How Do You Caption Your Life?

The other night I posted something on my Instagram feed that seemed to strike a chord with everyone, so I wanted to share it here. It was about how we have a tendency to put ourselves down, even if we don’t realize it.

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You see, too often I see these great pictures from amazingly inspirational folks, but the captions say things like “I’m so slow, but I did it!” or “it wasn’t as fast as I wanted but…” And it got me thinking: What purpose does that negativity serve?

None!

I even caught myself as I captioned the pic up there. I had run 4 hard miles after coming back from a stretch of not running and struggling through Sunday’s 10-miler, and my per-mile pace was a minute slower than I had hoped. And I started out my caption with “Well it sucked and was slow as hell, but…” and I thought, I’ve captioned almost every running picture with something negative like that for almost a month! Wtf?!

Now, aiming for a goal pace is one thing, but constantly putting yourself down and judging every run harshly because you’re not “fast”? That’s wrong. Take my 12:44/mile pace for example. To some folks 12:44/mile is slow as molasses. But to others it might be the ultimate in speed! And regardless of the number, I was hauling ass! I put in a hell of an effort and left it all on the mill. So I changed my perspective and patted myself on the back for a job well done. And wouldn’t you know it: I felt stronger! Instead of dreading my next run and praying that I’m not going to be “slow” again, I’m just going for it.

Now it’s your turn. I challenge you to rethink the way you caption things, whether it’s your runs, or your body, or even your life in general. Because in the end, the only thing that matters is not your opinion, but your effort!

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Jess Eats Happy: Paleo Crab Cakes

Last year I joined the Whole Life Challenge and had moderate success with it: I dropped about 14 lbs in 8 weeks! It was, however, a very restrictive diet. It was a good short-term kickstart I needed back into healthy eating and, but I prefer an “everything in moderation” diet. I can’t cut things out entirely, or else I feel deprived and end up bingeing.

But while it wasn’t a feasible long term diet for me, it did expose me to a whole new world of food! Having to cook compliant meals with almost no dairy, cheese, carbs, or sugars forced me to find alternative recipes, and also introduced me to some awesome new things that I was afraid to try (hello, almond flour!).

One recipe I discovered was these Paleo Crab Cakes. At first I was scared – I’d never cooked with crab *or* almond flour before. But after a week or two of “meat and sweet potatoes with TONS of veggies” meals, I was desperate for something different. So I snagged a recipe from a friend, adapted it to fit the challenge’s rules, tried it out a few times, and bingo! They’re messy to make, and might take a few tries to get them just right, but trust me when I say: you’re going to love these!

5dd176e82a2b11e3a0a822000a1fbd23_8Paleo Crab Cakes

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs minced crab meat (you can get it in cans in your grocery’s seafood dept.)
  • half one small onion, minced
  • 1 small pepper, minced
  • 2 small cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Almond flour (or more as needed)
  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • Butter & Olive Oil for cooking

Directions:

In a pan with butter or oil, sautee the onions and pepper and throw in garlic at the end for a few seconds. Remove from heat and put into a bowl.

In another pan, heat up some butter and olive oil on medium heat, let the butter melt.Then add the almond flour a little bit at a time, stirring as you go to make a thick paste.Turn off the heat and let it cool for a bit.

Once it’s cool enough to work with your hands, in the same pan, add a spoonful of Old Bay seasoning to your paste, then slowly add everything else: crab, egg, and your onion/pepper/garlic mix. Mix everything together very well, and form into crab cakes. *This is where it can get messy: to keep things from sticking together and not to your hands, add almond flour as needed.

Once you’ve got some cakes ready, throw some butter or oil into your first pan (where you sauteed the onions and garlic) and set it to medium heat. Once it’s nice and hot, toss your crab cakes in and cook them on both sides, a few minutes on each side until their nice and brown.

