about one of four things: my ex (and the fact that he never returned my calls), Joaquin Phoenix (and the fact that HE never returned my calls), my cat, and college life. All pretty mundane, self-centered things that any normal 20-22 year old would blog about. Most of it is pretty cringe-worthy, but it’s pretty fun to go back in time and laugh about myself; did I REALLY write that much about the pizza at the dining hall?

But now, 10 years later, I find myself with something to say. Sure, I could write about pizza (god I could write about delicious, cheesy pizza…), but I’ve experienced a lot in my 30 years and I think people might enjoy hearing about some of my adventures; most notably my journey to fitness.

Since 2003, I’ve lost 100+ lbs and gone from not being able to take the stairs to eyeing a full marathon next fall. Sure, my story isn’t so uniqure that I should get a lifetime movie – hell, thousands of people have lost weight and turned their lives around. But I like to think that by sharing my journey I may be able to help someone else find the same happiness I’ve found in being healthy. I don’t claim to be perfect (no, I’m too busy stuffing my face with a brownie batter stuffed donut to say anything like that), but that’s the point – you don’t have to be “perfect” to be happy.

So – welcome to my blog! I’ll try my best to be funny, inspirational, or just plain entertaining along the way. And I promise I’ll only write about pizza like once, maybe twice a month.