Adventures in Asbury Park

This week’s long run was 9 miles, and because I’ve grown oh-so-weary of plodding along the same roads for mile after mile, I decided to move my buns in a new location: Asbury Park.

Seeing as how I’ll be racing there in about 18 days, I figured why not? It’s a nice, long, flat stretch of land right on the boardwalk, there’s free parking, clean public restrooms – what more could a runner ask for? Plus, I’d get to cover the final miles of the race in a controlled practice environment. The last time I raced there, I fell apart around mile 10 because the boardwalk seemed to stretched on FOREVER. This way I could prove to myself that I could go even farther if I had to, and make the course on race day seem even shorter!

So I layered up for the 16 degree “real feel” temperature (WTF?!) and headed down to the seaside bright and early, thankful that the sky was so clear. There wasn’t a cloud to be seen, which was a far cry from the last long run I did by the beach! I staked out my free parking, stopped in a restaurant to use their restroom (with their total permission!), stretched out, and headed south on the boardwalk towards Bradley Beach.

IMG_3773These shells were strewn all over the boardwalk, every quarter mile or so. “Smile, God is Watching”, “Have a Blessed Day”… they all had little motivational phrases written on them and made me smile every time I spotted one. This one was my favorite.

It was chilly at first, but I quickly warmed up and realized that I was over-layered (as usual). Plus my tights were a little loose around the waist and kept sliding, causing me to stop every few feet to tug them up. I was starting to get frustrated when I finally slipped into the groove and powered through miles 1 and 2 at an easy 11:30-12 min pace per mile.

I passed where I fell apart on race day last year, near the turnaround point at mile 10-ish, and kept going through Avon and all the way to the bridge that would take me into Belmar. But seeing as how I was scheduled to meet my friend Kevin back near where I parked at my half-way point, where he would join me for the last 4-5 miles of my run (and brunch on the boardwalk afterwards!), I turned and made my way back to our meeting point and hit 4 miles.


Running buddies are the best!

It was *super* windy going north, and my time slowed considerably here because of it – almost to 13 minute miles! – but I kept going because I had a friend to meet! Once we met up in front of Langosta Lounge, I stopped at my car to take a gel and get some water – it was really WARM once I got going! – and we set off north for a half mile or so.

We skirted Deal Lake and jumped back onto the boards going south once again, cutting through Boardwalk Hall (and stopping for runfies, because duh), and easing into the next 4.5 miles.

IMG_3771That sky! That CHIN!

We motored on, chatting about life and the usual stuff – it had been so long since our last workout date! As a girl who used to say I would never run with other people, I have solidly recanted my statements and will publicly state that I love it. Sharing the miles with someone else just makes them go by so much easier. Miles 5-7.5 were filled with chatting, dream-house hunting, and laughing when I pocket-dialed my mom and caused her to panic because, as she put it, “I just heard gasping and snippets of conversation and a man’s voice, I was so worried!” Hehe – sorry mom, that was me and my guy friend trying to have a conversation while running, not imminent danger to your daughter!

Before I knew it, we were already at the 7.5 mile point near the Belmar bridge once again, ready to turn around for the final few miles – but that’s when the miles took their toll. The week before, I got my mileage in as per the plan but skimped on cross and strength training because of 12+ hour work days. Bad idea. Heed my warning, kids: do NOT skimp on cross & strength training. That last mile or so, I felt it badly in my hips and quads, and vowed to hit the squat rack a tiny bit harder this week to make up for it.


I was amazed though, to see that we were already at 9 miles, and still had about a half mile to go! So I stopped the Garmin, stretched a bit, and we walk/jogged back to our cars for a successful run.


After some action shots, of course 😉

I grabbed my bag from my car, we drove around for a bit to find a brunch place, and finally decided on the Langosta Lounge right on the water – where I changed out of my sweaty running gear and proceeded to sing to my cinnamon bun.

IMG_3808It was either Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman” or “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift.

