Race-cations and Anxiety

Truth time: at both the Star Wars Light Side and Dark Side Challenge weekends, I had some anxiety issues.

At the Light Side races, I suffered a pretty nasty panic attack in the middle of Downtown Disney after finishing the 10K and hanging out with friends at the We Run Social meetup. I had to sit by a fountain and calm myself for 15 minutes before sitting down for dinner. I didn’t talk about it in my recaps because after it happened, I leveled off and the rest of the weekend went off without a hitch.

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I was still sniffling when I took this picture.

But then just last month, between the 10K and Dark Side Half marathon, I started feeling kind of burnt out and stretched thin. While I didn’t have a full on panic attack, things were a little bleak as I made it to the start line:

I remember filming this video as we walked to the start area, and as soon as I posted it I realized – oh no, that’s not my usually happy bubbly pre-race thing! I should delete it! But I knew it was important to share the truth, and it stayed up. And that’s why I’m writing today.

In the documentary about her and her mother that came out after their passing, Bright Lights, Carrie Fisher has a manic moment towards the end of the film and says:

“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.”

When I saw the film for the first time and heard Carrie say those words, I burst into tears: finally, someone had said it. At last, someone was able to put into words the feelings I’ve had for years about myself when I get anxious or depressed or have an episode. And of all people to do it, Carrie Fisher. Of course.

My anxiety levels tend to get higher when I travel, even if it’s a fun trip. And when I have a big race on the horizon,  my levels spike too. So a big race-cation is basically asking for trouble. Through trial and error I’ve learned that I need even more quiet time when this happens, and quiet time in Disney during a race weekend is hard to come by.

By the time I toed the start that morning, I was tired of running, tired of Disney, and tired of myself. Just like Carrie. But I managed to run my way through it – literally – and come out the other side, just like I have every other time. It’s painful, and it’s not easy, but there you have it.

Just like I always say when talking about these things, remember: this is only my personal experience. Whatever you’re going through, take it with a grain of salt. Not everyone goes through the same things, but I wanted to share for folks who might experience similar issues and show them that they’re not alone.

How about you: have you ever experienced anxiety while traveling or in the lead up to a big race? How do you cope? 

2016: The Year of That. Just. Happened.

The current trend is to say that 2016 is shaping up to end as a big, flaming, dumpster-fire-level disaster.

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Too soon?

And given recent events, I’m inclined to agree with them, wholeheartedly.

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Pictured: me, waking up on 11/9/16.

But I’m not going to get into THAT particular dumpster fire here because this is my happy place. What I will say though, is that in my own personal world – the world where I’ve been working hard and making shit happen for the past 11+ months – things have kicked SO MUCH ass I don’t even really know how to comprehend it.

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Yes, I’m talking about my year-in-review. But instead of focusing solely on running-related stuff, I’m looking back at everything I accomplished. Because when it comes to putting my mind to it and getting shit done, it’s been a banner year.

I’m calling 2016 The Year of That Just HAPPENED.

Let’s review, shall we?

January

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Hanging with my peeps at the Joe K 10K in Central Park in January

February & March

  • Set an unexpected PR at the NYRR Gridiron 4M Race, kicking off a year of setting PRs in nearly every distance I took on.
  • Went on my first solo adventure into Manhattan for a day of running, shopping, and general mental health related me-time.
  • Celebrated three years at my company (yes, I’ve got a 9-5 and don’t just run all day) and took on a new role that’s really kicked my professional ass to the next level – in a good way.

 

April & May

  • Ran my first 11K, in a total downpour.
  • Raced the New Jersey Half Marathon and set an unbelievable 15+ minute PR, ALSO in a total downpour. Apparently we had a wet spring here in NJ.
  • Set yet another PR, this time in the 10K distance, at the NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10K.
  • Was invited to take part in a social media photo shoot with the Brooks Running crew – which, let’s face it, was basically the coolest thing to ever happen to me up to that point.

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June & July

  • Celebrated National Running Day with my girl Meredith at a gorgeous new (to me) trail right near where I work.
  • Registered for the Star Wars Rebel Challenge in Disneyland – my first challenge weekend AND my first Disney race, double trouble!
  • Completed the run portion of the NYC Triathlon with two of my coworkers, taking on my first NYC Tri and a triathlon of that scale. This also prompted me to get a new bike for a season of triathlons I didn’t expect to take part in!
  • Ran the Jersey Capital 5K with a team of my coworkers and won my first award in the Female Team division.

