Make A Wish NJ’s Walk for Wishes & 5K – 9/27/14

Attention all New Jersey & New York readers:

Come join me on 9/27 at Liberty State Park in Jersey City for Make-A-Wish NJ’s Walk for Wishes and 5K!

CaptureWhether you run or walk, this is going to be a great event for a very worthy cause.

And to sweeten the deal, use code JESSRUN to get $10 off your registration fees!

So what are you waiting for? Register now and let’s make wishes come true together, one step at a time!!

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Look Out, Weird Al

Alright kids. Have a seat. It’s time we talk about an important topic: Running Mania.

Maybe you’ve been lucky and you haven’t experienced this phenomena. But for me, here’s how it goes down: at some point in every run when I’m almost on fumes, my legs go on autopilot and my mind wanders to the silliest, most ludicrous things it can conjure up. Sometimes I go for a jaunt to the Riviera Maya with Trent Reznor. Other times I create resumes for my dream jobs, like the time I wanted to be a roadie for Lit (a highlight from the qualifications section: “Knows how to tune a guitar; STD-free”).

In addition to exotic vacations and dream jobs, I’ve recently found that I have a knack for song parodies. Food-based song parodies, to be exact. And I find the most joy in using solely the songs of my travel partner Trent and his band, Nine Inch Nails.

You see, it all started last month when the following song came on my iPod at mile 3 of a tough 4 miler. The beat, Trent’s grunting, and knowing that there was a big-ass piece of yellow cake with fudge frosting waiting for me at home – well, it all combined for the perfect storm that sent a surge of adrenaline through my veins, and suddenly the chorus made perfect sense (fast forward to around :50 for the joke):

I AM THE “CAKE DESTROYER!!”

Clearly you can see where the rest of this post is headed.

After the chorus, it was just a matter of replacing some of the lyrics with cake-eating-related terms (“I hope they cannot see/the limitless potential/living inside of me/to eat up all the cake”) – and before I knew it, I had created my very first song parody.

A few nights later I discovered that this little ditty could be transformed into a cynical song about a fruity baked good, and I had another creation under my belt: “Blueberry Pie”.

Listen, I never said I was a GOOD song parody writer. But lyrics like “I feel my hunger grow all the more extreme/can you please pass me some vanilla ice cream?/blueberry pie!”… well, they practically write themselves. I’m just a conduit for the muses.

I’ll leave you with the last parody I came up with on a 10K one dark and lonely night. It’s a little bit of a stretch, but hear me out: a song about not wanting to go gluten-free, set to this jam:

“Bread in my hole!/warms up my soul!/I’d rather die!/Than give up my rolls!”

My name is Jess, and I’m a runner who comes up with horrible song parodies like “Bread in My Hole” ::hangs head in shame::

So how about you? Do you have anything that gets you through your long runs? Please tell me I’m not the only special little soul that suffers from Running Mania!

Breaking the Cycle

This Sunday I took my new-found confidence and my happy knees on a long run and surprised even myself!

I know from my extensive background in anxiety that once I get anxious about a particular situation, I need space from it to break the cycle. I’m sure there’s some psychological principle behind this, but all I know is that it works for me. So I decided to approach this long run in a new way:

  • Rather than have the hubby drop me off 10 miles from home and running back, I would run around my town. I usually hate long runs that take me around the same loops over and over again, but recent runs in the area had my confidence pretty high on my home turf, so I went with it.
  • I ditched the bulky hydration vest. In my last few runs with it, I leaned too heavily on it: I got distracted by fussing with the cords, drinking more than I needed to, etc. And since I planned on running near convenience stores and public bathrooms, I stuck with my little fanny pack and some change.

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Baby Got Pack

So after fueling up with a Raspberry White Chocolate Quest Bar (HELLO, new favorite flavor!) I set out on my normal 2-3 mile route that would take me into the park where I planned on just running 1 mile laps around the football fields and along the water. Anything past 7 miles would be a win, and 10 miles would be the ultimate.