Seriously, people – if you ever have the chance to get brunch in Asbury Park, GO to the Langosta Lounge. You will not be disappointed. I had Eggs Marion: poached eggs on top of a bed of asparagus and smothered in a basil cream sauce with a side of shrimp, lobster, and veggie-fried potatoes. I die.

IMG_3811I can almost taste it again…

It was a fantastic way to start my Sunday, and added to my excitement over this upcoming race for sure. I’ve still got a few weeks to go, but I’m already feeling more confident at longer distances than I was this time last year. Even runs of 8 miles used to make me nervous, but I’ve managed to clock those miles without any issues lately, and that’s huge for me.

This training cycle I’ve learned that it’s important to take a step back and appreciate how far I’ve come sometimes. When I stop and look back at where I was a year, or even 6 months ago, I realize that I’m in a much better place both physically and mentally when it comes to running. I’ve found a great balance in my training, I’m having fun, and I look forward to what the future holds. If you ask me, that’s cause for celebration right there!


Friday Favorites: Spring Edition

It’s Friday, and I’ve got some new favorite things to gush about, so you know what that means: it’s time for some Friday Favorites! This week’s theme is all about the joys I’ve experienced so far this spring (all 7 days of it):

1. House of Cards

house-of-cardsOK people. I know I’ve talked about this show before, when I discovered it on a long treadmill run and got hooked from the first minute. But the initial love has turned into a full-blown obsession, and I find myself talking about these people to anyone who will listen. I’m trying our Zoe Barnes’ hairstyles. I’m approaching work annoyances with a “What Would Claire Do?” mentality. When Peter Russo’s watershed bill failed, I caught myself shaking my head in heartbreak for him THE DAY AFTER I WATCHED THE EPISODE. Guys. Help. Anyone else with me on the Underwood bandwagon?

2. The Starbucks Birthday Cake Frappuccino

11055928_658446210933827_620156968_nMy friend at work sent me a link via Skype yesterday, and all it said was “Soooo tomorrow?” Seeing as today is my 2 year anniversary at my job, I jumped at the opportunity to celebrate both Starbucks’ birthday and my work-a-versary with a Birthday Cake Frappuccino!

It’s evidently their vanilla and hazelnut flavors all swirled up, topped with raspberry-infused whipped cream, and damned if it doesn’t taste surprisingly cake-like! It was a little sweeter than I’m used to though (says the girl who can eat frosting right from the can), so I’m suffering a bit in the aftermath. I crashed pretty hard after I finished it and crave super healthy clean stuff now, like hardboiled eggs or edamame, but all in all I think it was worth it 😉

3. Today’s necklace:

IMG_3738 Capture

This is the Flamenco by Lia Sophia. A while ago I bought this pretty lady along with a handful of other baubles when I heard that Lia Sophia was going out of business. I’m a sucker for shiny things and had to have it, even if I wasn’t sure what to wear it with.

Fast forward to this week, when I made a promise to myself to try one new article of clothing or fashion accessory every day. Nude pointy-toed pumps, a scarf with pineapples printed on it, an old repurposed t-shirt.. things were going great! Then I spied a fancy necklace on a coworker yesterday, and inspiration struck. She had the right idea by pairing it with a simple slouchy tee – and that’s how Flamenco worked her way into my wardrobe!

How’s your Friday going? Do you want to share your own obsessions with me? Tell me – I’m always looking for new things to love on! Happy Friday, everyone!

I’m a Skirt Sports Ambassador Captain!


I’m so excited to announce that I have been named a Skirt Sports Ambassador Captain!!

According to their site, “Skirt Sports Ambassador Captains play a leadership role in the community of Skirt and in how they share our collective voice of Real Women, Real Bodies and Real Inspiration. They are Skirt lovers, networkers, bloggers, videographers, athletes. They innately share Skirt Sports Core Values and Mission and enthusiastically represent the brand.”

This doesn’t just benefit me, either – just for reading my blog, you get 20% off any Skirt Sports apparel or virtual Skirt Sports race registration with my Ambassador coupon code! Simply check out with code SSJRH20 and enjoy!

