“There goes my head.”

When I was about 11 my uncle introduced me to the world of The Far Side, and I was never the same. My little tween brain couldn’t grasp the fact that one square drawing could be so damn funny, and I usually ended up laughing until I cried after just a few pages of the anthology books he got me for my birthday that year.

While I’ve got plenty of favorites, one comic stuck with me through the years and has gained a LOT of relevance for me in the past year. When I first saw it, I didn’t quite understand what made it so funny – I’d heard people who had previous surgeries talk about their random bits “acting up” with humid weather or snow storms, but what did I know? I was 11 and had all my factory-original parts.

All I knew was that this comic had a direct line to my funny bone. Behold:

Imagethat potato head is pure comedy gold. ask any eleven year old.

Fast forward to this past year, which has found me dealing with all manner of aches & pains thanks to this new ACL. For the past 48 hours, it has been pouring rain here in New Jersey. I mean pouring. Humid, disgusting, cold miserable rain. Which has prompted my knee to figuratively turn into a weather balloon of anger, willing the rain to stop with each throb.

Before my knee surgery, I never understood the “bionic human barometer” thing. Now, I stand (limp) before you as living proof.

I guess I can thank God it’s not my head though.

How about you – can you predict the weather with any body parts? Do tell! And if it’s your face, I want pictures.

Rest & Recover? lol jk

Here I am, 3 days post-race, and I already miss training. Not being able to run after a race like that kills me! Especially since I had such a great experience; PR’ing with my new ACL has me convinced that I can – and should! – take on another race soon, to maintain my fitness and improve my time.

But alas, I’m forced to “take it easy”, at least for this week. OK, my knees can use the rest. Truth be told, they’re both still a little tender. This new ligament was just put through the wringer, and my good knee has taken on a lot in the last year, so they’ve earned a few rest days.

ImageThis may be my grandfather. Maybe.

But I want to GO! I went from talking about nothing but training to talking about wanting to get back into training. I think my coworkers may tie me to my chair and roll me into an empty office soon. How about you, does the post-race rest period drive you as insane as it’s driving me?

Also, can we talk for a moment about the whole post-race appetite thing? During training, I was like a vacuum. I required constant feedings, like a 165 lb. newborn kitten.

Image…and then eat some more!

But after my half on Saturday, my appetite has all but disappeared. I fantasized about pancakes for pretty much all of miles 11 & 12, but once I finished, the thought of food just turned me off. We only stopped at Baja Fresh after the race because I knew that poor Mike had to eat *something*. Sure the guacamole was good, and my shrimp taco was delicious, but I could only manage a few bites of each before calling it a day. That night I had a chicken salad and treated myself to some hash browns, but again could only take about half of each. I couldn’t even finish my celebratory brownie that night.

Guys, do you understand what I just said? Let me repeat myself: I couldn’t even finish a brownie. What the what??

3 days later, I’m still not as ravenous as I expected – which is certainly a good thing, especially if I have to take a few more days off running. But this goes against everything I am and desire in life. Have any of you ever experienced an appetite decrease after a race? Am I entirely alone here?

Race Recap: Asbury Park Half Marathon

This weekend I ran my first half marathon since tearing my ACL in mile 12 of my last one back in October 2012. And it couldn’t have been a better day if I had scripted it!!

My day started out with a bit of anxiety: after 18 months of no running/racing in major races, I had some serious stress dreams about getting to the start. So when 5:30 rolled around I woke up ready but not necessarily rested. I did my usual pre-run routine (coffee, peanut butter bread, half banana, bathroom), and once I slapped some eyebrows on (gotta look good for the race photographer!), I taped up my knees and got dressed, sticking with the tank and shorts & throwing my running rain jacket on at the last minute.

After a quick 25-30 minute drive, we got to the boardwalk and easily found parking – a huge bonus in my book! I was so nervous & couldn’t stop talking in circles – poor Mike kept talking me down, and finally he gave me a look that said he was considering using the KT tape from my knees to cover my mouth, and I kept my insecurities to myself. Bless his heart.


Fig. 1: a terrified runner

We milled around at the start, waiting in the semi-ridiculous port-a-potty line and acclimating to the cold wet weather, when the sun broke through the clouds, causing a huge burst of applause from the crowd. That’s when I called an audible, took the jacket off, and lined up for the start.