Mile 1 was the usual struggle, but soon I fell into a rhythm by mile 2, and by mile 3, I was jammin. Mostly because I was listening to my new favorite running song: this track by Kendrick Lamar. It’s got the perfect beat to push me up tough hills while maintaining a respectable pace, and I also get to showcase my fantastic runner’s swagger when I lip-sync to the more filthy verses.

So mile 3 & 4 saw me coasting down Broadway and into my waterfront park, weaving around the usual walkers and bikers and kids and dogs, and mostly just loving the fact that it was about 70 degrees and perfectly gorgeous.

photo 3You think I’m kidding?

After a lap, I stopped at mile 5.5 to stretch and refuel with gummy bears & almonds. photo 2I had to laugh – the folks that passed me were completely perplexed (“She’s running and eating??”) but it didn’t matter – I’m a professional (idiot) after all. I took off again after some water and mild stretching, and before I knew it I was at 7.2something. I wasn’t even feeling it! I coasted around for another mile or so, and started to feel the fatigue in my ankles and calves at around 8.5.

I stopped for some heavy stretching and set out for the last mile, when this song came on. That’s when I shut down the part of my brain that focused on running and lost myself in some daydreams. I traveled to the Riviera Maya with Trent Reznor for some pretty NSFW action, and at one point I actually made myself giggle and blush while I was running! I was giddy –  and frankly, probably a little dehydrated too – but as I glanced at my watch and realized I could get in 10 miles under 2:10, I gunned it.

And it worked!

photoBarely – but I’ll take it!

When I stopped, both calves wanted to cramp up and freeze, but I stretched for a good 15 minutes in the park before calling my husband to come pick me up for a triumphant ride back home (and a big sushi lunch).

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that’s what I call a victory lap

And that’s the story of how I broke my bad long run cycle – with Kendrick Lamar, Disclosure, gummy bears, and Trent Reznor. 🙂

Race Recap: Seaside Semper Five

This past Saturday, I ran in the Seaside Semper Five charity 5K down in Seaside Park, NJ – and it was fantastic! If you’re an NJ local, this is a must-run.

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I first heard about it back in May or June, when the Seaside Semper Five Instagram account followed me and liked almost all of my running-related posts. I checked them out and learned that they were planning a 5K race on the Seaside boardwalk in September to benefit the Marsoc Foundation, which supports active duty and medically retired Marine Corps Special Operations Command personnel and their families, as well as the families of Marines who have lost their lives in their service. A nice short run on a beautiful boardwalk for a worthy cause? Count me in!

I convinced my friend Ashley (a fellow member of the Yoga Misfits) to run with me, and she recruited her husband as well.

10613026_10100395189045188_3749426650859722764_nHe was clearly thrilled about the endeavor.

It ended up being a cool, WINDY, cloudy-ish morning, which in the grand scheme of things, isn’t the worst running weather.

photo 1 (2)It sure made for pretty running scenery.

We hung out in the Sawmill debating on whether we would run in long sleeves or switch to tank tops (final tally me: tank, Ash: sleeves), and made our way outside to prep for the start.

photo 2

The Polish Runners. Our mascot is a flip flop.

After just a few minutes of the usual milling around waiting for the gun, we were off and running – at which point my left earbud promptly died at .15 miles in. Grrr. No matter, it was a great crowd with a lot of friendly energy, so I turned my volume down and settled into a nice 11:30 pace. I kept telling myself to slow down because I didn’t want to burn out – I’d been clocking 12-12:30’s throughout pretty much every training run below 10 miles since my injuries earlier this summer. But I felt so good – SO damn good – at 11:30 that I kept it up.

