Giveaway WINNERS!

Alright, folks, the time has come! I’m so excited to announce the winners of the Strut Your Stuff race medal and bib display Giveaway!

Without further delay, the winner here on JessRunsHappy.com is… The lovely Rachel from DarlinRae!

DarlinRae - Blog Winner 2DarlinRae - Blog WinnerCongrats, lady!! Shoot me an email with your shipping info and we’ll get your gorgeous sign out to you ASAP.

And over on Instagram, the winner is the fabulous Desiree, AKA Fitnessistamom14!

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Congratulations!! I’ll shoot you a line on IG and you’ll have your sign soon!

Thanks to everyone who participated, it was so inspirational to hear all about what medals you can’t wait to hang – you guys are the best! And don’t forget to check out Strut Your Stuff Sign Co. on etsy for a sign of your own – you won’t be disappointed πŸ™‚

Race Medal Display Giveaway – Ending Soon!

Alright, peeps – if you haven’t already entered to win, you’ve got less than 48 hours! I’m giving away two beautiful race medal and bib displays, courtesy of the awesome peeps at Strut Your Stuff Sign Co.

image-1Want to enter?? Check out my original post about this great giveaway and leave a comment (on THAT post) about what medal you can’t wait to display on your new rack. I’m loving all of your responses so far, you guys are such a motivational, inspiring bunch πŸ™‚

For an extra chance to win, I’m also giving away a rack on my Instagram page too – give me a follow and find the photo there for your chance to win on that site too!

Already entered? Check out Strut Your Stuff Sign Co. and see what else they’ve got – personally I see a few things there that will give me a great head start on my holiday shopping!

And be sure to check back here Wednesday night to see if you’re the lucky winner!

Race Weekend – The Aftermath

The rest of the day after the race was spent doing whatever the heck I wanted to do! After hobbling back up to the room for a quick shower, we celebrated with my cheering squad at The Continental on the Pier (French onion soup dumplings. I guarantee your life will never be the same).

IMG_8212Jenny & Julia went home so Mike and I went up to the room to relax for a bit. Or, he napped and I tried to nap but couldn’t stop scrolling through my Instagram feed to see all of my fellow runners celebrating their own victories that day! I was still kind of jazzed up and Twister was on the TV and well, I didn’t nap.

So around 4:30 we made our way down to the pool and spa, where I tried to stretch out my legs (major ouch by now!) and floated around to kill some time before my massage.

IMG_8234 IMG_8235Once 5:45 rolled around I headed into the spa and met Iris – AKA the woman I will one day marry for her amazing masseuse powers. Seriously, after 50 minutes on her table I was practically purring.

IMG_8237 IMG_8265After she poured me out of her massage room and I wafted back up to the room, I pulled myself together for a final celebration: allllll the pasta I could eat at Buca di Beppo!

IMG_8249I’d never eaten there and was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was! The penne vodka wasn’t overpowering and even had some crushed red pepper, which I usually don’t like but LOVED on this dish. I had to green it up with some broccoli though – gotta get that fiber.

IMG_8247And that wine. ALLL that wine.

Between the early wake up call, the running 13 miles, the non-stop carbs and the wine, by the time the check came I was done-zo. You know how a baby rubs its eyes when it’s tired? Yeah I had all but rubbed the makeup clean off my face, and was about to use the leftover penne as a pillow for a quick nap.

But I pulled it together long enough for a quick visit with Mike’s other cousin who works security at Caesar’s before heading back up to the room to crash in bed at 10:30 with the Fresh Prince and this magnificent cupcake:

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I can still taste the deliciousness…

The next morning we packed it all up and I squeezed my poor feet into my new Brooks for the ride back home, where I worked from my kitchen table for the rest of the day. And if you were wondering, yes: I did wear my medal all day πŸ˜‰

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All in all it was a fantastic way to wrap up my race weekend, and I can’t wait to do it again soon! With that said, when’s the next race? πŸ˜‰

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Strut Your Stuff Sign Co. Review & Giveaway!