They might fall apart, but that’s ok – just cook them to your liking and devour them! I usually serve mine with some arugula and a mustard vinaigrette dressing, but they’re great on their own or even as a side dish. Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Race Recap: Manasquan Mid Winter Beach Run 2015

We runners are a bunch of nutbars. Even though we’re in the throes of winter, that doesn’t mean we can’t get our race on, right? Well that was my attitude this weekend, when I found myself once again participating in the Manasquan Mid-Winter Beach Run!

IMG_2758Running ninja level 5 achieved

I ran this 2-mile race last year and had a blast, even in the rain, sleet, and snow. I somehow managed to convince myself that I can do anything for 2 miles, and this year I even convinced my cousin (of Frog Hollow 5K fame) to come run it with me! Maybe I should become a car salesman…

After a few rounds of texting each other the night before (“Why did I let you convince me to do this?” “Because you get a free hoodie and a beer afterwards! It’s only 2 miles!”), we arrived at the start on Saturday morning to find it a balmy 22 degrees. Hey, we hit negative temps every night that week, 22 is a heatwave! We killed time by discussing our layering strategies (me: shorts over tights and a mid-weight waterproof jacket, her: hoodie and sweats over tights and long sleeves) and daydreaming about how warm our free race hoodie was going to feel after we finished.

IMG_2761Spoiler Alert: the hoodies were transcendentally comfy

The gun went off and for the first half mile I struggled with my Garmin: between it being a new piece of equipment and not having run with it outside much due to this crap-tastic winter, I forgot what side the start button was on and I turned it off instead of on at the start. D’OH!

Regardless, I got it working at about .6 miles in and found I had been at a pretty slow pace due to the congestion at the start. At this point I also had a brief moment of Race-Rage: this personal-space-invader lady kept perfect pace with me, even creeping up and bumping my shoulder around a corner – with a whole open street to run on! I was beginning to think I was being punk’d when finally I had enough and shot away from her, cruising through the rest of the first mile at like a 9 minute mile pace out of sheer frustration.

At the start of the 2nd mile, we turned up and on to the beach, where things kind of fell apart. See, looking at the weather on paper, I would have said that we lucked out this year with a dry race. But in reality, I would have much rather preferred to run in 30 degree sleet on snow-free sand like last year, compared to having to trudge through mountains of snow on the sand this year.

IMG_2755Cousin, snow, and sand: A Self-Portrait by Heather.

Those random “paths” you see in the snow were really just snow drifts that thinned out, so people would start on one, sink into the snow/sand slush, and stop, then walk a little, or dart to the side. This turned already tough sand-running into an ankle-twisting nightmare when I had to bob and weave around everyone!

10982181_10152608562377882_6181488227512012262_nBut it sure was pretty.

In all honesty, while it was frustrating, this is where I feel like I gained the most ground in the race. As a solid back-of-the-packer, I so rarely get to experience the awesome feeling of picking people off in a race. Since I was feeling good and only had another mile to go, I made it a point to pass as many people as I could, and I loved it! I lost count after 10 or 20, and just kept going. I was actually “racing”, and it felt awesome!

After a quarter mile of sand, we turned slightly onto the boardwalk for the next quarter mile, then turned back onto the street in a straight line for the home stretch. I wasn’t as speedy as I’d hoped to be (turns out all that bobbing and weaving adds time, who’d have thunk?!) and I had an uneventful finish around the 25 minute mark.

IMG_2757Race photos are more fun with your mouth open.

A minute or two later, my cousin finished too, “looking like a homeless person” (her words).

IMG_2750“Everyone’s a winner, baby girl!”

Overall it was another great race! There are no official timing mats or chips for this one, just a fun chance to race in conditions that I would normally avoid, and a cool hoodie instead of a cotton t-shirt. I’ll definitely be doing this one again in the future, if not just to see if I can finally catch a break and run it in semi-decent weather! A girl can dream, can’t she?

