Ready Player One

Although most of you have probably figured it out by now: Since the NYC Marathon, I’ve been pretty disillusioned with sharing my running journey online.

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*sarcasm* shocking, right?

I guess it comes down to the fact that I started to get tired of playing the game, especially around Instagram.

Looking back, the amount of time I spent on that app is embarrassing. I wracked my brain coming up with a creative Instagram-worthy photo angle for every run. I wasted a half hour after every run selecting, editing, and captioning a picture. I worried about what I wore because I’d already worn black for my past three runs and needed to inject color into my IG feed. I found myself sitting at dinner in a restaurant with my husband, with my nose buried in my phone while I picked out hashtags. I was injured, but I still went on painful runs – sometimes just to “keep the feed fresh”.

And even though I did those things, I still lost followers.

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Then I lost my job and fell into a depression. For those of you who haven’t had the good luck (again with the sarcasm) to experience depression, my idol Carrie Fisher summed up what it feels like with heartbreaking clarity while in the middle of her own manic episode in Bright Lights:

“You know what would be so cool? To get to the end of my personality and just, like, lay in the sun. I’m sick of myself.”

At my lowest point, I was so sick of my self that Instagram seemed like a cruel joke. I hardly felt inspirational. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror, let alone take yet another picture of myself and share it with 16,000 people – the majority of whom I have never and will never meet.

I lost the courage to even try.

Because I dropped out of the game (and yes, it is most certainly 100% a game that Instagram will always win because they control what accounts get exposure), I lost nearly 1,000 followers since November. And I’m losing more every day. I can’t figure out the algorithm no matter how much or little I post or what hashtags I use.

But a funny thing happened since I came out the other side of that whole depression thing: I finally want to run more.

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After nearly 10 months of being disillusioned with running in general and not even thinking about racing, the other day I got an email from the Run Newport folks about running the Newport Half next month and actually got excited.

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The thought of a half marathon gave me butterflies.

I got the jimmy legs thinking about the thrill of the starting line.

I started looking at training plans.

While I’m in absolutely no shape to run the Newport Half (because it’s in less than 6 weeks and I haven’t run more than 4 miles in about 10 months), I’m probably not going to be running it (but I WILL have an entry to give away, woohoo, stay tuned!). But I WILL start slow, starting now.

It’s going to take courage to try again, but I’m ready.

I’ve committed to run 2-3x during the week after work and slowly build up my long run mileage on weekends. The plan is to get to 6 or 7 PAIN FREE miles for a few weekends in a row before I even sign up for something.

It’s not a plan, per se, but it’s more than I’ve done in 10 months, so there you have it.

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Once it became more of a plan in my mind over the past few days, I found myself excited to blog about it – and even more excited to share my story on Instagram once more.

I don’t know what race I’ll be doing or even when I’ll run it. Throughout training, I won’t spend a half hour picking out the perfect filters or an extra half mile trying to get the right running selfie after every run. But I WILL be sharing my journey again, and I’m excited to have you along for the ride if you’d like to join me. ❤

Mile 26

Real Talk: The TCS New York City Marathon left me turned off about running. With having to put our cat to sleep the day after the race and dealing with injuries for months post-race, I never felt that post-marathon high.

I deleted almost all of the pictures from that day off my phone. But for some reason, I couldn’t delete this one: the Mile 26 marker.

I still remember how I felt when I snapped this picture. Every inch of my body hurt. It was dark and rainy, spectators had all gone home. When I saw Mile 26 I thought “Who cares. There’s no triumphant final push left in me, why should I take a picture?”

But I did, and every time I clean my camera roll, I still won’t delete it. It took me 7 months, but now I know why: because it was the lowest point I’d been at in months… BUT I KEPT GOING.

I got that medal. I pushed through a mental and physical hell I created for myself over 25+ miles through the five boroughs of NYC and I survived, just like I’ve survived every other “lowest” point in my life. It’s a reminder that there’s always something to look forward to, even if I have to go through just .2 more miles of hell to get to it.

When you get to your Mile 26, just keep going. I know it hurts. But it’ll be worth it.

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

Be honest: there are probably a few lies you’ve told yourself but don’t want to admit to. Today I’m going to come clean about two of the lies I’ve told myself in the 5 months since the NYC Marathon: 1) I wasn’t injured and 2) I don’t really want to run anymore anyway.