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Photo by Brian Zuleta

August & September

  • On August 20th, Mike and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. FIVE YEARS! The fact that he hasn’t smothered me in my sleep after five years is really a testament to his self control. Round of applause for Mr. Mike.
  • After narrowly avoiding a disaster at the Seaside Semper Five 5K race, I ran the Hustle 4 Hannah 5K the next day with my coworkers and smashed my 6+ year old 5K PR.
  • Took part in the Jersey Girl Triathlon for the 2nd consecutive year and beat my previous year’s time – even if just by a few minutes.
  • Got sweet, sweet redemption at the One More Tri triathlon in support of the Special Olympics – and nabbed my first podium win as 3rd Overall Female Finisher in the Super Sprint Division!

October & November

  • Ran my final NYRR 9+1 Race and earned official entry into the 2017 NYC Marathon!
  • In what quickly became the NEW coolest thing to ever happen to me, I was invited to be an Ambassador for the Runner’s World Half & Festival weekend. There, I met some incredibly talented folks, ate dinner with Bart Yasso & the Runner’s World crew, did my first November Project workout, had lunch with Dean Karnazes, ran my first race in my new favorite Altra kicks, and nabbed a new 10K PR.

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Did I mention the part about spending the weekend with these celebrities? Cause yeah, I did that too.

And just when I thought 2016 couldn’t get any better, this happened:

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::record scratch:: Rewind! Adam Driver up there (yes, Mr. Kylo Ren himself for my fellow Star Wars fans) is an ex-Marine, and with his wife he started this organization called Arts in the Armed Forces, to help bring the arts to the military community. Check out his TED Talk for more info. After learning about the great things this group does – and knowing firsthand how beneficial theater is when you’re struggling with your own demons, thanks to my theater experience in high school and college – I decided to support their cause and buy tickets to their annual Broadway show at Studio 54 this year on November 7th.

I expected a fun night out on Broadway with my girl Julia, but what I got was so much more: a thought-provoking, stripped down performance that made me reconsider what a true apology really means; a Q&A with the playwright, actors, and people involved with AITAF; and yes, a moment with Mr. Driver himself, who was gracious enough to chat and pose for a picture. Class act, that Adam Driver fellow. A+. 10/10. If you’re passionate about the arts or supporting our military, give AITAF a minute of your time and I promise it’ll be worth it.

So there you go. My 2016 in one 1,000 word blog post. I nailed PRs in my personal, professional, and running worlds, and really can’t believe how fortunate I’ve been. Sure it took a lot of work – especially that half marathon PR, Jesus Christ did that take a lot of work – but when I look back on my year I can’t help but be amazed at how lucky I am to do what I do and share it with you.

How about you – what are you proud of accomplishing this year? Share in the comments!

NYC Triathlon Recap

Oh my goodness what a long strange month it’s been! Sorry for the lack of updates – its basically been non stop running, training, and racing every day for the last 4 weeks, but let’s take a look back and recap the fun, starting with July 24th, when two friends and I took on the NYC Triathlon in a relay team! Let’s see if I can cram two jam-packed days into one post. Ready? GO!

Announcements had been made earlier in the week that the run course was shortened from 10K to 8K due to the heat, and I could see why when we arrived in the city Saturday morning: it was like a blast furnace outside. After we got to the hotel and checked in, we found Alex & Chris and headed up to the expo for our pre-event briefing and packet pickup. The crowds were stifling – but if you cram 4,000+ people into any place you’re going to run into bottlenecks, I suppose. The layout forced us into very narrow walkways and I got stuck behind a thick crowd of people a few times. Plus the briefing and packet pickup was upstairs and expo/tshirt/swag bag pickup was downstairs. It all made for an uncomfortable expo experience, I won’t sugar coat it.

To get it over asap, we sat thru the briefing, got our hands stamped so we could get our packets (at the Pro & Relay check-in table, thanks for lumping us all in together!), asked a few questions of the helpful volunteers there, then walked downstairs to fight thru the expo crowd for our shirts and swag bags, then hoofed it across town to drop off Chris’ bike and check out the transition area.