Running in Place for 10 Miles

This winter thing can take a hike. While we’ve been spared the absolutely ridiculous amount of snow that our northeastern neighbors have gotten (sorry, Boston), here in NJ we’re still suffering. Every week is a loop: snow on Monday, ice on Tuesday, negative temps and high winds through the week, then a thawing day to allow everything to melt slightly, only to re-freeze again when the temps drop back to the single digits on Monday when the cycle begins again.

As a result, running outside is a dangerous and icy adventure and I’m confined to the treadmill for many of my runs – which STINKS. Take, for example, this past Sunday’s 10 mile treadmill run at the local YMCA.

I started psyching myself up on Wednesday by creating a “To Watch” list on Netflix that would have me covered for 2+ hours, I picked up some of my favorite Gu’s, I experimented with Nuun during my weekday 4-milers to see if my tummy could handle it (it could!), and I even bought a new tank top that matches my new shoes perfectly.

IMG_2728and capris. shush, they were on sale.

So when Sunday rolled around, I loaded up my gym bag with all the essentials, charged up the iPad, made some Nuun, and set out on my adventure.

IMG_2790It looked like I was running away from home.

Right from the beginning, I could tell this run would be a struggle. After only logging about 8 miles in 9 days due to lack of motivation, achy knees, and probably a minor concussion after belly flopping into a snow pile that turned out to be an ice pile, I was not very well prepared AT ALL. Looking back, I probably should have set out for another 8 miler to ease back into things, but live and learn, I suppose.

Mile 1-3 went relatively easily as I watched the first half hour of Wayne’s World. But about 40 minutes in, I started to get bored. I needed something to take my mind off the monotony, and having memorized every second of Wayne’s World back in 1996, I knew I’d have to pick something I’d never seen before.

And that’s how I met Francis Underwood.

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I love that man like a shark loves blood…

I’m late to the House of Cards party, but damn am I glad I finally showed up. Because 3 minutes into the first episode, I found myself gaping in shock and I was hooked instantly. Full disclosure: I’ve had a mild crush on Kevin Spacey since I was about 13. But anyone with eyes can see that he is at his absolute best here.

I was so engrossed in the show that I almost forgot to reset the treadmill at 4.5 miles (stupid 60 minute limit!) and motored through the next 3 miles and the full first episode. I started on the second episode and got about 15 minutes in (and 7.5 miles into my run) when it finally happened: I hit the wall. Hard.

I still had 2.5 miles to go, but it may as well have been 25. The running was easy: I was (relatively) pain-free and keeping a good pace of 5.8-6mph, but mentally I broke down and the wheels fell off the wagon.

The show didn’t even interest me any more, so I switched to music. And I skipped through, like, 18 songs in a row because nothing interested me. This has happened in almost every run over 10 miles I’ve done: nothing works to re-spark the fire, not even my favorite songs, and I just want to stop moving. It was SO hard to restart the treadmill one more damn time (DAMN that 60 minute limit!!!), but this time I told myself “The quicker you run, the quicker it’ll be over!”

So I stopped assing around with my music and just let it play, stopped walking and started running, and powered through those last few miles. It started to hurt with a mile or so to go, but I knew I had to finish, and finish I did.

IMG_2822

I’m only smiling because I know I get to sit down now.

At first I was super discouraged at my performance. With all the walking I did (and having to stop the machine twice), I had convinced myself that it was my worst 10 miles ever, time-wise. But when I actually added up the times, this was pretty much right on par with my previous 10-milers – in a few cases it was even better!

IMG_2828Final tally: 10 miles in 2 hours, 11 minutes.

While it wasn’t the prettiest (and I still don’t like the treadmill), I count it as a win – any time you run 10 damn miles and spend 2+ hours in the same 6 by 3 foot space, it’s a win.

So how is your training going? Are you stuck on the treadmill like me? What’s your favorite show on Netflix right now?

Freaky Friday

OK, after reading their newest post, I’ve been inspired by my friends over at Scootadoot to share with you all of the things that are *not* running-related and rattling around inside this brain of mine.So here we go!