If you’re a regular reader, you know all about my lack of motivation after the NYC Marathon. A lot of that had to do with this injury that I didn’t want to admit to. After my post-marathon runs turned into pain fests just a few miles in, I took time off. Shortly after the New Year, I lost my job and my motivation to run. I tried to run every other week only to have that leg flare up, and soon I was in pain even when I didn’t run; shooting spikes of fire radiated from my butt to my knee while I sat on the couch or drove to the store.

I started working again in mid-March, around the same time I attempted to push through the pain for a 6 mile run to prep for my upcoming half marathon at the end of April. It was a terrible run and I had to walk last 3 miles. The resulting pain was the worst it had ever been, and left me unable to walk for a day and a half (and limping for 4 more days). That’s when I realized Truth #1: I really WAS injured.

So about 3 weeks ago I went back to my chiropractor. And he’s helping. S-L-O-W-L-Y. The work we’re doing is painful and can only be done in little bursts every few days. I’m not allowed to even try running. All the forced downtime has me frustrated. I feel weaker than I have in years. I’ve gained more weight than I care to admit. I officially dropped out of the NJ Half Marathon in April.

As a result, I’ve spent much less time on social media. So much so that I’ve lost more than 400 followers on Instagram in the last four months. Apparently, a girl who muddled her way through 26.2 miles in a pathetic 6+ hours back in November isn’t as interesting when she has to stop running and fight her way through injury, weight gain and depression. Such is life.

But not spending hours running or scrolling through my social media feeds has helped me spot those lies, along with a few other things.

One: before the marathon, I spent WAY too much time on social media. A wholly unhealthy amount of time. Many hours a week. I’d be at dinner and found myself scrolling “just a little more”, and paying attention to the real flesh and blood people in the room just a little less.

Additionally, I realized that I’ve been coping with this injury by creating lie number two: convincing myself that I don’t really enjoy running anyway.

With an injury that has no defined finish line and seems to keep coming back, I found myself – in classic depressive fashion – isolating myself from the usual injured runner banter. I stopped interacting with runner friends. I got complacent. I said meh, running isn’t all that great anyway. Which led to I’m not that great at running anyway, and ultimately, I just won’t bother with running anyway. 

I had actually convinced myself that I didn’t really like running that much after all.

Because resignation is easier than treatment and rebuilding.

Giving up is easier than doing one-legged squats to build up those glutes.

Quitting is easier than fighting through another round of soft tissue work where the doctor and the nurse each take a part of me and bend and twist and dig.

And it’s a hell of a lot easier than the work I’m going to have to do to get back into the shape I was just a half a year ago.

But yesterday, something changed. Over the weekend I traveled to Boston to cheer on my sister-in-law Meredith as she took on the Boston Marathon (and CRUSHED IT!) and spent a few hours in the hotel gym on Sunday doing squats and leg lifts and crunches and push ups and planks and swimming. Then on Monday I walked. Tuesday I was sore, but by Wednesday, I felt strong again.

Not “I can run a marathon” strong, but I didn’t wince on the stairs. My core felt tight instead of weak. I drove home from work with the windows down and realized – I can’t wait to run again. The idea popped into my head completely unbidden for the first time in months. And I smiled.

Because I know I’ll run again. It’s going to take time, and I’m going to need to do a LOT of work to get back even a fraction of the strength I lost. But I’m willing to put that work in, because I don’t want to feel weak and soft and injured anymore. I’m ready to feel strong again. I’m ready to be a runner again.

How NOT to Train for a Half Marathon

When we last hung out, I mentioned getting ready to buckle down for the NJ Half Marathon in April. At the time, I was a little concerned because life took a hard left and I went right to compensate, and training ended up going out the window. But I had high hopes.

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*how I pictured myself come race day with all the training I was going to do in the coming weeks*

Well, that didn’t happen. Things haven’t gotten much better in terms of fitting my training in, but now it’s for a super great reason: I started a new full time gig last week and am *loving it* in big capital, bold, italic letters.

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that’s my happy dance, in case you didn’t know

But all the learning and growing I’ve been doing from 9-5 has left me with just enough energy (mental AND physical) at the end of the day to crawl into pajamas, help cook and clean the kitchen up, pack my lunch for the next day and repeat the process.

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I don’t even have time for guac or rose 😦

Not to mention we got hit with yet ANOTHER snow storm last week that incapacitated the area for a few days.

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god do I miss summer.

While being burnt out from a rewarding new job that I love is an awesome problem to have, it still has me slightly fearful of what April 29th will bring.