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That turned out to be super helpful – just seeing the transition area and the in and out spots helped put our minds at ease. Plus we got a sneak peek at the sarcastic tags they used to mark off our areas:

After Chris left his baby on the rack, we ended the day with a quick Uber (my first Uber ride!! I felt so millennial! ) to meet back up with Mike at the Cock & Bull for dinner and drinks.

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4 people, 9 beverages. We take our pre-race hydration very seriously.

After parting ways (Chris and Alex stayed at a hotel much closer to the start), Mike and I sat outside for a bit to enjoy the sunset and people watch, then headed back to the hotel to relax and prep for the the next morning.

I have to take a moment to shout out the true MVP of the weekend (aside from my husband of course): that little backpack up there. It not only held everything I needed for a night in the city, but it also held Mike’s overnight stuff, ALL my race gear AND my expo swag bag so Mike only had to carry one bag while I raced. Brilliant, right? Round of applause for the little backpack that could.

OK, so after managing to get about 3.5 net hours of sleep, I woke up before the alarm at 3:45AM.

This was the most nerve-wracking part of the whole weekend. I miscalculated how long it would take me to get ready and the leisurely pre-race time I usually have ended up as a frantic 3-minute last check to pack up all my hotel stuff (because Mike was checking out while I ran) and throw my race gear and breakfast into my clear transition bag (and prayed Chris would have room in his bag to carry the stuff I couldn’t run with). After a quick picture to show off my race tats, I sprinted out of the room and made it onto the shuttle bus only to hit every red light.

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I arrived at Red Transition at 4:55 when the transition areas closed at 5:15AM – and I still had to go a half mile to Yellow Transition to meet Chris and Alex before Alex left for the mile long walk to the swim start! My heart was pounding by the time I jogged into our area and found them, and we snapped one quick pic before our swimming phenom took off for her start a mile up the Hudson.

Thankfully, it all turned out to be smooth sailing from there on out. As the sun came up, Chris and I BS’d for an hour before the Elite and Pro people started coming in from the swim to the bike. We all cheered and stood in amazement – these folks were incredible!

Shortly after, we started checking the event tracking site to see when Alex jumped into the water – once we refreshed the page and saw she’d been swimming for 3 minutes, Chris gave his now famous announcement: “Shit just got real, son!” and took off for his bike. To keep the already crowded bike rack area clear, I had to wait outside. But I got to hang out with Alex’s towel and be her personal sherpa which was fun.

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Chris climbed into his bike shoes, got his helmet on and gave the paparazzi a smile just as Alex made her way in WAY sooner than anticipated (20:03 for a 1.5KM swim, 1:12/100 yds!) and our first transition was underway!

They traded the timing chip, Chris took off on his bike, and Alex met me with a big hug – she crushed it! She was covered in Hudson grit (some people came out entirely covered in gray and black, it was quite gross), but she was psyched and happy with her time. After toweling off and talking for a few minutes, she wished me luck then headed back to their hotel to shower, check out, and meet us at the finish.

At that point it was just me – but it was one of my favorite parts  of the day. As an only child, I really value alone time. And even though I wasn’t really alone but surrounded by 150 other relay triathletes, the hour or so that I got before running was pure bliss.

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While I couldn’t race WITH my headphones, bringing them with me to transition for the wait turned out to be a great decision. Having my music helped me get in the zone and calm my nerves while waiting. I leafed through my magazine, ate my fuel (a Starbucks bagel and PB with a tiny bit of banana), hydrated, used the porta potty, and then returned to the steps for pre-race stretching. It also helped that this was my view for the whole hour:

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When my timer went off 75 minutes after Chris took off, I started to pack my things away and made one last bathroom stop. He had estimated his time to be around 1:45-2:00, but after seeing some other relay folks start to roll up, I didn’t want to chance not being ready for him in case he was early. It turns out I made the right decision there too: he crushed his time and came in at 1:38: 07 for an average of 15.2mph the whole 40KM!

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Chris, Crushing It (TM)

After he rolled in and racked his bike, he passed the chip along to me and I took off up the hill to 72nd street. After spending the whole morning in the shade by the water with a nice breeze, I was shocked to feel how hot it had gotten. Landing on the cookie sheet heat of 72nd street’s asphalt was a gut punch, but I felt good. Really good, actually, thanks to the unbelievable crowds of people lining the course. There were folks the entire mile from the transition to the entrance to Central Park with signs and cowbells, all cheering and clapping – one guy even yelled out my name after I passed and he saw it on the back of my singlet!