First, my car was hit by a police officer late Tuesday night, as the cop was chasing after some punks kid in front of our house. After being super accommodating on the scene (“No really, officer, it’s totally fine! You were just doing your job! Just tell me what to do and we’ll make it all better!”), I learned the next day from my insurance agent that the State of NJ gives government vehicles this thing called “immunity”. Long story short: either I find a friend who can fix it for cheap/free, or I go through my own insurance, pay $544 to cover the repairs myself, and my insurance rates will go up too, since they can’t file a claim against the police.

Had I known this while the officers were in my living room, I would have been a lot less accommodating.

On the plus side: it could have been a lot worse! The car is still driveable in the meantime! Me and my husband are fine! But all because some idiot kids decided to stir the pot with some cops in front of my parked car, I now have to spend hours of my life and my own money putting things back to normal. So I’ve left a few unreturned messages with the Sergeant, I’m drafting an email right now, and now I’ll have to take time out of my weekend to go to the station and sort things out. It will all be resolved in time, I’m sure. Soon it’ll be just a little blip on the radar of my life. But it’s an extremely frustrating process to have to go through!

OK, enough with the negativity. I didn’t mean to rain on your parade. There are plenty of great things about this moment we’re living right now! Let’s talk about those.

1. These shoes:

CaptureThese shoes, these shoes, MY GOD THESE SHOES.

PS I’m a size 39 if you want to buy these for me and make me feel better about my car situation.

In my headier, more carefree days (read: college), I used to be quite a shoe whore. The more expensive, ridiculous, spike-heeled, pointy-toed the better. I loved it! But once I really grasped the value of the dollar and started paying my own rent – and realized I was committing joint-i-cide by stiletto – my footwear choices were based solely on cost, practicality and comfort first, with style and outlandishness coming in a distant 4th and 5th.

And then I spotted these on Scootadoot’s post. Thanks a lot, guys. My shoe-lust is back in a BIG way, and I cannot stop drooling! JK thank you for turning me onto Mod Cloth, I’m officially obsessed and loving it 🙂

2. Speaking of obsessed:

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I give you: Fifth Avenue.

I’ve never been a huge fan of painting my nails: they chip pretty much the second I put the bottle away. But I spotted this color on the nails of a fellow passenger the last time I flew somewhere for work, and I vowed to have my nails look as chic and put-together as hers forever and ever amen.

Fast forward to a month ago when I finally bought the stuff, and I’m loving it. It’s the perfect classic pop of color, but just different enough from the standard red nail to catch the eye. You probably can’t see on the computer monitor, but it’s not just red, it’s got some orange to it, for a more poppy-like brightness that I just love.

2. Valentine’s Day is tomorrow!

giphyEveryone all together now: yaaaay!

AKA what I like to call “Treat Yoself Day”, I look forward to Valentine’s Day every year. Ever since I was little, my mom and dad and i would give each other little gifts and candy and extra hugs and wow do I realize how cheesy that sounds when I type it out. But either way, it’s true: v-day is awesome! Even if you’re not coupled up with someone at the moment, take tomorrow to really appreciate and celebrate yourself. Get a massage. Get a pedicure. Buy yourself a fancy-ass pastry from the bakery you always drool over when you pass by. Unapologetically watch that movie that gives you all the feels. Whatever you do, be sure to DO YOU and love every minute of it. You earned it!

3. It’s Friday.

Enough said.

And in running news, I’m really not looking forward to 9 miles on the treadmill tomorrow (or Sunday), but I have to do what I have to do so I’m playing some mind games already with myself: “You get to spend two hours in a climate controlled gym and watch any movie you want! With a bathroom right there, and no ice to slip on! YAY!”

Yeah, I’ll let you know how that goes.

And that’s about it for me! How about you? Are you happy it’s Friday? How do you feel about nail polish? And most importantly: how do you plan on treating yourself tomorrow? Tell me everything!