In early October, I was approached by a virtual friend on Instagram about doing a review of the awesome Strut Your Stuff Sign Company. They sell gorgeous handmade medal displays and race bib holders with inspirational slogans – seriously, these things are beautiful. They’re definitely nicer than my sad attempt at a homemade medal holder that falls off the wall every time our front door closes, I’ll tell you that.

So needless to say I was super stoked to come home after this weekend’s half marathon runcation to find my medal holder waiting for me on my kitchen table (thanks for bringing it in, mama-in-law)!

photo 3Hello, lover!

I tore into my goodies and found a perfectly nice little note and a *very* well packaged sign – seriously, it took me a good ten minutes just to get all the bubble wrap off. But on the plus side, I now had a pile of bubble wrap to annoy my cat with. Win-win!
photo 4Sorry, Lucy. Bubble wrap is Mommy’s kryptonite.
Inside that box of joy was the most perfect, professionally-made sign I’ve ever seen! I ordered the “Find Your Happy Pace” in Navy – because the color matches my decor and well hey, if it has “happy” in it, it was meant for me, right? And when I took it out of the package I found that it was really a solid piece of work – even bigger than I had originally thought it would be. The sign was slightly distressed (on purpose) on the edges to give it that homemade feel, and the lettering wasn’t just painted on – it looked like this thing came pre-made, it was that well-crafted!
In the box I also found the little envelope with the medal and bib hooks that I had to screw in by hand – they’re packed separately so the sign doesn’t get damaged in shipping. After the first few, my fingers started to get tired and found that twisting them with a dishtowel saved my fingertips a lot of struggle (live and learn!). It really was so easy to put together, and within 5 minutes I had myself a perfectly assembled rack, ready to hang!
photo 1Can I hang it on my front door? Please??
I was so excited that this weekend’s half marathon bib and medal would be the first things to christen this new sign: a new PR and a redemption race all in one would make a great story – and the medal was HUGE! Seriously, if I hung that thing on my old pathetic little one-hook holder, it would have taken the whole wall down.
10636131_10100337289815589_6323429845577730058_nYou think this is a GAME?
So I grabbed my hammer and a couple nails, used this nifty trick (slightly modified) and in minutes, I had a gorgeous new rack to hang my lovely medals on!
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I’m in love!
One thing to note: I had a little bit of difficulty hanging all of my differently sized bibs on the pre-spaced hooks on the left there. UNTIL I found the other little envelope in the box, containing these nifty little swirly circles:
photo 1
It dawned on me that these would give my bibs just enough room to move around and fit perfectly – which you can see above they do! Unless of course they’re for something else and I’m using them entirely wrong. In which case, oh well, they work so I’m leaving it πŸ™‚
All in all, if you’re in the market for a high-quality, fully personalized medal display rack, I highly recommend Strut Your Stuff Sign Co.Β TheyΒ come in a variety of gorgeous colors and shapes so you’re sure to find something to match any decor or space. AndΒ theyΒ don’t just doΒ running displays either – they’ve got holders for triathlons, marathons, gymnastics, and even Spartan races too.
Interested in snagging a display of your own? Well, Strut Your Stuff has given me twoΒ – yes, TWO – gorgeous bib and medal displays to giveaway! “Keep Calm and Run On” in Chocolate Brown and “The Miracle” in Charcoal Gray:
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I’m holding the contest here on the blog as well as on my Instagram feed – you can only enter once on each site, but if you enter on both you get double the luck! To enter on the blog, simply leave a comment on this post about theΒ medal you’re most excited to display. To enter on Instagram, check out my post there for rules. I’ll pick one winner per site and announce them in both places on Wednesday, October 29th – so spread the word, and good luck!!