It’s an honor to partner up with an organization that’s all about empowering women of all ages, shapes, and sizes to achieve their fitness goals, and I can’t wait to share the love with you all, too!

An Ode to Vitamin D (aka Spring Running is the Best)

Now that it’s still light enough after work for me to get some miles in, I’m 100% loving it.

Last night I went for an easy 4 miles after a particularly tough work day. It was a bit chilly, and I am admittedly a big baby when it comes to the cold weather, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the sunset was shaping up to be a beauty. So out I went.

The first few miles were my typical post-work weekday training miles: full of huffing and puffing for the first three quarters, with a final mile of bliss. I trudged through the creepy tunnel next to my house and up the hill to Broadway, adding some distance going up and down the side streets as I went. This slightly different route got me to the waterfront park just in time for sunset, and it turned out to be one of those moments that makes you grateful to be alive:


Seriously though – I don’t know if it was the runner’s high creeping up on me, the extended sunshine, the impending warm weather or what, but it was pure bliss. This week at work has been particularly stressful and I’m not even very well rested either. But it was all forgotten once I got to the gazebo up there and took a minute and breathe in the air, listen to the sea gulls talk to each other, and capture the moment.


In past training cycles, I found myself getting so caught up in the number of miles that I “had to” run that I ended up losing the joy of running. I just ran to get the miles done and that was it. The faster I got it done the sooner I could go home and relax. Not this time around.


I’m pausing to take the photos, stopping to listen to the waves, taking that side road to see where it goes, even if it adds mileage or keeps me out a half hour later and pushes dinner back a bit.

As I pile on the miles and fall into a more regular running/training routine, I find that I’m more psyched up to run and less inclined to be lazy. On the contrary, it’s like a positive feedback loop, where the more I run, the more I want to run. It really is true what they say about running: you get out of it what you put into it!

What about you: Have you been feeling a pep in your step because of all this extra daylight we’re getting? When was the last time you stopped during a run to take a nice picture or really soak in the moment? What did you find when you did? Share!

Training Hard or Hardly Training?

With the United NYC Half a week in the rearview mirror, I’ve turned my attention (and my training) to the Asbury Park Runapalooza Half Marathon in less than 4 weeks. My original plan was NOT to run two half marathons within a month of each other, but here I am. So after attacking the hills of Central Park and still managing to get within 3:13 of my best half marathon time, I’m super psyched to return to the boardwalk of Asbury Park, the scene of my first post-ACL surgery half marathon last spring where I managed to beat my previous time by just a few minutes, and prove to myself that I truly am a runner!

After last Sunday’s race I knew I had to take it easy – those hills were no joke – but I also knew that there would be no lazing around and falling back into the “I raced last week, I deserve a third dessert!” trap I sometimes fall into after a race. So I gave myself a total of 3 days off, with nothing but stretching, foam rolling, and wine.

But by Thursday, the combination of not running and the increasingly nice weather (hello, 45 degrees and sunny at 6pm!) had me pacing the floors like a border collie. So after work I laced up and hit the pavement without looking at my watch the whole time – this was a purely “ease back into running” run, and man did it feel good!!


It didn’t hurt that I wore one of my favorite cold weather tops – and found it a little loose, too! I felt sleek, strong, and capable the entire run. It was one of those runs where the only thing stopping you is the creeping darkness (and the fact that dinner was at home waiting!): the cool air energized me, the sunset was so pretty, and running for fun just felt so great.

After taking it easy once again on Friday & Saturday, I created a revised 4-week plan to get me safely to the Runapalooza finish line, and was relieved to find that I only had 6 miles on tap for the following day. So Sunday I woke bright and early for a cold, windy, brisk 6 miler around town while the rest of my neighbors prepared for the local St. Patrick’s Day parade!


While it was cold and windy as hell, especially by the waterfront, it was still a beautiful morning – and another confidence-boosting run to boot! Perhaps it was my awesome first run back, or maybe it has something to do with all the delicious vitamin D I’m finally getting by moving my runs off the treadmill and onto the pavement once again… whatever it is, I’m loving it!