How to Beat Training Burnout

This is the first time since before my injury that I’m really sticking to a solid training plan, and I can totally feel a difference in everything I do. My endurance is better, 4 miles is pretty much nothing, and even though I lost two total weeks of training due to illness, I’m feeling confident and strong!

For a hot minute there though, I did feel a little bit of the training burnout I’ve experienced while prepping for previous races. You know it well, I’m sure: the existential dread you get when you’re staring down another 4 mile tempo run on the treadmill after 3 straight 10+ hour work days and the sun has already been down for 2 hours and the temperature hasn’t cracked over 20 degrees in a week? Yeah, that feeling.

BUT – this time around I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve to help me battle the burnout beast:

1. New Music

That little ditty right there is pretty much single-handedly responsible for getting me through my 8 miler this past Sunday, thank you very much.

I don’t know about you, but there’s just something about some new tunes that puts some pep in my step and makes me look forward to yet another day of running when I feel like that’s all I’ve been doing for years.

2. Switching it Up

While my training plan calls for three days of workouts from Tuesday-Thursday, it created a fun new thing that I like to call “Anything Can Happen Wednesday”. Because it’s cross-training day, I’ve used these non-running breaks as a perfect opportunity to go all out and feel the burn in other ways. To break up the monotony I’ve biked, done hot yoga, and even started a personal challenge to get to the pool more often too. Did someone say Sprint Triathlon this May? 😉

10518076_692018487577664_325416926_nMermaid in Training

3. Setting Personal Goals

While it’s nice to do other things, the downside of seriously training for a race means that the majority of my workouts involve running, running, and more running. So to keep things interesting, I set little challenges for myself – sometimes even in the middle of a run! For example: last week, when I finally returned to running after being sick for more than a week, I told myself to take it easy with 2-3 miles of light jogging at the most. Well I ended up feeling much better than planned, and cranked out 4 miles at my pre-illness pace basically without even breaking a sweat.

10946258_385301244974827_1302672925_n…or breaking a “sparkle”, I guess.

So what did I decide to do the following run two days later? Beat that time, of course! I picked up my pace at mile 3, pushed harder than I would have normally, and kicked the previous me’s ass!

10932497_404686453045050_1578764512_nTuesday Jess says, “Take that, smug Sunday Jess.”

4. Treat Yo Self (and then Eat Clean the other 80% of the time)

Listen: I’m all about eating to run, and running to eat. Imma be real, there ain’t NOTHING like a slice of peanut butter silk pie after a week of hard training. But while I do like to indulge every now and then, I know that those treats are special because they’re so few and far between. And to balance things out, I experiment in the kitchen with things that make my tummy happy and keep my training on track. Case in point: roasted Brussels sprouts:

10946415_279318275525094_2110719772_n::pauses to lick the screen::

Yes, these were pre-roasting, but damn were they tasty when they came out of the oven 30 minutes later. Finding new ways to make healthy choices makes it a whole lot easier when I do decide to indulge – because let me tell you, those sprouts were definitely healthy, but they were DEEE-licious!

Those are just a few ways I like to shake things up and break out of the training monotony, but how about you? Any go-to’s to keep the crazies at bay? Favorite new running tunes? Share in the comments!

It’s Photo Contest Time!

Some of you may or may not know, but I’m involved with an awesome group of inspirational folks called The Mermaid Club, and a part of my role in the organization deals with spreading the word about the club and helping to inspire others to Live Life and Make Waves in whatever fitness-related adventures they go on. And today I got to start a new project that I’m so excited about: the Mermaid Spotlight 2015 Photo Contest!