Fig. 2: terrified runner, faking optimism

The gun went off and after the usual jostling at the start, we were on our way! As I crossed the timing pad, “Born to Run” blared from a nearby radio station tent and I couldn’t help but smile. Asbury Park, Bruce Springsteen, the Jersey Shore, the gritty boardwalk, the finish at the Stone Pony: this race was made for me! I own this! It’s funny how one song can turn your mood around entirely 🙂

So, with my confidence soaring, I settled into a nice easy, conservative 11:30-12:00 min/mile pace and smiled the whole first 2 miles, listening to other runners near me at the back of the pack chatting happily and joking about how they only had “5 more hours to go!” These were my people!

We passed hungover hipsters watching us from the doorways of diners, couples walking their dogs, people getting coffee – it was a gorgeous spring Saturday morning and I felt like I could go forever. We did a nice slow loop around the lake and back along the boardwalk where we got a nice boost from the crowd that still lingered there – and I even got to snag an extra good luck kiss from Mike!


Fig. 3: Happy runner 🙂

Miles 3-5.5 went one way out and miles 5.5-7 passed us in the other direction. It was motivating to pass the faster runners and snag some high-fives to power through. I stopped at the water station at 5.5 for a stretch and some water, then took some almonds and peanut butter M&M’s for energy (gels cramp my stomach) a bit later at 1:07. But I realized too late – I had no water! I mis-timed my stop and found myself jogging with a dry mouth full of paste (that tasted like smoked almonds and chocolate, ugh). I asked a nearby course volunteer where the next water station was and while she didn’t know, she magically reached into her pocket and pulled out a tiny bottle of water for me! I heard angels and saw the skies open up above her, and thanked her about 20 times as I jogged away, recharged.

The last 3rd of the race was along the boardwalk the entire way, and as we ran back past the start/finish area I found Mike one last time and smiled, for the camera, but I knew the rest of this race was going to be tough.


powering through

I felt a little bit of fatigue, and looked forward to my planned walk breaks at Mile 10. Just after I passed Mike though, a tiny figure in a neon pink sweatshirt came out of the crowd right before the Casino pier and ran straight for me, screaming, “Jess! Yeah Jess GO!” – it was my friend Tina! I had totally forgotten that she was coming! I was grateful for the chance to stop and hug her, but she (being a seasoned runner with 7 [SEVEN!!] marathons under her belt) knew that if I stopped I wouldn’t start again. So she kept pace with me for about 50 yards, “You’re doing great! How are you feeling? How’s your knee? Can I get you anything at the finish?” I kept running. All I could get out was fragments: “I’m great! 5 and a half to go, knee is awesome, thanks but I’m good!” She trailed off just as I went through the abandoned pier, “Alright, we’ll be there at the finish, you’ve got this!!” I gave her a thumbs up and once I was inside the pier, I found myself sobbing.

I was so overwhelmed with the whole experience – I was running with my new ACL, on track to beat my old time, and here was this friend I completely didn’t expect and needed just at the right moment. I mean come on, no one understands a runner better than another runner. I heard my goofy sobs echoing around the empty pier – then realized that she was probably still only a few yards behind me, dummy, pull yourself together and run your ass off!

So run I did, and started to melt down around 10.5. The boardwalk was an unforgiving surface to run on, and my thin compression socks offered little in the way of cushioning. At every step I could feel every bump and nail in the boards under my feet. My good knee throbbed with every step, but as long as I alternated between jogging and walking, I was good.

I kept an eye on my watch, with my time to beat at 2:56; That was when I crossed the finish line after tearing my ACL in the AC Half. Even if I made it in at 2:55 I would call it a win. So when I passed mile 12 and saw 2:40 on the clock, I panicked. If I walked it at 15 mins/mile, I wouldn’t make it. I’d have to push. So I did.

And just as I came over the last bridge at mile 12.85, there was another friend – Bill. I pointed at him as I jogged towards him, as he stood there smiling at me, waiting to run me in. I had nothing left to give at this point; even speaking was impossible. I felt so bad – I couldn’t answer any of his questions, or even explain to him that I was so close to my time goal because I couldn’t breathe enough to say it!

And honestly, I hadn’t even said my goal out loud, ever. Saying it felt too real. If I came in after 2:56 I couldn’t bear the thought of having to hear everyone tell me, “Well you still did great!”.