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This was my face the whole race, for real!

As I got to the entrance of the park, I spotted Alex yelling my  name, which gave me a nice boost. I cheered right back and gave her a fist pump then glanced at my watch as we entered the park. I was shocked to see I’d already run a mile – in 10:20! It felt like nothing!

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At the first water station I slowed to a walk and grabbed two cups – one to drink and one to dump over my head – and continued on my way. It was really cool being surrounded by FULL triathletes as I ran. Being passed by speedy people definitely had something to do with my great pace I’m sure. Mile 2 clicked by at 10:55 with the water stop, and I laughed, amazed at my speed.

Finally, around mile 3.5 I started to flag – there was now no relief from the sun and the hills were brutal. At the next to last water stop, volunteers were handing out baggies of ice and I grabbed one – what a brilliant idea! I alternated between running with the baggie at my neck and throat and wrists, and grabbed a few cubes out to chew on every few minutes too.

A little after mile 4, I was walking up a hill when a guy passed me: “Come on Jess, it’ll be over faster if you run,” he said as he whizzed by. Knowing my teammates and friends and family would be there at the finish, I glanced at my watch – just over 3/4 of a mile left. As good a time as any to drop the hammer, I figured. The crowds grew thicker and I could hear the roar at the finish line, so I downed the last cup of water I’d been carrying and took off.

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Note the serious face and airborne running form.

I pushed through the pain and focused on the people screaming on the sidelines.. My watched ticked to mile 5 and I groaned – the course was long, 8K was under 5! As we rounded the last few tight corners to get to the finish I went into a full out sprint and glanced at the crowds scanning for my people. Unfortunately, I was so overheated and focused on finishing that I didn’t see anyone. BUT that final extended kick managed to get me over the finish line at a freakin fantastic time: 56:29 for 5.22 miles (!) for an average of 10:50 per mile!!!

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I was so pumped – but also dehydrated and overheated. So I pounded some water, accepted an ice cold wet towel from a volunteer, grabbed the three medals our team earned, turned in my timing chip and headed for the Family Reunion area where I met up with Mike and my friend Lizzie (who had just finished TEN miles that morning for her training run!!)

Alex and Chris showed up shortly after with a crew of their friends, and we all hung out to bask in our post-race glow before heading out to celebratory brunch.

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Also, I will never forgive you for not putting the shirt on for the picture, Chris. Never. 

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2,000 words later, I’ll sum it up: this was a great event and we were super happy with our performances. Being fresh for each leg of the event makes a huge difference that I’m grateful for this time around: shortly after we finished they shortened the run to 1.2 miles and had people go right to the finish upon entering the park!

The logistics of it are huge and while the expo/packet pickup situation was a real stress-inducer, it was surprisingly well managed and all the volunteers were super helpful. I’d give it a solid A and would gladly do again as part of a relay team, possibly even on my own!

My New Celebrity Fitspiration

So, I’m a big Star Wars fan now. I’m guessing you knew that already though.

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While I love the whole fictional universe, I also dig the new stars in the franchise. They’re a talented, eclectic bunch of people with different personalities and styles, and I’m loving all of them. Especially Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey.

I liked her in the movie, but when I discovered her Instagram a few weeks after seeing the movie back in January, I was instantly hooked. She’s adorable,  you guys.

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Also, with posts like this, let’s face it: she’s kind of my spirit animal. 

In a sea of vapid, cookie cutter “celebrities”, her feed stands out. You can really get a sense of her voice and what she’s passionate about – she’s not afraid to speak up and be goofy – AND she loves posting videos of her insane Star Wars workouts. These aren’t little “yay for bicep curls!” videos though. This chick is putting in some serious WORK. So what did I do? Take notes on her workouts and adapted them for myself, of course!

What does the Daisy Workout consist of? Here’s a sampling from a few of her recent videos (note: technical terms are NOT my strong suit. I just call them as I see them):

  • Walking lunges with overhead weight
  • High Knee jumps
  • Pull ups with elevated legs
  • Kneeling bicep band pulldowns
  • Pilates 100’s
  • Jump Squats
  • Jump squats with overhead bar & press
  • Lateral Jumps
  • Lunges with band twist
  • Suspension cable pull ups
  • Kneeling jumps
  • Medicine ball tosses
  • Kettle bell squat lifts (5x arm)
  • One legged box jump
  • Squat jumps with bar
  • Straight overhead Leg lifts
  • Straight leg situps

Now, this is by no means meant to be an official workout, please don’t try all of these and sue for damages when you can’t lift your head off the pillow the next day. I am NOT a professional – I was just looking for a good strength training workout and these moves clearly helped our girl Daisy so why can’t I give them a shot?