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at the very least, I’m confident that the race course won’t be on FIRE. but I may be carrying pizzas all 13.1 miles.

Once my chances for a fully fleshed out 10-week training program went out the window, my interim plan was simple: run 3x a week M-F then run long on Sunday. But in the last 2 weeks or so, that hasn’t happened either. I didn’t hit my long run goals last weekend, which means that this weekend won’t happen either, and so on and so forth.

So we improvise. Basically, my newest plan is to just wing it, within reason. The last time I ran for about an hour I managed to get 5 miles in and felt like I could have kept going by starting super slow and working my way up, so negative splitting is the plan. This weekend I’m aiming for 6-7 miles (or 90 minutes, whatever comes first), walking as much as I need to get to the time goal. And I’ll continue to do a few additional miles/15-minute increments every weekend until race day.

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crawling, if necessary.

Beyond that? We’ll see what happens. I already know that race day is not going to be about speed or time. Those 13.1 miles will be the final exam after weeks of lessons in how not to train for a half marathon. But sometimes, life takes a turn and you’ve got to roll with it. And while things are 110% on the upswing for me at the moment, 13.1 miles is a tall order in the next 4 weeks. But I DO know I can finish, and that’s all I want to do.

Listen: you know the drill here. I run, I’m [mostly] happy, and I keep it real. Just like I did with my first marathon fail or my struggles with depression and anxiety, I’m not going to ignore or lie about these experiences I’m going through. I think it’s important that someone who may be struggling in a similar way sees that they’re not alone. If you’re in a running slump, remember – it’s not a competition. Running will be there when you’re ready to run again. I’m not worried about running again – things are balancing out more and more every day, and I find myself looking forward to my runs, which is better than nothing.

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Beyond April 29th, I’m looking forward to other races at less taxing distances where I can work my way back into fighting shape and enter the second half of 2018 stronger than I was when I started it. Because the best thing about going back to zero? When you start again, you’ve got nowhere to go but up.

What’s New & What’s Next

I disappeared for a while, and I apologize. My former company underwent some restructuring back in mid-January, which led to me being let go after nearly five years with them. In the interim, blogging took a backseat because I’ve been focused not just on finding a job, but on finding myself.

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this seemed like a zen-ish gif and made me giggle, so there

For the first few weeks, I was miserable and had no motivation to run because I was purely focused on finding a new job. That blah feeling made me even less motivated to run, which fed back into the misery and sapped my motivation even further, and, well… lather, rinse, repeat. So I backed off of social media because… how could I be “Jess Runs Happy” if I wasn’t running and I wasn’t happy?

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It was a confusing time. 

But, as it tends to do, life kept on moving along and I explored interests that I forgot I had.

I spent two solid weeks turning our spare bedroom (previously known as the house dumping ground for the entire 6 years we’ve lived here) into a beautiful home office/Lady Cave, complete with a matching desk, tv stand, and storage unit that I all built with my own two hands.

I hung out with friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. I tried daytime classes at the gym. I wrote A LOT, now that I had a fancy shmancy new office to do it in. I cleaned every room from top to bottom. I donated or tossed more than a dozen huge bags of stuff. I tightened loose drawer pulls and hot glued broken things all over the house. I hung out with my mom a lot. I cleaned the oven. I worked on my Rey costume! Generally, I did everything I’ve been meaning to do for the past 5 years but didn’t have the time to do (and couldn’t bring myself to spend my precious weekends doing).

Before I knew it, I had an exciting new opportunity on the horizon, and the knowledge that all of this Me Time will soon come to an end. With this news, I expected my motivation to come screaming back onto the scene, prompting me to RUN ALL THE MILES!

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Alas, no motivation.

But here’s the kicker: I’m not beating myself up about it.

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In running, like in life, you get what you put into it. And not getting 100% from my running would just discourage me even more. My runs have been hit or miss – some days it feels easy and other days it’s a struggle just to get into my running tights. So instead of forcing myself to run when my body hurts and my heart just isn’t in it, I’ve done other things to keep active. And while I have to get serious in the coming weeks to ensure that I can even participate in the New Jersey Half Marathon in April, I’m not stressing.

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What does that mean? In a nutshell, I’m not going to be chasing a PR in West Long Branch at the end of April like I previously planned. Life just works in mysterious ways and I’m not about to push myself to injury just because I made some proclamation on the internet. It’s not that important to me to get a PR in the half distance this soon after taking a hiatus like I have. The PR will be there when I’m ready, and I’m not ready, simple as that. Right now, my focus for the half will be to finish with a smile, and I’m 100% sure I can at least manage that.