So I speed walked, I jogged, and there was Tina and her boyfriend Joe, again at mile 13. This time she snapped a pic of me:


I was laughing, yes – but I think hallucinating too.

I just had to make it up to the boardwalk and sprint the last .1 to finish. I said screw it and just RAN – I’m not even sure of that final pace – but when I could make out the numbers on the finish clock and saw 2:53, I burst into tears. I simply couldn’t hold the emotion in any longer, and crossed that finish line at 2:53:44, sobbing and wheezing.

When I cleared the finishers chute, I found Mike and could only make out the words “I beat my time!” before dissolving into full-on sobs. I hadn’t even told him about my goal, and I didn’t even have the oxygen to do so now! But he knew.

Tina and Bill joined us, for hugs and photos and chatting – it was amazing.


Triumphant Runner 🙂

I felt like I was vibrating. I still do! It was an amazing experience and I enjoyed every moment of it. I left it all on the course and wouldn’t have done it any other way. This race was more than just a race, it proved to me that I could see something through to the end successfully. I guess when it comes to half marathons, my third time was really the charm 😉

The only negative things I can say had to do with the finish and expo/t-shirt pickup situation. When we all parted ways, I realized that I needed water, and maybe a banana or something. I was shaking and my legs were near giving out. But all they had available on the boardwalk near the finish were plastic cups of water – if I wanted anything else I had to walk about a half mile back into town off the boardwalk to the “expo” in a school gymnasium (where they were also giving out race t-shirts). Now, I’d just run 13.27 miles. That unpaved field I had to cross to get to the expo may as well have been made of lava and filled with crocodiles. I still remember standing at the corner, looking at the expo sign in the distance and asking Mike for a piggy-back ride because I couldn’t fathom walking that far!

But even with that, I’d give the Asbury Park Runapalooza about a B+. The expo was cute, the tech shirts are fun orange long sleeve shirts, and I even got a free leg massage after the race! This is definitely a race I can see myself returning to year after year!


How about you? Did you race this weekend? I want to hear all about it!

I did it!

I promise a full race recap later, but I just couldn’t let another hour go by without sharing the great news:


I finished my first post-ACL surgery Half Marathon this weekend, AND I came away with a shiny new PR!!

I was able to shave a little over 3 minutes off my time, but more importantly, I crossed the finish line with both legs fully intact (and full-on ugly-cry face).

More to come later!




Run For Change


Are you going to be in the New Jersey/Pennsylvania area on Mother’s Day? Then come out to a great new 10K race that’s being held at Washington Crossing, PA on May 11th, 2014. A friend and co-worker of mine helped organize this with her sorority, and it promises to be a fantastic event for a worthy cause.

In conjunction with runBucks and Girls for a Change, Inc., the Xi Xi Chapter of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, Inc. is elated to present you with “Run for Change” – a 10k Mother’s Day Run in Washington Crossing, PA to benefit Girls for a Change, Inc.

For more information or to register/donate, check it out online or on Facebook – and tell them you heard about them from Jess Runs Happy!

Piggies and Stairs and Long Runs, Oh My!

What an active weekend I had! I like to think the buildup to Boston inspired me 😉

Let’s start with Saturday. A beautiful sunny warm spring day, I met up with a new friend for a virtual 5K down at the local park. We registered for this thing back in January, mainly because it’s a race that encourages the consumption of donuts, and you also get a fun pig nose to wear for ridiculous pictures afterwards. It was a win-win!


Wow did we have more fun than expected.

We jogged and walked (this being my friend’s first 5K) and had a nice workout in the process – I managed a 8:30 pace for the last quarter mile and surprised even myself! So after we finished and posed for some hysterical pictures, we headed to Dunkin for our celebratory glazed with sprinkles (and iced coffee, of course), then strolled around town for a bit. My adventurous friend spotted the South Amboy train station steps and suggested we tackle them Rocky-style, and who was I to say no? My knee was feeling nice and strong thanks to the last month of serious training, so I went for it! 


I blame my delusions on the donut-related sugar high.

In hindsight, I probably should have passed on the steps given my plans to run 10 miles the next day. I used to do stairs all the time, pre-surgery. But they’re a special kind of hell – one that I haven’t really experienced in over 18 months.