Race Recap: Atlantic City Half Marathon 2014

This weekend I headed down to the shore for my second running of the Atlantic City Half Marathon – and I couldn’t be happier! Considering I tore my ACL at Mile 12 the last time I raced it back in 2012, just crossing the finish line with both knees intact was a win.IMG_8175

Anyway, we got down to the hotel at around 1:30PM on Saturday and headed right for the expo. We lucked out and got a hotel room in the same hotel as the expo and where the race starts/finishes (thanks, Mom! AKA the Penny Slot Queen), so it was a nice easy elevator ride to their convention floor. The expo was a little smaller than I expected – I had hoped to pick up some new arm warmers but only one booth was selling them, and they weren’t even really what I wanted! (As an aside, does anyone want to buy a nice pair of brand new, never worn neon coral Saucony arm warmers, size ladies L for $20? It’s $10 less than I paid, but I’ll never wear them!) πŸ™‚

One exciting thing that happened at the Expo: I finally met fellow Mermaid Club member Alain!

IMG_8177Jersey City Boy & South Amboy Girl ready to rock the half!

Earlier in the summer we both had to drop from the full to the half, and he had promised to run the whole race with me. Now, I rarely run with other people. I’m more of a lone wolf. And I told him as much: don’t expect much conversation, DO expect to go SLOW. He promised that he could talk enough for two people, and didn’t care about time. I figured he’d hang on for a mile or two then get tired of me and head off on his way. This guy had run full marathons before, no way he was going to hang out with a back of the pack-er for almost 3 hours!

We chatted for a while and parted ways for our own pre-race dinner and evening plans at around 5PM. I decided to fill the last 4 hours of my night with a hot tub, crab-topped cheese fries, and some relaxing with family and friends, including these fantastic chicks that drove all the way down to cheer me on!

IMG_8184IMG_8186IMG_8189My nerves were pretty shot, but after spending an hour laying out my gear and taping my knees, I hit the hay around 9:30 and actually had a pretty restful night before my alarm went off at 6am! I picked running crops instead of the originally planned shorts, and I’m SO glad I did because it was chilly!! We made the short journey downstairs to the boardwalk and found a good crowd already gathering as the sun tried to break through the clouds. Here’s a nice handful of pics taken before the race to give you an idea of the scene:

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After meeting up with Alain and chatting with Mike and my parents for a few minutes, suddenly the national anthem was being sung and we were rushing off to take our place behind the starting line!

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Fun Fact: these pictures were taken like thirteen seconds apart.

Start – Mile 4

Before I could even have time to get super nervous, the horn blew and we were off! This is the first time I’ve repeated a course, so I had fun testing my memory of what was coming up next. The wind was pretty nasty even at 8AM, but my arm warmers and capri combo was absolutely perfect to keep me warm.

As we jogged through Mile 1 off the boardwalk and into the city, Alain kept pace with me and made me promise to tell him if we were going too fast. Then as we fell into a nice 12:15-ish pace, he started to regale me with tales of his training adventures, alternative breathing techniques, favorite Melissa McCarthy movies – you name it. And after we passed Mile 2 in the middle of a tunnel, I realized that I was still feeling remarkably well, so I started to chime in and chat with him. Not full-blown conversation, mind you.

The sun was still hiding behind clouds and the wind was BRUTAL with a capital B – but it honestly didn’t bother me much! We pointed out Bally’s (which was now 3.X miles away) and I got a little cocky: “That’s where we started running. And I’m not even tired! We’re freakin’ badasses!” The truth was, having someone there to talk with (and/or listen to) really did make it easier to tune out the monotony, pain, and depressing existential-crisis-type thinking that I’m prone to focus on basically every mile after 4. So when I hit mile 4, I was in really good spirits!

IMG_8291Miles 5-8

We motored along and peeled off for quick bathroom stops and gummy bear/Gu fueling at the 5-mile and 10K points, walking through the water breaks and chatting with fellow runners. This was also a new experience: being absorbed in my headphones for every other run, I never noticed that little snippets of conversation were going on all around me – but now I was a part of them!