Word of warning: after doing half of those exercises up there for a full 40 minutes Tuesday, I’m STILL sore 48 hours later. So please, workout at your own risk.

But while these moves are HARD and have me grunting and swearing and unable to get into my car without screaming the next day, I do know this: I feel pretty badass when I’m done!

How about you: Who’s your current celebrity fitspiration? Have any famous-people workouts to share? Gimme gimme!

 

April Fools 11K Race Recap

I went into this past weekend’s race with low expectations. I was coming off of 4 days without solid food thanks to a nasty stomach bug earlier in the week and didn’t get to run (or MOVE) as much as I’d wanted to, so my goal was simply to finish and enjoy the weekend in Atlantic City with my husband. Spoiler alert: mission accomplished!

We arrived late Friday afternoon and picked up my packet at the Nike Outlet – the process was seamless, even if it was a little annoying to have to leave the comfort of the boardwalk/hotel area and into the whipping frozen winds. I guess I’ve been spoiled by the AC Marathon Race Series in October where everything conveniently takes place in the host hotel. After packet pickup we headed out for dinner where I went for some delicious hot soup loaded with veggies, chicken, shrimp, and wontons.

Once our bellies were full we headed back to the room where I prepped. The forecast wasn’t good: rain was imminent, it just remained to be seen how hard it would rain. I was SO glad I threw my rain jacket in the suitcase at the last minute! My pre-race bedtime ritual involves staying off my phone as much as possible, so I settled down in my super comfy bed with my new coloring book before lights out at 10.

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I was pretty impressed with how well I stayed in the lines.

The race start wasn’t until 9AM (can I get an amen?!) so I blissfully got to sleep in til about 7. Once the alarm went off I ate, layered up, and we headed out into the downpour.

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The boardwalk was empty because of the driving rain, but once I got into Resorts I found everyone hiding in the hotel, where I met up with my cousin and uncle, and a friend from work who was running with her friend too. Considering there were about another 100 people in that little area, it was a big ol’ love in.

I kept flip flopping between running in my jacket or just sticking with my long sleeve because it was around 47 degrees and my jacket is SUPER toasty, but once we all herded out into the pouring rain I made the wise choice to run in the jacket, heat be damned. My head was drenched in seconds and the water pouring down my nose made it hard to see, so the hood went up and we were off at the sound of the horn.

The 7K and 11K took off at the same time and I’ll admit: the sounds we were all making made me laugh pretty hard. Everyone was groaning, grunting, squealing, or making some kind of funny noise trying to see through the rain and stay upright. The boards were slippery – I saw two women go down HARD on their knees and slide like soccer goalies, only to pop back up unharmed thanks to the amount of rain on the boardwalk – but I managed to keep my footing and a nice 12:00 pace.

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I unzipped my coat for the finish line so I could rep the Club and see my # 😉

The course is all on the boardwalk, which is a blessing and a curse because you feel kind of like you’re going on and on forever in one direction only to flip around and go back the same way. But it was fun seeing all the faster folks pass by – especially the people who were dressed up like Ghostbusters, Wonder Woman, and the Hulk! I just wish it was clearer so I didn’t have to wear my hood the whole time, I know I missed a lot of folks because I had to keep my head down to watch where I was running!

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At around Mile 3, I dropped my arms to my sides to shake them out, and water came POURING out of them; it had been collecting through the gap near my wrists, but the waterproof fabric held it in there! I don’t know if I can stress enough just how HARD it was raining, but the race pics there give you a good idea. After I realized the water was pooling in my sleeves I realized it was probably in my pockets too – which it was, along with my phone and my iPod! That’s when I stopped, time be damned, and took those things out of my pocket and slipped them into my Fuelbelt under my jacket and longsleeve – they were all wet but still functional, thank goodness!