So I woke up feeling fine and set out for my last long training run and also my longest post-ACL surgery run! Immediately the wind became an issue, but I stuck it out – until mile 7.5. That’s when I hit the wall pretty hard, and briefly considered asking an elderly man sharing the path at the park with me for a ride on his Jazzy.

But this wall wasn’t like any other wall I’ve hit before – this wall was more like quicksand. In the past, my lungs would give up on me first, resulting in stitches in my side and constant stopping. But yesterday, it was all in my legs and hips. They wouldn’t turn over! My lungs felt absolutely fine, but my legs felt almost numb when I was running, and ached and throbbed when I stopped to walk for a drink. I alternated between walking and running the last 1.5 or so just to test my limits and see what I could do – and that pain was shocking! I kept at it though, and remembered that I’m only racing myself here. Time isn’t important, it’s getting the mileage in. So I kept at it. And at mile 9.4 I saw the best graffiti ever:


Thanks, running path.

That gave me the push I needed to finish mile #10 and put my final long run in the books. I stretched and foam rolled, and later (after gorging myself on Easter deliciousness at my mother-in-law’s), I iced and used my TENS unit too. It wasn’t until about 9pm that I realized WHY I was so pained in the last half of my run – those damn stairs!!

So now I know: do not run up and down a flight of double stairs 6-8 times the day before a long run. Lesson learned.

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned (maybe the hard way) in your running? Let me hear it!


One More Week [Alternatively: AAAHH!!]

So it’s come to my attention that I’m just over exactly 7 days away from my half marathon.


I’m fine, why do you ask?

But really, I’m kind of freaking out. I came back from vacation and have been hitting it HARD for the past 8 days:

  • 5.4 miles with hills
  • Rest
  • 60 mins. of cross training with strength work and biking
  • 2 miles of speedwork
  • Rest
  • 6.5 miles at race pace
  • 3 miles of speedwork
  • 50 minutes of cross training

Why am I freaking out, you ask? Well, see, a half marathon is 13.1 miles. And the most I’ve done so far is 6.5. That’s just over half of the distance I need to cover in a week.

Sure, I could blame traveling and vacation and that nasty 9-day fever/cough on my lack of real mileage, but let’s face it: I have no one to blame but myself. And since we’re all friends here, I’m gonna keep it real right now and be honest: I am fucking pissed at myself. This is an issue that I have not just with my running, but with life in general.

Here’s how it goes down: I set a goal for myself. A big, lofty goal that I think would be awesome to accomplish, like “be a professional person at work” or “run another half marathon after blowing out my knee in the last one I ran”. Whee for goal setting!


Do! All! The Things!

I get really excited! For about 2-3 weeks, all I focus on is this goal. I wear high heels to work every day. I schedule meetings. I create a training plan and follow it rigorously. It’s all I can talk about. “I’m going to really turn it around this time! I’m going to banish all doubt from my performance as a professional at work/run this half marathon/fill in the blank with lofty goal here!”

Then, something happens. Maybe I get sick. Maybe I have to travel for work, or something family-related pops up. Whatever it is, it always sidetracks me from my “PLAN with a capital P”. I stop wearing the heels. I forget to run because I’m too stressed or busy or whatever. And before I know it, a week or two or even three has gone by, and I’m right back to pre-goal Jess. Only now, that Plan with a capital P is now in shambles and whatever goal I’ve set for myself is STILL looming. And it’s immobilizing. Plus I’ve got the sweet taste of failure in my mouth.


Turns out, failure tastes like chocolate and potato chips and insomnia and Twizzlers all mixed together, did you know that?

So that’s about where I’m at right now. Sure, I haven’t completely FAILED with a capital F. I’ve still got a week. I’m training. I’m not giving up. I’m focusing on finishing this thing with a smile, and if that means I have to walk half of it and finish 3 hours after they close the course to avoid injury, then so be it.

But I’m not as trained as I’d like to be, and I know that I’ve never actually successfully run an entire half marathon yet, due to either the course being shortened or blowing out my knee a mile before the finish. So even though I’m going into this thinking, “Hey, 3rd time’s a charm!”, a tiny, self-hating part of me sees me bonking at mile 9 and just saying f*ck it and paying the cop at the end of the pack of runners $50 to give me a ride to the finish on the back of his motorcycle.
So all I can do is keep training, keep picturing myself crossing that finish line, running, and happy. That’s the best I can hope for I guess. Right?