I kept a nice pace for the first 4 miles until the wind picked up after I headed in the opposite direction, but I still managed to stay around 12 minutes per mile, with hills and wind battling me too!


And to make matters even better, I capped off my Sunday morning with one of my absolute favorite things to do once the spring comes around:


A post-run pedicure!

Granted, the poor nail salon guy had to skip the one funky toenail that’s hanging on for dear life and was confused when I stopped him from scraping off my callouses (I am NOT about to feel the pain of running on un-calloused feet as I build them up all over again!) – but he got a good laugh when I started practically purring as he massaged each little toe and squeezed the ever-loving crap out of my calves! It’s been almost a year since my last professional pedicure, and it showed. But I hereby promise my little piggies: I will not be waiting that long again for my next one!

After my pedi, I poured myself into a big comfy chair at home, watched about 5 episodes of House of Cards, and capped off my first week post-half-marathon and first long run into training cycle #2 with a few glasses of wine curled up on the couch with my husband and cat.



And that’s all, folks!

All in all, I’m pleased with myself this spring. I’ve managed to find a healthy balance of training and relaxing, I’m feeling stronger than almost any previous training cycle, each run leaves me feeling more confident than the last, and I’ve still got another great race to look forward to in a few weeks! Some days I feel the strain of hard training, but for the most part, it’s the other way around: I feel like I’m hardly training!

How about you? Are you training hard or hardly training? Is your schedule wearing you down yet or have you found a proper balance? When was your last pedicure? Let me hear it in the comments!

Extra, Extra!

In my journey to the United NYC Half Marathon, I was lucky enough for NYRR to share my story with the local media here in the tri-state area. As you’ve probably seen in previous posts, Shape Magazine did a profile on me, and I was also featured on too!

I also had the amazing opportunity to meet with a reporter from my local TV news station, News 12 NJ, down at the park where I do most of my training. There, he interviewed me about my weight loss and running journey, got some footage of me in action, and put together this fun little clip that aired throughout the weekend before the race:

Prepping for the NYC Half Marathon from Jessica Skarzynski on Vimeo.

(Bonus points if you can spot Lucy the cat in the window in the background!)

I know – a whole world of technology at my fingertips and I recorded this on my iPad from a TV – but it’s still a fun little piece that I’m so excited to share with you guys!

United NYC Half Marathon Expo & NYRR Instameet

I know I kind of did this backwards, but I had such a great time at the United NYC Half Marathon Expo and Instameet that I just had to backtrack and tell you about it today!

I had planned on going in to the expo to get my bib and do some shopping on the Saturday before the race, but when I got the invite to a special “Instagram-friends of NYRR” type party at the Expo that Thursday, I changed my plans! After a quick train ride into the city, I simply walked across the street from Penn Station and voila: I was at the expo!

IMG_3293After breezing through packet pickup and grabbing my number, it was on to the fun part: shopping!


The inside was poorly lit, but aside from that, it was one of the best-run, easiest to navigate, and useful expos I’ve ever been to! I stocked up on my favorite Gu flavors (and saved myself a trip to Road Runner in an already crazy week!), picked up a super cute Sweaty Band with the race’s colors and name on it, and some other fun goodies like race-branded ear warmers, a hat, and a mug too!


Coffee just tastes better in a United NYC Half mug

So after a bit of shopping, it was time to join my fellow Instagram people at the Tata Consultancy Services Lounge for the first half of our Instameet, which included the cutest little cupcakes:

IMG_3301…AKA my dinner…

And an awesome photo op with some Instagram “celebrities” that I’ve been following and chatting with for months now, and finally got to meet in person!

IMG_3334The best part about this photo was trying to decide if we should make the letters with our bodies or just use signs.

After mingling for a bit, some of the partiers decided to call it a night, but the rest of us hoofed it a few blocks away for drinks and food at Tir Na Nog on 39th, courtesy of the awesome folks at NYRR. It was exactly what we all needed: with race day just a few days away, we weren’t so much people as we were just bundles of nerves held together by KT Tape and Asics.