After I turned back around at mile 3.5ish, the rain let up a tiny bit so I was able to take off my hood. I had fallen into a pretty good rhythm and my pace had jumped up to around 11:55. Energized by those numbers, I told myself to push a little harder after my gel at mile 5. For the last 2 miles I ran negative splits and felt the burn the whole last mile. I wasn’t surprised; I’d only run twice in the previous week for a total of 12 miles. But once I saw the finish line, my husband, and a warm, dry casino, I sprinted for the finish with a shout:

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And earned my medal with a finish time of 1:20:38!

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I met up with my uncle who was waiting for my cousin to finish, and my friends were there too so we had to take a drowned rat “after” pic before heading back inside.

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I feel cold just looking at us.

Once we got in and said our goodbyes, we made the frozen, soaking wet walk back to our hotel where I snapped one final selfie with my medal, took the best hot shower of my life and ate a nice post-race meal at The Continental. Then we passed out for 5 hours, woke up for dinner, hung out with friends for a bit and then went to bed again. We were tired,  yo!

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The following day we packed up and headed out into the brutal winds to cheer on my friends running the half marathon that morning. Where I had to deal with pouring rain, these rockstars faced unbelievable wind gusts up to 60mph (!!) and a wind chill in the 20’s. I seriously don’t know how they did it, because the only thing keeping me going was the chance to scream my head off for Mer over at Scootadoot and Jenny, who ran her first half marathon EVER in those horrible conditions! Gurl, if you can do that you can do anything!

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While I was waiting to cheer them on, I got to showcase my sweet spectating dance moves when the Beastie Boys came on at the finish line. For real though, try not to look directly into the awesomeness that is this video clip:

I told you it was pretty amazing.

All in all it was a great race and a fantastic weekend, even if the weather didn’t want to cooperate!

Best. Weekend. EVER.

After a solid week of training last week, I took my rest day Friday pretty seriously:

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And drank WAY too much Merlot with some of my favorite ladies in the world. I regret NOTHING.

Once I washed the chlorine out of my hair on Saturday, I aimed for “active recovery” which meant movement but nothing too strenuous: perfect for a day wandering around NYC with hubby!

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This was a selfishly-planned trip on my part: we went in to see the Star Wars and the Power of Costume exhibit in Times Square, which I’d been silently fangirling over it since I clicked “Buy Tickets” earlier in the week.

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Me, since last Monday.

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If I was this excited over cardboard, you did NOT want to see me when I rounded a corner and came face to face with the real Chewy.

And BOY was I not disappointed:

GUYS I MET YODA. THE REAL YODA.

Okay. I’m better.

NO WAIT I’M NOT, I ALSO SELFIED WITH BB8:

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I may also be crying just a little bit in this picture.

Alright, I’m all good now.

After a few hours wandering around and snapping pictures, I had my fill of riding the emotional rollercoaster of seeing Carbonite Han, Amidala’s crazy get ups, Rey’s scavenger gear, and all the rest of it. To ease back into reality, we went for a nice early dinner at a British pub, complete with a Shirley Temple because I’m a big girl and I can order my own big girl drinks.

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Once we finished dinner we did a little shopping (and I may or may not have dragged Mike into the Disney store where I purchased Star Wars gear, #sorrynotsorry) and we made it back to Penn Station just in time for the 6PM train. I was a little worried that I’d burnt out my legs before the 9 miles I had scheduled for Sunday, but evidently those worries were all for nothing.

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Spoiler Alert: I nailed my best 10 mile run EVER.

I set out down in Asbury and ran right into Jenny who was just about to finish her 8 miles (what up, girl!!). I struggled through the first mile because I had overdressed: I had to peel off my extra arm warmers after half a mile and ran them back to my car so I didn’t have to hold them for 2 hours. It was kind of a mess.

But even with the stutter start I kept an eye on my pace and managed to stay under 12:00/mile the whole first half. I told myself I’d spin around at mile 5, around Spring Lake. It was nice to charge down the boards at a decent pace like that, and once I fell into a rhythm by mile 3 I felt pretty unstoppable. The St. Patty’s Day parade was happening in Belmar so it was fun seeing all the folks (and pups!) in their green gear – I even spied a few bagpipers!

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And the seashell mantras are back again too, hooray! Love spotting these random beauties along the route.

I was particularly impressed with my consistent pacing: between 11:20-11:55 basically the whole time! My only stop was at Mile 5 when I took my gel and finished the last of my water. I paused my watch and gave myself one full minute to stretch, but when I started up again I was hit directly in the face with a wall of freezing wind. GREAT, I thought, there goes my pace!