The Mermaid Club is all about living life and making waves, and 2015 is going to be a pretty epic year if we do say so ourselves. To get everyone excited about what’s in store, we’re opening up this contest and we hope you’ll join in. It’s simple: Send us your best inspirational, motivational, funny, or otherwise awesome photo of you living life and making waves: pounding the pavement, in the water, on a bike, or wherever! – for a chance to be featured in our new Mermaid Spotlight series and to win some fun gear, too! Here’s the fine print:

  • Pictures must include your badass self and The Mermaid Club logo or slogan (Live Life, Make Waves) in some way. Be creative! Collages, quotes, drawings, typography, we want to see it all!
  • Each photo will count as one entry, but we encourage you to submit as many different photos as you want.
  • You can post your photos to our Facebook page, Twitter, and/or Instagram – just be sure to use the hashtag #MermaidSpotlight2015 to ensure your pic is seen by our judges.
  • All entries may be used in future posts on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds, with full credit to the original poster. If you’re so inclined, feel free to include a watermark or your name (or Twitter or IG handle) in the photo somewhere too!
  • At the contest’s end, the top 5 winning photos will be posted on our Facebook Page, along with instructions for winners on how to claim their awesome gear – and I’ll be following up with you for your Mermaid Spotlight “interview” via email, too!

We’ll be sharing our favorite entries as we find them throughout the month, so what are you waiting for? Get snapping, and submit your picture by February 28th for your chance to win!

I’m in Love with My Sneakers: Brooks Transcend 2

Up until recently, I limited myself in my sneaker choices. You see, I had convinced myself that I had to run in the shoes recommended to me by the folks at Road Runner Sports, lest I face the wrath of my angry knees and super high arches. But while I am sure they did me a huge favor by helping me discover that I over pronate and need a stability shoe with extra cushion, those people are by no means the final word in sneakers.

So over the weekend, I sat down with the internet and a pen, and I searched for all the “stability plus” shoes I could possibly find, and went to town selecting my favorites simply based on color and style. Then I bought my list to Road Runner and tried every single pair on.

And wouldn’t you know it, I STILL landed on my old favorites? While there were a few other cute color combos and sleeker designs, every single pair absolutely paled in comparison to my new beauties:

photoThe Brooks Transcend 2

Say hello to the lovelies that will carry me over the finish line of the NYC Half in March, and most likely the Asbury Park Half in April, too! After trying on those 6 or 7 other pairs yesterday, I can honestly say that they are, hands down, the best shoe I’ve ever run in, period. I know they’re not for everyone, and they are a little heavier and more pricey, but I would not trust my poor, overworked joints to anyone but the good folks at Brooks Running.

How about you? Do you have a favorite shoe? Can anyone out there recommend a good stability plus sneaker? Share!

Jess Eats Happy: Protein Brownies

How could I let another week go by without giving you a new recipe from the Jess Eats Happy Cookbook? In honor of the Super Bowl and all the excess and eating it entails, I’m here with an indulgent but super party-friendly and sneakily healthy dessert recipe for my famous (infamous?) Protein Brownies.

Also known as Black Bean Brownies, these babies have been my go-to treat when the urge to bake (and eat raw brownie batter) knocks on my door. With just two ingredients – seriously – I’m betting that these will become your new favorite too. But here’s a tip: don’t tell anyone how you made them. Just say they’re brownies. Because once you say “beans” and “brownies” in the same sentence, about 85% of the people in the room will not want to eat them on principle alone.

But then again that may work out to your advantage, cause you’re gonna want to eat them all yourself. I guarantee it.

brownies

Protein Brownies

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

Directions:
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. It might take a few minutes longer than it says on the box, but start checking it at the posted time and keep sticking a toothpick in the center – when it comes out clean, it’s brownie time!

And that’s it! I promise you will not be able to taste any beans whatsoever. Just chocolatey goodness. After they cool, I slice them smaller than normal brownie size. They’re more dense than normal brownies; more like fudge really, so a little square will fill you up more than you’d think.

The best part about this recipe is the lack of eggs and oil, meaning you can eat all the batter you want without having to worry about salmonella! So go ahead, lick the bowl (and the spoon and your fingers…) and enjoy!