Around Mile 7 I started to get very fatigued – my knees were achy and my calves were tight, and if I focused too much on the fact that I still had another 6 miles to go, I felt that existential anger creeping up on me. We chatted about family now, and started to do frequent “How are you feeling?” checks – between my knees and his plantar fasciitis, we probably added up to one healthy runner. I told him about how I turn into Mean Jess when I get to this point, and apologized in advance for any nasty things I might say to him when things got tough in the coming 6 miles. And to his credit, he did not run away from me!

But that’s when we turned a corner onto Atlantic Avenue and got hit with – no lie – the worst wind I’ve ever had the misery to run in. Seriously, it stopped us dead in our tracks. I even remember Alain saying, and I quote: “If I were running the marathon and got hit with this, I’d be saying ‘Fuck this shit’.” This also was the point where I realized that Alain and I were now BFF’les and I wasn’t letting him leave my side, ever.

We stopped at around mile 8 and stretched – my hips were starting to lock up and I could feel my form breaking down. But we walked a bit after the stretch, I took some more gummy bears and geared up for the last portion of the race. It’s amazing how a little sugar and some stretching can turn a race around, because once we hit that ramp to the boardwalk, I felt renewed and ready!

Miles 9-13.1

On the boards, the wind finally died down enough to give us room to run, and the crowd had thinned out too. No matter – we were coming up on the Start/Finish area again, which was now packed with finishers and spectators. As we cruised through, I spotted my two girlfriends Jenny & Julia, and oh, did they have signs. And lungs. Seriously, Jenny screamed so hard I thought the boardwalk was coming down, and I loved it!

I could describe the overwhelming emotions that I went through when I saw them there: happiness, relief, joy, excitement, pride… But I think the sequence of pictures that Julia took here can tell the story better than I ever could:

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That’s everything that makes my heart swell, in 4 photos πŸ™‚

After some restorative hugs (and stifling some happy tears), we continued on through miles 10-11.5. These were the hardest miles for me back in 2012. I was watching everyone faster than me loop back, thinking that it would be so nice to just jump in with them! But this time, Alain kept my mind focused (and kept me honest) by picking a spot about a quarter of a mile ahead: “Let’s run to that brown building with the weird fake Spanish architecture/that flag/that sign and then we can walk.” My inner competitor pushed me past those points without a word, and I discovered: he was pushing me to run farther each time and I didn’t even know it! Sneaky Alain!

IMG_8295So when we finally flipped around the cones at mile 11.5ish to run the last 1.8 back to the finish, he finally asked me: “What’s your goal here?” I told him I ran a 2:56 here in 2012 when I tore my ACL, so anything under that would be awesome. But I ran a 2:53 in Asbury and would love to beat that. He asked me for our current running time and mileage, did some quick math, and finally announced, “You’re going to PR.”

“Don’t say it. Don’t jinx me!” I said. But he was not even smiling. “You’re going to PR, I know it.”

Armed with that fuel, we hit mile 12 and I finally told him, “I’m going to get really quiet now, ok?” He just nodded and said OK. So I turned my music up just a little bit in one headphone and started to push to around a 10-minute mile pace. Of course, this is where I started to fall apart!

I couldn’t maintain that kind of speed, so I would slow every .2 miles or so, and poor Alain probably wanted to throttle me at this point. But I kept an eye on my watch and knew that PR would be mine – as long as I pushed. So push I did, with sprints and slower intervals until I could see the finish line. I could hear him behind me cheering me on as I dug in for the final kick through the finisher’s chute, past all the cheering spectators, where we crossed the finish line just feet apart with huge smiles and arms thrown wide – at an amazing 2:50:30!!

IMG_8297Finish:

After the ridiculous kick I gave to cross that finish line, my lungs immediately seized up and I started crying – what can I say, I’m a big sap! Especially when I saw my mom on the sidelines, crying her eyes out. That’s all it took for me, I was a goner.