My too-warm (now super sweaty) shirt was COLD. For a half mile or so I thought I might be ruined, but after glancing at my pace and seeing a pretty effortless 11:55, I changed my mind. By Mile 6 I had warmed back up, the wind calmed, and my pace was still around 11:45. At Mile 7 I took inventory: everything felt surprisingly great, despite having run 7 miles at one of my best paces yet! Suddenly I thought: wouldn’t it be great to do 10 miles? I know the schedule says 9, but imagine the ego boost you’d get nailing a double digit run so early in your training! Let’s see how we feel at mile 8.

Well, as you can see by the Garmin shot up there I stuck it out for 10, and ended up NAILING my first double digit training run since October. My legs were ready to call it quits at around Mile 9, but I wasn’t experiencing the real pain and tightness in my hips, knees, and calves that I’d felt in previous training runs. So I pushed through that final mile on pure adrenaline really, and celebrated with some “boardwalk running” pics.

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It was so great – I stretched a little on the boardwalk and practically floated back to the car (well, hobbled, but you get the idea), then headed home for a quick lunch before heading over to a friend’s to meet her new baby and spend some quality time with her family.

By the time I got home at 7pm, I was ready for BED in a big way. This was one of my busiest but most fulfilling weekends yet, but I loved every second of it. How about you – how did your weekend go? Tell me all about it!

Gimme a Beat

I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but here in NJ, it’s finally staying lighter later and that makes me one happy runner!

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I swear I’m part plant for how much I love the sun.

Tuesday night I decided to make the most of this new brighter evening time and went for a run after work. It was chilly but manageable, but overall, it was a super 4 miles, mainly because I had the right running tunes.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you probably know that music plays a huge part in my life, especially in my running. New music gets me motivated for training runs when I’m burnt out. A perfectly paced song keeps my legs turning over at the right speed and prevents me from slowing down when I’m in the middle of a brutal long run. And at the end of a tough race, I rely on music to send a fresh surge of adrenaline through my veins and carry me over the finish strong. In short: music is my LIFE. So when the folks at Spring Moves shot me an email, I was intrigued.

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Spring Moves is an iOS app that tracks your running cadence by Steps Per Minute, and plays music to match your pace. I was skeptical at first – would it eat up my battery (nope), would I be able to skip songs (yep), would it be crappy music I’d never heard before (nope)? Besides, I’d tried to make my own BPM mixes before and found that the pacing was never consistent enough, and I’d burn out trying to keep pace with music that was too fast. All that skepticism went away after a few runs with Spring, I’m pretty sure I’ve found my magic bullet.

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Not to mention some fancy Spring headphones!

To start, you select as many genres of music and artists you like. To be sure I’d get a good mix, I went crazy and picked metal, alternative, rap, remixes, and electronic. With more than 25,000 songs in their database, I wasn’t disappointed! Since I started using the app I’ve covered about an hour’s worth of music and only skipped a handful of songs. It’s all stuff that I enjoy but wouldn’t have considered running to because I wasn’t sure of the pacing. But once I got going and the beat kept me moving? Look out!

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How can you be disappointed when they play Nirvana?

Over the course of my runs, I heard System of a Down, Ingrid Michaelson, Black Sabbath, Eminem, Gorillaz, and more. The songs were all originals, slightly tweaked to match my footstrikes at around 164 SPM. In turn, the tunes pushed me to keep turning my legs over even when I felt like slowing down going uphill or towards the end of my run. They even left the curse words IN, you guys! I know it’s not for everyone, but I LOVE when they leave the curses in – there’s nothing like hearing Kendrick Lamar really lay into a beat while I’m pushing up a tough hill – but if that isn’t your thing you can eve change the settings to exclude explicit songs.

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And they even cheered me on when I finished!

Because I was so impressed with the app, I signed on to be a Spring Influencer to share the love with you guys. Want to try Spring for free? Text JESSRUNSHAPPY to 41411 and get one free month of workout music tailored to your pace!

The best part is that it’s not just for runners, either – if your arms are moving, Spring will pick up your pace and play tunes to match you. That means you can even Spring when walking. On those days where you don’t really feel like getting out there, this is a great way to start putting one foot in front of the other and seeing where the music takes you.

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And it took ME to an awesome 11:23/mile pace even after a full day of work.