What I WILL be doing is looking forward to a handful of other fun races this spring:

  1. After running both the 10K and Half with them, the folks at the Newport 10K have asked me to be a Blog Partner with them once again, and I’m super stoked to do just that on May 5th. What’s more: they’ve been generous enough to give me a free entry for one of you guys! So stay tuned to my Instagram for details on that when I kick that off.
  2. While I didn’t plan on running it again, my fear of race FOMO got the best of me and I signed up for the Spring Lake 5. So I’ll be hitting the beach once more at the end of May for the official summer kickoff race and will hopefully beat last year’s time there.
  3. For the third year in a row, I’ll be running my favorite race of the year, the NYRR/FrontRunners 5M Pride Run, in Central Park during Pride Weekend in June. This race has a special place in my heart and I look forward to returning to NYC for my first run there since the Marathon.

In addition to these races, I’m not about to give up on chasing PRs just yet. I’m aiming for a new 10K PR in the fall, and will definitely consider stretching for a sub-30 5K, too.

So while I’ve taken a short break from running, you can rest assured I haven’t given up on it completely. I never will. It’s in my blood now – on those occasions lately where it felt good, it felt VERY good, reminding me that I could never give it up entirely.

So thanks for sticking around. I look forward to having you along for the ride as I start this new chapter and chase my running goals with a new attitude in 2018 and beyond!

Has Anyone Seen My Motivation?

As a runner, what do you do when running motivation is hard to come by?

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Every year, the holidays naturally become a fallow period for me: time off work and away from the routine coupled with less free time to workout (and more time at parties and celebrating with family) means I get a little break. It also works out for my racing schedule, too: I tend to race in the fall and spring, so I like to give my body a break after my big goal races in the fall to be well rested for spring PRs.

But almost every year, when the calendar clears up again, the junk food has been eaten and the routine is back in effect, I run into the same problem that I’m experiencing at this very moment: I don’t want to do anything. 

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I KNOW I have a spring race in a little more than 3 months. I KNOW I’ll sleep better and feel less bloated if I were to just lace up and put some more work in each day. But [prepare for whiny voice] I’m tiiiiired and I already did stuff today! I worked 8 hours and just want to relaaaax!

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So. This brings us back to my original question: What do you do when running motivation is hard to come by? I’ll start you off by answering my own question with some things that have worked in the past for me (and that I should probably start doing now, but again, I don’t waaaaannna):

  1. New Music – Yes, it’s a simple fix, and this is actually my plan for my lunch break tomorrow: find some new tunes with good running beats to help me move and keep a solid pace.

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    Actual footage of me run dancing.

  2. New Gear – What some might call materialistic, I call motivating. There’s something about showing up for a workout in some fresh threads that just puts that extra pep in my step.
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  3. Rewards – kind of similar to #2 above, but instead of treating myself pre-run, this is a post-run reward like a pedicure or a stop at Starbucks for a big cup of tea and a cake pop.
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So how about you? How do you put the fire back under your ass when you know you’ve got a goal coming up and still don’t have the *uff* to work towards it? I want to hear your tips in the comments.

It’s On Like Alderaan

It’s no secret that I love Star Wars. And since you’re already on my running-themed blog, you get that I also love running. So the fact that Disney – known for its incredible race experiences, parent company of Lucasfilm – holds Star Wars themed races means that I’m pretty much guaranteed to run them.

Well, I didn’t discover these races until last year, when I completed the Kessel Run Challenge by running both the Light Side and Dark Side Challenge weekends (10K and half marathon in one weekend). It was an unbelievably fun experience. Aside from the NYC Marathon, the four runDisney races I’ve done were the highlight of my year, if not my entire running career.

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But, those great experiences came with a heavy price tag – literally – and I decided not to run the 2018 races. I made my peace with that early on, and instead looked forward to saving some money while watching my friends run them thanks to the magic of social media. Then, back in October, runDisney made the decision to suspend all races at Disneyland in Anaheim until further notice, and I felt better about my decision. You can’t suffer from FOMO when something is cancelled!

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Fast forward to this morning, when it was announced that runDisney would offer a new Star Wars Virtual Half Marathon instead of the Light-Side-Themed Disneyland races.

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Well.

You probably know how this story ends.

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My racing plans went from “focus on a PR attempt in April” to “hey, let’s shoehorn another half marathon in there too” with one mouse click.