IMG_8267She grabbed me over the fence and pulled me in for a hug and I was sobbing: “I did it, I PR’d” – it was a blur. I hugged everyone down the line: my dad, Mike, Jenny, Julia – they were all there, and they were getting the full Jess ugly-cry face. Alain was still right there with me too, and I kept thanking him – I knew I couldn’t have done this without him. I wouldn’t have even come close. I would have walked much more, stopped more, gotten so down on myself… it wouldn’t have been pretty. But he showed me that I have it within me to do some amazing things, and for that I am SO grateful!

IMG_8209IMG_8251After we took one more happy Mermaid Club photo with our medals, we parted ways so he could shower and catch up with friends running the full, and so that I could go hang out with my cheering squad back on the other side of the Finisher’s Village.

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IMG_8205Yes, the sign says “Toenails are for Sissies”. And yes, I still have the sign.

So overall, this was a fantastic, well-organized race that I can honestly say I will be back to run again and again – now that I know what I’m capable of, I’ve got some big goals on the horizon and I can’t wait to chase them on the Atlantic City boardwalk!

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Atlantic City Half Marathon: PR City!!

I’m working on a full race recap for you guys as we speak, but I just had to let you all know – I earned a NEW PR at the Atlantic City Half Marathon this weekend!! I shaved 2+ minutes off my last half time, and about 6 minutes off of my time on this same course back in 2012 (when I tore my ACL at mile 12). I’m so close to a sub-2:50 half that I can taste it! I almost want to run another one like this weekend to prove to myself I can do it!

But either way, I’m going to call this one a WIN!

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Stay tuned for a full race recap!

Hangry or Rungry or Both?

I don’t know about you, but I get ANGRY when I don’t eat. Hangry. My blood sugar dips to a perilous low and those around me have two options: stick some food into my face, or GTFO. It’s not one of my best qualities, but I acknowledge it and do what I can to manage it.

photo 1And I also carry around a ukelele to serenade those who give me food.

And when I’m training for a race I turn into a bottomless pit, especially at night after cross training or on rest days:Β rungry. I freely admit I struggle to keep all of that food in the “healthy” region, mainly because I cannot say no to a delicious sweet treat. For example, allow me to introduce you to my newest discovery (and quite possibly what I will be eating for lunch and dinner after my half marathon on Sunday):

r-BROWNIE-COOKIE-CHIPS-AHOY-large570That’s right. Brownie FILLED.

Guys, this is bad. Like, “eat the whole bag in one sitting and wake up the next day questioning an entire life’s worth of decisions” bad.

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Mh-hmm.

I just bought a box on Sunday and between my husband and I, we’re already down one row. I snag one every night and bring one in to work for a treat. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not the worst thing I could be eating: each cookie is like 80 calories, and worth the splurge if you ask me. And once we tear through this package, I’ll definitely think twice before buying another. Bringing voodoo like that into the house is dangerous.

All I know is that writing this post has made me super hangry (rungry?) and now I’m going to cry into my Chobani while I look at photos of these delicious brownie-filled cookies.

Happy Wednesday!

Race Emotions: A Study in Photos

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while. When I discovered these gems in a recent set of race photos, I had to share –Β  because I can’t be the only one who’s experienced something like this.

Let’s go back to the day of the Seaside Semper Five 5K. I’ll set the scene: It’s mile 2.9 and the finish line is in sight. For the first time in a long time, I realize that I can break 37 minutes in the distance. So I dig deep and push – hard. When I get to the final .1, I can see the clock: 36:35. It’s happening!

1Fig. 1: The Realization

I’m running, I’m running… and suddenly, I’m stonewalled. Someone (ahem, girl in gray) didn’t realize that she had to cross the timing mat about 20 feet further down the finish chute, and she decided to STOP and walk, directly in front of me.

2Fig 2: The “Don’t Panic, You Can Weave Around Her”

Instead of giving a nasty look for the race photographer to immortalize forever, I instead kept on smiling and changed my plans with gritted teeth. But I couldn’t maintain composure for long.

3Fig 3: The “COME ON!”

Hey, I’m only human.