We ran for exactly 1.5 miles on the pavement right along the raised boardwalk, then turned left up onto the boards at a little water break at 1.5 and went back in the opposite direction for the last 1.6. I slowed for just a few paces to drink, thanked the volunteers at the water stop, then kept right on going. The wind was a little bit of a battle, but I still felt great at 11:30. I briefly thought it’d be cool to break 37 minutes, but didn’t bother doing any of the frantic mental math I usually do towards the end of a run to calculate my time. I just focused my energy – mental and physical – on pushing and finishing strong.

It was very cool to see the Marines running in formation at the very very end of the pack – as I neared the 2.5 mile mark, they passed me on the pavement below as they brought up the rear, chanting and carrying their gigantic flag. That gave me a little extra energy boost. So once I caught sight of the finish line, I gave my usual sprint for the last .25, and was super stoked to see 36:30!

0Fig 1: My stoked face, far right.

However, just as we got to the finish flag (not the timing mat), the girl in the gray t-shirt in front of me up there decided she had had enough, and STOPPED before the finish line. She evidently thought she’d crossed the finish line, but people even started yelling, “Keep going! Keep running, cross the mat!”

1Fig. 2: My “wait, is she really stopping directly in front of me?” fake smile because I saw the camera and didn’t want them to capture my bitch-face.

So I had to do some creative bobbing and weaving to get next to her, and officially crossed the mat at 36:44.

2Fig. 3: I have no excuse for this face. Not one.

All in all, it was a great race! We hung out for a while and watched the rest of the runners finish, cheered on some more Marines that ran it, and then Mike and I even hung out on the boardwalk for the rest of the day because we didn’t want to waste the $10 we paid in parking fees by leaving early.

photo 3Calories don’t count on the boardwalk. It’s science.

The only complaint I have is that the race was scheduled as the same day as ClownFest (yes, a festival for clowns), and I am TERRIFIED of clowns. What’s worse, the creepy stormy weather meant there were no kids around, so the clowns that were wandering around had no one to play with, leaving them to terrorize the adults. Much like sharks, they must be able to smell fear, because they were all over me. I didn’t realize I could have so many mini panic attacks in a row.

But in all honesty (ClownFest aside), it was a great race and I cannot wait to run it again next year. Thanks to the organizers for a very well-organized and fun event!

photo 5

Oorah!

I Can Run Clearly Now…

Last week, after facing my deepest, darkest fears about possibly having to drop to the half marathon, I actually felt lighter. Physically and mentally, I was less burdened by the things I was afraid to say out loud, and I found myself enjoying the run even more. Knowing that I had this safety net to fall back on if my body didn’t want to cooperate actually made the idea of a race FUN again!

I started thinking about how cool it would be to race a half marathon. If I focus on halves for a while, I can take my time to train smart, build up my confidence at that distance, improve my pace, and eventually a half will be nothing. In short, I was excited to run again. Cue the angels and harps and cheesy dancing!

photoAnd bad-fake-running-poses.

Which was perfect timing because I was scheduled to host the local NJ meetup of International Mermaid Day bright and early Sunday morning! It ended up being just my friend Kevin and I, but it was a gorgeous, crisp, late summer morning and we had a great time jogging and chatting and living life and making waves 🙂

photo 2 (2)Fins Up!

The rest of the week I took it easy and focused on strength training. My brain was fried from my day job and a 2-day migraine knocked me out until Wednesday, when I decided to go by feel for my nighttime run. The no-pressure attitude really works, because 6.7 miles later, me and my knees were still smiling!

photo 3 (2)I stopped the watch for the 10K time but kept running to 6.7 for fun. For FUN!

My 10K time was also a minor victory – my last one was around 1:18, and even a small improvement is still reason to celebrate!

photo 1

… by drinking almond milk out of a wine glass in an ice bath.

All in all, it was a low-mileage week on my legs but a high-performance week in my self-esteem, and I’ll take it as a win.

How about you? How is your training is going? Are you enjoying your runs? Let me hear it.

The Girl Who Cried Marathon – Part 2

OK so when we last left off I was fresh off a great 6 mile run and feeling good and pain free. Hooray!