And while I know some folks think this is just a cash grab by Disney, let me say this: I am aware of that fact, and I don’t disagree with you.

But I TRULY DON’T CARE.

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Sure, for what you actually get (a medal and a few downloadable PDFs along with the chance to share your experience online with the event hashtag), it is pricey.

But it’ll keep me active, keep me accountable, the medal is freakin’ sweet:

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And most important of all? It makes me happy. I am going to have SO much fun figuring out what outfit to run in and sharing my run online. It’s a fun way for me to get my runDisney Star Wars fix in 2018 without having to shell out $2k+ for hotel, airfare and park tickets for two on top of race registration.

So now that I’m officially running the Star Wars Virtual Half Marathon, it’s on like Alderaan!

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Er… it’s on. Let’s just leave it at that. Cause Alderaan didn’t deserve that.

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How about you: What do you think about virtual races? Have you ever done one? If you’ve done a Disney race, which one is your favorite? 

Happy 2018!

Boy howdy, have I been a bad blogger. I would say that in 2018 I’m going to be a better blogger and write regularly, set some outlandish goal like 3 posts a week, but I’d ultimately end up disappointing you AND myself, so let’s just say I promise to do better and leave it at that, shall we?

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With that out of the way, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope you all had a restful holiday break, even if it was just a day off here or there. I was lucky enough to be able to take some time off both from work AND working out, which has been very beneficial.

In previous years, I struggled with anxiety and depression around this time of year. A quick glance through my Timehop pulls up 3-4 instances over the past 6 years where things got harder for me as the first month of the year began, but so far I’m coping pretty well with 2018.

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I would attribute my positive outlook this time around to an increase in workouts, but I’d be lying. In fact, I’ve worked out LESS in the past month than I have any other month in 2017. And again, I know I’m a bad blogger by admitting it, but: I feel great about it!

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Don’t get me wrong; I worked out. But I ran about 25 miles throughout the entire month of December, and only did strength training or rowing or biking like 2-3x per week instead. The point is, I sweat when I felt like it, didn’t go overboard with eating or drinking, and didn’t beat myself up when the days got too busy and I wasn’t able to fit a workout in.

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Another key to my happiness – and this is a big one – has been limiting my time on social media. Too often, I get caught up in comparing myself (and my workouts, and my opinions, and my daily activities) to the folks I follow online. And we all know what they say about comparison, don’t we??

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This is especially true around the holidays. I see people getting dressed up and going out and having snowball fights and game nights and *doing all the things* and sometimes, that makes me jealous or sad. Why can’t I have that fun too? I’d think, curled up in my porg pajamas, elbow deep in a tin of butter cookies on the couch. But then I’d remember: oh yeah, we had fun yesterday, and we have fun planned for tomorrow. Now we’re relaxing. 

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You thought I was kidding about the porg-jamas?

First: I turned off all of my notifications for all apps. Email, Facebook, IG, Twitter, all of it. No more red circles yelling at me and distracting me, or getting me stuck in a constant cycle of refreshing app after app.

Secondly, where I’d normally post once a day (if not more), I kept posting to a minimum. In 4 weeks I shared just a handful of pictures on IG, stayed out of angry rant threads on Twitter, and kept Facebook time to a minimum each day. The resulting detox has left me feeling more refreshed and ready to focus on what’s important to me in 2018 and beyond.

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I had an incredible 2017: I ran the Star Wars Rebel Challenge in Disneyland in January, Dark Side Challenge in Disney World in April, set new PRs in the 10k and 5k, and conquered my first full marathon at NYC. But I’m not dwelling on the past for too long, because I’ve got big goals in 2018.

In April, I take on the NJ Half Marathon once more, and return to the course where I set my current 13.1 PR in 2016. I’m gunning for a new PR there, and hope to set a new 5k PR in 2018 as well. I’ve got goals to get stronger and leaner with added strength training, and I may even run my first international race! I’m also setting personal goals outside of running: I want to focus more on my writing, and, in news I’m extremely excited about, I’ve decided to channel my love of Star Wars into a charitable cause by joining the Rebel Legion!

All in all, it’s going to be a great year. I’m excited to share my journey with you guys, and even more excited to hear about what you’ve got planned! So tell me: what’s on your 2018 To Do List? Any big scary goals in running or life that you’re itching to tackle? Share in the comments!

Post-Marathon Recovery

We’re almost one month post-NYC Marathon and I’m finally feeling fantastic again!