Matchy-Matchy

If there’s one thing I can profess to being addicted to (aside from running and baked goods), it’s shopping. I cannot resist a sale, and I’m always on the hunt for my next exciting purchase. So when you combine running and shopping, well, I’m one happy lady.

giphyFigure out a way to incorporate cake into that, and I’ll marry you.

A few weeks ago, I got my “Sock of the Month” email from ProCompression and immediately fell in love with the new design.

Capture1Orange Boom!

Something about it just makes me smile. I don’t normally go for orange or purple, in anything. But this really piqued my interest! And ProCompression has amazing sales almost every month where you can get a $50+ pair of high-quality compression socks for 40% off. I won’t run more than 5-6 miles without these babies, so needless to say, it was a guaranteed purchase. I just needed to find the coupon code. So I bookmarked the page and filed it in the back of my head to get them as soon as I spotted a 40% off code.

Cut to last Thursday when I got a happy little email in my inbox from Lululemon (aka the place I should be able to live in for 3-4 months because that’s how much I’ve spent there in rent money). They were having a surprise Online Factory Sale, for one day – or however long supplies lasted, which is a nice way of saying 4 hours. I sprang into action and snapped up the pair of Groove pants I’ve been stalking for months on sale for $59.

Capture7That’s almost half off!

It wasn’t until a few days later that one of my favorite running bloggers, Run Eat Repeat, posted a pic of herself chilling in my favorite Orange Boom ProCompression socks – with a 40% off code!

It was kismet. I quickly went online and ordered my new preciouses ™ and suddenly it dawned on me: where have I seen that color combo before?

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Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

If there’s one more thing I love more than running and shopping and baked goods, it’s matching. And look what I did, without even realizing it! Now I’m stalking the shorts in the same color – because how fun and obnoxious will I be wearing the shorts and socks at the same time?!

I can’t wait πŸ˜€

Motivational Monday

Alright, kids. I don’t know about you. But here in New Jersey, it is a dark, dreary, stormy-clouds-hanging-around Monday, and I’m feeling some serious blah’s. I’ve been up since 3:30AM with a dehydration-induced migraine (seriously, I contemplated waking up the hubbs and going to the ER after an hour of pure white hot pain). And long story short, I’m basically trying to make it through today without a murder charge.

So to fight the doldrums, I’m going to shine some happy light around here in the hopes that by putting it out there I’ll get some back in return. Ready to smile?

To kick it off, here’s some happy positive graffiti that I spotted on my last 10-miler around our local park:

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Why thank you, pavement. You’re not to shabby yourself.

It’s not every day that the ground you walk on worships YOU, is it?

OK, maybe you’re not feeling beautiful, and that didn’t work. How about this box who *really* wants an apple?box appleSo… close…

Nothing? Maybe a happy zipper face will make you smile?
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I know it made me giggle.

No? Ok, maybe it’s time for a different approach. How about a nice chocolate peanut butter cake?

IMG_7747AKA the reason I will eat dinner tonight

Baked goods don’t do it for you? Maybe a nice motivational running quote will do it.

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I like this one.

My coworker actually surprised me with this in my inbox today – he’s an older gentleman who I don’t even usually talk about running with, but he sent me this with a note saying “This made me think of you.” And well, that just made my cold little grinchy heart grow three sizes. Maybe it’ll do the same for you?

How are you feeling now? Smiling a little more? Maybe you like little babies… how about a snapshot of me with my good friend’s new little girl, Brynn:

IMG_7511Oh, that noise they make when they eat, it just does something to me…

Or how about a baby holding an adult (if that’s your thing)?

images wWarning: JessRunsHappy.com is not responsible for any nightmares this photo causes.

OK, we’re going down a dark road here. I think I’m gonna wrap it up with one of my all time favorite funny photos. This one never fails to make me laugh, no matter how annoyed or down or tired I am. I hope you enjoy:

thug-life-chose-us-picThe longer you look, the funnier it gets.

How’d it work? I hope you’re at least a little happier now than you were when you first clicked here… I know I am! Spread the love to someone who you think could use a little pick-me-up today, and tell them Jess Runs Happy says hi πŸ™‚