However. You know how they say that running is like 30% physical and 70% mental (or something, I don’t math good)? Well, I started psyching myself out basically as soon as I got out of the shower that night. Even though I had a great 6 miles, the end was rough. How was I going to build up to 26.2 – with confidence – in a little more than a month, with time for a taper too? I wasn’t. Or maybe I could. I don’t know. Where’s my xanax?

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Friday I rested and aimed for 12 miles over the weekend. Saturday morning I woke up and got prepped for the long run; fueled up, strapped on my hydration vest, and stood at the door stretching out, but I just wasn’t ready. I wasn’t mentally in the game. In fact, I was paralyzed with fear, indecision, anxiety, and frustration. I couldn’t fail at another long run, it’d break me. After my failed 10 miler the week before, I had built up “the long run” so much in my broken, anxiety-riddled mind.. so much that I worked myself up into a full-on panic attack there with my hand on the doorknob, unable to open the door and run. My husband found me there and talked me down. “Head out there with no expectations. Just run. If you go for 1 mile or 10, call it a win.” It helped – so I walked out the door and into the soupiest, hottest, most humid day New Jersey has experienced since last summer.

sweating

It was about 97 degrees with 98% humidity, and there was no relief to be found out on the pavement. I struggled physically for a mile or so, then walked, and realized it was time to face the fear that’s been on the edges of my brain for a while now: I may have to drop down to the half marathon this October.

I had thought it before but was too scared to really explore it. “Failure” was not an option. But “Compromise” had to be considered. What would the real cons be? Honestly, it was the fear of having to become “The Girl Who Cried Marathon.”

My best friend up in Cape Cod said she was going to come all the way down to cheer me on. My local friends always ask how training is going, and say they can’t wait to celebrate. So many of my internet friends here and on Instagram have all said how excited they are to follow my journey to the finish line… What a let down it would be to tell them that I wasn’t going to run it. What a fool I’d look like.

That’s when it finally dawned on me: I was more concerned with what my friends and family (and internet friends!) would think of me than I was with my own health and sanity. I was prepared to just push through and barely make it – and possibly injure myself – just because I didn’t want to look like a fool.

That was my wake-up call: if I’m only running the marathon for other people, I am truly doing it for the wrong reasons. When I signed up, I wanted to prove to myself I could finish happy and healthy, but a slew of injuries this summer (runner’s knee in both knees, calf strains, etc) have seriously derailed my training and turned running into a painful chore. And to be honest? Before that 6 miler, I hadn’t really enjoyed a run in a LONG while.

balki

#sorrynotsorry #truthbomb

So maybe dropping down is the right thing to do. The last thing I need to do is go out there unprepared (mentally or physically) and DNF, or worse, injure myself again. In the end, it comes down to what’s right for me. Not for anyone else. Because honestly? No one else really truly cares if I have to drop down to the half. Why in the hell would it matter to them? In classic overthinker fashion, I convinced myself that everyone else would view me as a failure, when in fact it was ALL ME doing the “you’re a failure” finger pointing, at myself.

(If you haven’t already noticed, I’m a classic overthinker. Whether I’m choosing chicken or fish at a wedding or buying a car: I will obsess over every little detail of a decision until I can’t keep my eyes open, and then I’ll keep obsessing until 3 am in bed, and eventually I’ll worry myself into a state of paralysis. It’s really the one thing I’m actually good at.)

alan

Yay for succeeding at something!

So as I walked back home, I pulled the trigger and messaged the handful of friends that said they were coming down to cheer me on, and their responses were so unbelievably sweet and supportive that I wondered why I had waited this long to say anything in the first place. When I got home I told my husband and it was like a weight had lifted. I cried in relief – even though I hadn’t officially changed my registration, I found such comfort in getting to the bottom of the issues that have been plaguing me for the past month. It really is true: Running is cheaper than therapy!