Running on Island Time

Before I begin – I apologize for my silence lately! I had a nasty sinus infection at the end of March so I had to take a full week off running (UGH). As an aside: how do people run through illness like that? I had a fever of 102 and hallucinated that I was Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle; I couldn’t even sit up straight let alone run!

Anyway, after that, I set sail on a 7 day cruise to Florida and the Bahamas with my mama! Usually, I see vacation as my time to forget the rules and return to my natural state. Unfortunately my natural state is less “let’s get physical!” and more “screw the training plan, they’ve got free brownies 24/7 up in this bitch, it’s brownies-for-breakfast time”.

But with the half marathon looming ahead of me (18 days, eek!), I knew I had to stay active – and BOY did I! I’m proud to say that this was the most active vacation I’ve ever had – filled with running, open-water swimming, biking, rope climbing, capoeira, weight training, and LOTS of walking. No lie, in Florida we walked for 6 hours straight. We didn’t even stop to eat. I had a soft pretzel at 7pm and freaked out the pretzel cart woman with my obscene moans of relief after my first bite.

So I started my 2nd morning on the boat with a nice 5K, spread out between the fitness center and the jogging track on the ship’s top deck.

with a view like that I HAD to go on deck

with a view like that I HAD to go on deck

It was amazing – between the sun and warm air and new route, it was the most invigorating run I’ve had in months! I finished with a half hour of full-body strength training in the gym and then took the 8 flights of stairs back to our stateroom for good measure. And if you’re wondering – yes, I did have a brownie for breakfast. Life is all about balance.

That same day we toured the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and we ended up walking the equivalent of about 284 miles* (*I may be estimating). We spent 7 hours touring, and aside from the one hour bus ride we were on our feet. The. Whole. Day. The following day we were at Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas. I planned on doing nothing (except for drinking pina coladas on the beach), but once I got in that cool, refreshing, 15-foot deep turquoise private lagoon water? I just had to swim.

wouldn't you?

wouldn’t you?

I haven’t swam in open water in more than 2 years, but I jumped right in that water and floated, kicked, dove, frolicked, and generally played mermaid for about 3 hours. I even swam around that island you see in the center of the lagoon (the water surrounded it on all sides), stopping just once on the far side beach to give my shoulders a break.

After getting a crazy sunburn from all this beach fun (the price a mermaid must pay, I suppose), I took the next day off in Atlantis, and spent most of the day in a flowy caftan in shaded areas. It was actually kind of fun, I pretended I was a Kardashian. Not a bad way to spend a day in the Bahamas.

By our last day at sea, my sunburn had finally calmed down enough for me to put sneakers on so I started with a quick 2 miles of speedwork on the treadmill, followed by 2 hard and fast miles on the bike (in 7:40, a new bike PR!!), then ran up the 4 flights of stairs to the top deck for a session on the ropes course.

ropes course (bottom), see also "terrifying workout in gale force winds and a full body harness 17 stories above the Atlantic Ocean"

ropes course (bottom), see also “terrifying workout in gale force winds and a full body harness 17 stories above the Atlantic Ocean”

Suffice it to say that I would have been content sticking with mini-golf after my time on the ropes course, but I perservered and went to a free capoeira class instead. A bucket list item of mine, capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines dancing, fighting, and games. Lots of hovering, squatting, kicking, and general break-dancing. Lots of fun.

Now, full disclosure: the class was taught by a blindingly gorgeous Brazilian man who pronounced the word “since” with a long “I” (s-eye-nce), bless his heart. And while we’re sharing and feeling religious, God bless those rocky northern Atlantic currents. Because without them, I wouldn’t have been able to cap off my last day at sea with a face-full of Brazilian man-thigh when the boat zigged and we both zagged during a particularly intense sparring session. Cue the bad-ass music and “calmly walking away from a car explosion” scene:

and when I walked off the boat, it burst into flames, too.

and when I walked off the boat, it burst into flames, too.

Cut to today: my muscles are still on FIRE from all the wild and crazy things I put them through in the past week, and I couldn’t be happier! So what do you think? When you’re on vacation, do you go for the brownies or the ropes course (or both)? What’s your favorite activity to do on vacation? Tell me a story 🙂