IMG_3328And Heineken and Cabernet.

I don’t think I can ever thank the folks at NYRR enough for inviting me to this party and bringing us all together. You know how those last few pre-race weeks go: our loved ones and coworkers can only take so much of our insanity during taper time, so being able to talk about running and mingle with a bunch of like-minded people who are also going through the same race prep as you was a huge relief.

It was also a great place to make some new friends, too! That Heineken up there belongs to one of those new friends: Bolivar. He introduced me to something called “Little Friday” (aka, Thursday), a tradition that I am only too happy to incorporate into my future stress-relief plans!

At the end of the night we toasted one last time to a good race on Sunday, I finished my second glass of Cabernet, and sauntered the 4 or 5 blocks back to the train station just in time for the 9:38 train back home! I smiled pretty much the entire ride back, and spent most of the trip connecting to all of my new Instagram friends and trading likes and comments and well wishes.

IMG_3348It was just what I needed to relax before a race as big as the NYC Half – and I have the great people at NYRR to thank for it!


Beef & Spinach Stir Fry Recipe

It’s been a while since my last recipe post, so I figured today I’d share my recipe for Beef & Spinach Stir Fry!

This is a dish I like to prepare when I’ve over-indulged and need a filling, healthy meal. It’s only got 4 ingredients, it’ll only take you about a half hour to prep, and you’re going to have a hard time saving any for leftovers, too 😉

89730d742fb811e39de022000a1f8db1_8Beef & Spinach Stir Fry


  • 1lb of stew beef, trimmed and cubed
  • 2-3 medium sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 container cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 package of baby spinach

(Note: The measurements here are enough for me and my husband to have 2 healthy servings the first night, and leaves at least 2 more for lunch or dinner the next day. If you’ve got a bigger family – or a bigger appetite! – feel free to adapt this recipe as needed.)


Start by browning the sweet potatoes in your skillet over medium heat in a little bit of coconut oil. I like to season them a bit with some salt, but that’s just me. Cover and let them soften up a bit, but keep an eye on them and test to see how soft they are every 5-10 mins.

Once your potatoes are almost done doing their thing, transfer them to a plate and toss your beef in the same skillet to brown it up. This won’t take long.

After the meat is browned and the kitchen smells divine, toss the potatoes back in along with your tomatoes, and add your spinach one or two handfuls at a time. Continuously stir to mix it up nicely, and once the spinach is wilted, serve it up one big heaping spoonful at a time – and enjoy!

Check Out My Weight Loss Story on PopSugar

A few days before the United NYC Half, someone from the NYRR press relations team reached out to me about an interview with I was so stoked – I really like their fun tips & tricks articles, and always wanted to be featured on their Weight Loss page! So I immediately responded, sent over some photos, and then race weekend madness quickly took over my life and – if you can believe it – I forgot about the whole thing! That is until last night, when I was cleaning through my inbox and found the original inquiry. I hadn’t gotten a final decision on if or when they’d share my story, but figured a quick browse through their site wouldn’t hurt.

So imagine my surprise when I scrolled down and found MYSELF, smiling back at me!


I was floored! It’s an awesome little piece that details my diet and workout plan a little more, so if you’re interested in the details like that, feel free to check it out on their page and leave some love in the comments there!

Guest Post: Fitness & Feta

Hey everyone! I know I already blew up your feed earlier today with my race recap – and it’s so long that I’m sure some of you are still reading it 😉 – but I’m too excited not to share this with you: the always lovely and super-motivational Athena of Fitness & Feta invited me to do a guest post on her blog, and it’s now live!


If you’re looking for inspired workout tips, great recipes, and general fitness-related fun, you’re going to love Fitness and Feta. Seriously, even the titles of her “Awk Spot” posts make me giggle like a kitten on helium. So do yourself a favor: check out my post, take a look at the rest of her blog, show her some love, and be sure to tell her I sent you! 🙂