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It’s funny: when you work for months towards a goal, it’s only natural to fall into a rut when that goal is accomplished and there’s no more pot of gold to chase at the end of the rainbow.

… or so I’ve been told…

Leading up to the race, many people warned me about the Post-Marathon Blues. Those who ran those 26.2 miles before me told me I’d sink into a malaise once I had that medal around my neck. After the highs and lows of marathon training, day-in and day-out for months, not having that schedule or goal would cause me to feel lost and without purpose.

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Yeah…  I’m still not feeling those blues.

Maybe it makes me a traitor to my runner tribe, but in the nearly four weeks since I earned that medal, I have felt nothing but pride, contentment, and most of all, relief!

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Relief over no longer having to run mile after mile after mile every single day of the week. Relief over finally having my nights and weekends back. Relief over being able to do anything other than collapsing into a sweaty heap post-run every night.

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After sticking to a plan for months on end, it’s been supremely fun not having a plan. I had a big ol’ cheeseburger and fries for the first time in months. I stayed up late on Saturdays and slept in on Sundays. I cooked. I cleaned. I finally did all the laundry – and now that most of it isn’t workout clothes, there was so much less of it! I caught up with friends. I had wine. SO much wine. It’s been glorious.

But it hasn’t been all lounging around and bon-bons, mind you. I’ve still been working out – although I will admit to taking a full 10 days off post-marathon because my body was HURTING.

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For real: the pain I felt after the marathon was intense, but in the days following, I found new spots that hurt in new and unexpected ways, and I wasn’t about to push myself. For example, I held my phone through the entire race to be able to take photos and videos. I switched hands many many times, and never went full-on claw mode, but the Monday morning after the race, I tried pushing myself out of bed and felt like I had a red hot poker in my forearm: I pulled an ARM MUSCLE running a MARATHON.

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That took about 2 weeks to feel better. Then, the day after the marathon when I leaned over the couch to close a window, I slipped on the blanket that had pooled on the floor at my feet and severely pulled a muscle in my left knee. I still feel that one here and there and I’m afraid of investigating any further but I’ve run and lifted and done all kinds of things in the 25 days since so I’m sure it’s nothing permanent but still

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Oh and then there’s the numbness on the side of my right foot. I discovered that on Monday morning, post-marathon. Apparently all the miles of walking I did after the race on super-swollen feet in super-tight shoes did some nerve damage! That has been slowly but surely dissipating, and finally felt good enough to run on – I kid you not – about 3 full weeks post-marathon.

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So when I was able to move around like a normal human being I started working out again on my own schedule, and I loved it. I focused more on strength training, and full disclosure: I’ve run less than 20 miles post-marathon. And when I did, I didn’t even wear my watch. It was a struggle. My body just didn’t want to move like it used to. Running felt unnatural, and I felt discouraged. But I reminded myself that I had just run TWENTY SIX MILES a few weeks earlier, and I couldn’t force it.

So I moved when I wanted to and finally went out to the trails this weekend for a 5K… and finally the miles felt easy again. My legs turned over like they wanted to, the sun was shining, my lungs were pumping, and I found my running mojo again.

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So now that I’m pretty much recovered, I’m looking to the horizon for what’s next! I don’t know if another full marathon is in my future – I won’t say never, but that was a lot of work and I’m still glowing in the success of this one! Instead of another full next year, I’m looking to something more attainable: a new Half Marathon PR in the spring!

How about you: have you ever experienced the post-race blues? What’s your most random non-running-related running injury? What big goals are you training for next?

NYC Marathon Race Recap

You guys.

I have some news:

I RAN A MARATHON!

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I know, I know – I ran it like two stinking weeks ago, I’m a bad blogger! But hey, I’m back, and I’m blogging about it, and I’m a FREAKIN’ MARATHONER!

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So let’s jump right to it, shall we??

On race morning, I woke up after actually managing to get a good night’s sleep, and Mere (who was also running) and Damian came and picked us up at about 4:15am.

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Just look at those crazy eyes I’ve got. Those are the eyes of a terrified woman.

We planned on taking the NYRR-provided NJ Bus, and had the smoothest morning. Seriously: after a 30 minute drive, we rolled up to the Meadowlands, kissed the boys goodbye, walked 50 feet to a waiting bus, and were on our way within seconds! Bravo, NYRR.

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Sure, we got the last 2 seats on the bus and couldn’t sit together, but it was OK, we made it work 😉

After a quick bus ride, we arrived at Fort Wadsworth while it was still dark, and breezed through security and into the Starters Village.