As of right now, I’m not sure if I’m officially dropping. I’ve got until 10 days before the race to decide, and I’m going to really focus on my training now that I’ve gotten my gait right and my knees are healing. I’ve done a few really good hour + runs, and banged out a great 10 miler today, so we’ll see what the future holds. I could possibly still pull the full out of thin air, but I’m not going to be disappointed if I have to drop when the time comes.

What matters is that I keep running happy – which I plan on doing for a VERY long time 🙂 And PS – We’ll be back to our usual running/training related posts tomorrow. In the meantime, how is your training going? Does anyone else out there struggle with doubt? How about my fellow overthinkers out there? Share your story!

The Girl Who Cried Marathon – Part 1

It’s been a while since my last post, but I’m back! And it has been a week or two, let me tell you. After getting all jazzed up for my long run with my last post, I made the bold choice of going for a 6 miler that Thursday night.

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The first three miles were filled with pace-destroying calf pain, a totally new issue. I’d had calf strain issues due to overcompensation on that leg in a few recent runs, but nothing like this. I couldn’t go more than 50 yards without walking because of this intense burning sensation from my ankles to my knees. It subsided around mile 3 and was replaced with major chafing for the last 3 miles. BUT I finished 6 in [relatively] good time, then rested Friday and set out Saturday for my long run. And it was bad.

I was motoring through mile 6 when the wheels fell off the wagon. My knees locked up, my calves coiled into tight springs, and I felt a shooting pain grow from the outside of my right foot straight through my right calf up to the knee. I walked in circles, stretched it, even sat on a curb to rest, but it wasn’t having any of that. When I tried to run one last block, my right knee gave out and I had to call my husband to come pick me up.

Talk about a shame spiral while I waited? In 15 minutes, I went from “You can’t even finish a 13 mile training run” to “You can’t finish anything you start, even your marriage is just you trying to pretend to be an adult.”

photoMy inner voice can be a real douchebag sometimes.

So I punished my body all of the next day working in the yard, rested on Monday, then tried running again on Tuesday and found that I was ok after 2 miles. Not 100%, but OK. Wednesday I took off from running and told myself to focus on really pushing for a full night of cross training. So I surprised the hell out of myself with a double workout at the gym.

photo 1 And I felt great!

I started with a nice slow stretch, then did 4 miles in 50 minutes on the elliptical. After some more stretching I finished with 25 solid minutes in the pool. Lap after lap, I build my confidence up, stretched out those sore muscles, loosened everything up and generally played mermaid.Then that night I spent some time researching the possible causes of my injuries. I watched videos on common running problems, read up on knee issues, and picked up a few things that I couldn’t wait to try out on Thursday. I was tired by the time my run rolled around after work, so I told myself to go by feel with my new knowledge.

And 6 absolutely pain free miles later I was smiling from ear to ear 🙂

photo 2

That is one happy runner.

Throughout the run, I focused on 3 little things that added up for a huge difference:

  1. Shortening my stride. Overstriding is a common running issue that creates knee/calf issues, and as it turns out, I was doing it. A LOT.
  2. Paying closer attention to my pace. I stopped doing that a while ago because I just wanted to get faster but I only ended up going too fast and burning myself out early.
  3. NOT paying attention to my overall time. In my rush to get faster, I was too focused on what my overall time should be, and getting discouraged when the number wasn’t what I expected.

By the end of 6 miles, I felt great! Tired and spent, but good. A few aches in my calf, a tight back… I certainly couldn’t have done it all over again back to back to make 12, though. So while I was thrilled to have figured out what was causing some of my major issues I still had some lingering doubts, mostly about how I was going to build up my endurance to:

  • do what I just did 3 more times in a row
  • PLUS 2.2 more miles for a full 26.2 miles…
  • in just 6 weeks.

In my next post, we’ll look at that list in greater detail… and you’ll finally learn what the title of this post is all about!