 

After checking out our individual colored corral areas, Mere was sweet enough to come over to my area in Orange and hung out with me while we waited for her wave to start.

 

I even got to meet Alissa while we waited (nice job on your BQ, girl!!)

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After saying goodbye to Mere, I hung out with the NYRR therapy dogs. No, seriously:

 

It was so nice to give some pets to Tugboat the Frenchie, Lass the Labrador, and WLLY the… poof? Man-bun? Whatever he was, he was my favorite and required a selfie.

 

Arun came over to say hey, and after he said goodbye to go back to his area, I met Amanda and Gregg, and we watched the start of the race from our spot at the base of the bridge.

Amanda and Gregg and I became fast friends – Gregg also gave us some sage advice about how you can only run the race with what you’ve got in the tank. To pass the last hour before we started, the three of us ate our breakfasts and chatted about our previous races, our taste in music, and how we prepped for the race. Secret reveal: Gregg and I both have the Moana soundtrack on our marathon playlists. Shhhhh! 😉

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After Greg took off for his start in Wave 3, Amanda and I were left behind to nervously chat while we made quick port-a-potty stops, de-layered, and strapped on our running bags before heading over to the corrals of Wave 4. I was so grateful to have her there with me – if you’re reading this, thank you, Amanda!

We said goodbye just as the corrals were closing, and I was able to take a quick video before they closed the gate:

I will admit: I was super nervous up until I heard New York, New York blaring over the loudspeakers, and then a kind of calm came over me. Once the cannon went off, I was ready:

Within another few seconds, we were walking up the incline to the start, ran over the mat, and the marathon had begun. And, forgive my language, but holy shit, it was amazing.

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I knew the first 1.5 miles was uphill on the bridge, but honestly as we ran it, I didn’t notice the incline. All I felt was incredible energy: from the people running around me, the police on the bridge, the people that worked on the bridge, the AIR… everything was electric and perfect.

The only issue I was faced with was worrying about my phone in the rain. I had made the decision to run with my phone in my hand so that I could easily take photos and videos, but the constant drizzle ended up covering my phone in water before the first mile. But it turned out okay in the end.

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Once we began mile 2 and entered Brooklyn, I quickly discovered what everyone meant when they told me this would truly be a race unlike any other I’d ever run. Even in the rain, people of every race and shape and size and color lined both sides of the street and screamed and clapped and rang bells and shouted our names – for miles and miles and miles. It was like running through a block party that never ended!

I ordered a personalized name bib from Races2Remember and I’m so glad I did. Every 10 seconds or so, there was a new person yelling for me, cheering me on, making songs about my name… my favorite was “No one better mess with Jess!” It was incredible.

For the first 6-7 miles, I honestly felt so good that I didn’t even notice I was running. The music, the spectator high-fives, the sights – it all carried me. I ran from one side of the street to the other to get all the high fives I could!

At mile 3 a swing band on the sidewalk was blasting music and made 2 runners stop and break into a full-on choreographed swing dance in the street. At mile 5 a full gospel choir sang for us on the steps of their church. At mile 7 NYPD officers danced with us in the streets.

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At one point near mile 9, the crowds were so thick I couldn’t tell where the runners ended and the spectators began. Groups of friends spilled out of the bars with drinks in hand, cheering for us and dancing to the music that bumped from inside the bars.

I put my headphones in but rarely used them – I was too busy singing along with the music on the course!

By mile 11, I knew I should be feeling some fatigue, but I still felt great. My miles were around the 12:00 range, and while that was a bit faster than I wanted, I thought maybe I’d have some luck and that energy would keep carrying me.

Well, I was a bit wrong.

Mile 13 was a bit slower – I walked/ran for the next few miles, saving my strength for the Queensboro Bridge I knew was coming up between 15 & 16.

The crowds were a little more sparse here so I cranked up my music, and almost as soon as we got onto the QB, my iPod died. I had expected this after it died during long training runs, so I’d packed a backup iPod (no, really, I NEED my music), and walked a bit on the bridge to swap them out and recover.

Once I got a boost from fresh music, I put my head down and barreled through some crowds of walkers, keeping a steady pace. But after about a full uphill mile of that, I realized the mistake I’d made. My legs burned. I knew that Manhattan was next so I was counting on that energy, but what I wasn’t counting on was the rain really picking up as soon as we got off the bridge and turned onto First Avenue.

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If the first 13-15 miles were easy as pie, 15-22 was where I actually had to put in work.

I asked 26 of my closest friends and running buddies to give me a song each for a Power Playlist, and this is when I turned it on.

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A few of the songs really charged me up, but when one particular song my mom picked came on, I started weeping. It’s the song that my mom and dad walked me down the aisle to on my wedding day. While I tried not to cry too hard, I took some time at this point to be grateful. Even though I was in pain, I knew I was going to finish this thing. All the work, the endless hours, they were going to pay off. It was emotional.

Finally we entered the Bronx – and were greeted by so many more spectators that I got a little boost.

I danced a little with people who were still out in the rain cheering for us, and one woman even stopped herself before she could give me a high five and instead threw her arms around me and said, “Girl, you don’t need a high five you need a hug, you’re going to finish this!!” I think maybe she was an angel.

Once we looped back into Manhattan at mile 21, I got excited – this was the home stretch, so to speak.

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I’d arranged to have Mike and the crew cheering for me at the same spot we’d spectated at last year, and knew I was getting close. So I shuffled along and kept up the pace, looking for them the whole time. But our spot came and went, and they weren’t there. I’d made a deal with myself before I even started: there’d be a chance I would miss them, and I had to accept that. So instead of getting upset, I shuffled up Fifth Avenue because the pain was too great to run constantly now, and I chatted here and there with the runners around me as we put one foot in front of the other. This was great because it took my mind off things, and before I knew it, the sun was just about to disappear and we were entering Central Park!

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I HAD to take a picture of my favorite spot in the city ❤

During training, I envisioned coasting up and down those Central Park hills at this point, riding a wave of adrenaline that would carry me to a strong finish.

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The reality could not have been farther from that vision: my ankles were wobbly and kept giving out, my calves burned, my lower back burned, my right glute was on fire, and every time I tried to move faster than a weak shuffle my entire body screamed. I couldn’t help but grunt and groan every time I tried.

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By the time we exited the park for that quick jaunt across Central Park South, the sun was gone and I knew I’d be walking it in… until I spotted Mike and Mere and Damian!

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When I saw them I broke into a run and stopped for a quick hug and kiss from everyone – but if I stayed any longer than that I knew I wouldn’t be able to move again!

So I took off with them screaming behind me, giving me my final power-up.

After grabbing a hug from Peter Ciaccia himself at the entrance to the park, I ran straight through, stopping only to get one last picture:

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I could hear the screaming and cowbells of the finish line, and turned it on for a final kick. The pain was still there but all I could focus on was getting up that final hill and crossing that line.

When I finally saw the finish line, I couldn’t help but start crying. It was happening. I honestly can’t remember if I heard them say my name, but I know I glanced around behind me to make sure I wouldn’t hit anyone, threw my arms in the air, and closed my eyes as I crossed the finish line and finally became a marathoner.

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It took a few seconds after I crossed for it to truly hit me, but when it did, I immediately started sobbing. And hyperventilating. The horrible wheezing sound I made caused a few volunteers to ask me if I was OK and I nodded, willing myself to calm down; there’d be no good finish line picture if I passed out before I could even get my medal!

So I staggered to a medal volunteer and sobbed again as she put the medal around my neck. She kept saying “bless you, bless you” and I thanked her with everything I had left. I asked her to take my picture and she obliged:

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As I staggered through the chute to get my poncho and exit the park, the pain finally had a chance to sink in, and it was intense. I cannot begin to describe it – it was shooting, throbbing, aching, burning… it was all the pain at once, everywhere. It physically took my breath away to do anything but stagger ahead with the flow of people in the same shape as me.

After I got my poncho and texted with my crew to confirm our meetup area, I was never so relieved to see my husband and our family. And as a bonus, I even got a huge finish line hug from Lizzie, who had volunteered at the race, too! ❤

To celebrate our finishes (congrats on your course PR, Mere!), we toasted with some wine at dinner and that was the most delicious red I’ve ever had.

And while the walk back to the subway was unbelievably painful (and hysterical), I made it down the subway steps in time to catch our train and we were home before 11pm.

I could easily write another 2,000 words about it, but I’ll cap myself now by leaving you with this: the NYC Marathon was incredible. It was awe-inspiring. It took my breath away, more times than I could count. I saw things that I never thought I’d see on a race course. If you ever have the chance to run it, DO IT. You will never regret it.

They say NYC is a race unlike any other, but you truly have no idea what that means until you experience it.

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