I can’t wait for my run tonight knowing that I get a fresh selection of new tunes to keep me going. Interested in Spring? Get a free trial here (or here if you’re on desktop) and let me know what you think!

 

Half Marathon Training Week 2 (& Giveaway Winner!)

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone out there in the blog-iverse! I hope you spent some time today treating yourself however you like best, whether with chocolate or a run or vegging on the couch or wine (or all 4). Hubby and I celebrated in a low-key way, which is how I like it: with a box of Star Wars chocolates, some nice cards, a delicious seafood dinner at a Portuguese restaurant around the corner, and a nap. ❤

Half marathon training is in full swing over here. I’m still more than 2 months from race day but feeling super confident thanks to all these longer races I’ve been doing in the “off” season. My weekly long runs have stayed around 5-6 miles for a while, and my 2 training runs during the week are at a solid 4 miles apiece (when they used to be 2.5-3ish). This training cycle is all about that base [mileage], and I’m happy to log more miles consistently, because it means big improvements in my speed! Case in point: this week’s runs:

I logged 14 miles this week, all under 12:00/mile. This was especially exciting during my long run on Saturday, when I managed to nail 6 full miles at that amazing pace. I can’t remember the last time I did that! Usually once I go over 5 miles I slow down considerably, but this is promising.

The difference this time around? I know I may sound like a broken record, but the acupuncture has really been a game changer. Thanks to the appetite management treatments, I’m still not overeating or snacking like I used to. This has led to a pretty noticeable weight loss: depending on the day it’s between 12-15 lbs! I’m so glad I’m not lugging that extra weight around with me on the pavement! I go for treatment #4 this Wednesday and can’t wait to give him the good news 🙂

Along with the  weight loss, the acupuncture has also increased my energy levels in a big way. I wake up before my alarm, feeling refreshed and ready to go almost every day, regardless of when I get to bed the night before. And even though I recently took on an extra role at work on top of my existing responsibilities (meaning 2x the pressure, focus, and mental energy needed each day), I’ve still managed to nail my workouts even after a full day of work for the past 2 weeks.

On top of the running I’ve been doing to kick off this training cycle, I’m focusing on making those cross training and strength training days count, with full hours dedicated to arms or legs, with core work to cap off every session. I’m finally noticing little changes in my body and will keep it up to see where I can go from here.

And when I take a rest day, I really TAKE that rest day. Like this past Friday, when I went to see Star Wars for the [I don’t want to admit how many]th time and got up close and personal with Mr. Kylo Ren here:

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That’s about it for training this past week! I do want to close out this update with a fun announcement: our Love to Run Giveaway winner! Drumroll please…. Congratulations Miss Meridith Daniel! I clicked “random winner” and you were our lucky lady!! Check your inbox for instructions on how to claim your prize pack 🙂

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Mere and I had a fantastic response to this giveaway with almost 450 entries, and we thank each and every one of you for participating! It’s such an honor to work with companies like Greecie Girl and Cocogo to bring you guys these contests, and I can’t wait to bring you even more opportunities to win fun stuff in the future!

So now that we’re starting a new week, tell me: how is your training going? Did you do anything fun for Valentine’s Day? 

Pins and Needles

Since I first started getting acupuncture done, a lot of folks have asked me for details. How does he know what do work on? [we talk about it at have a mini therapy session at the start of every treatment] What parts of your body do the needles go in? [depends on what he’s treating that day] Do they hurt? [nope!]

It’s a weird experience – and one that I detailed in depth in my first post about it last month – but I’m happy to chat about it as much as possible, if only to spread the word that this stuff is pretty magical. I know some folks might be skeptical about it, and that’s fine. Hell, I was skeptical too, before I tried it. But I started noticing a positive difference immediately after my first session and it’s only gotten better with more treatments.

Last night I had my third session, where we worked a little more on my anxiety and depression points (wrists), appetite control (ears), and continued treatment on my knees for pain management and increased energy overall. In my second session 2 weeks ago he introduced the concept of focusing on drawing in the energy while I sit with the pins in my body – “Think of the pins as little antennas, drawing in the energy” – and while I kind of made this face at first…

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… I decided to go with it and found that it kind of worked. When I went on my last long-ish run this past weekend, I started to feel the usual twingey feeling in my left knee at around mile 3. So I stopped to walk, stretched a bit, and focused on the spots those needles sat in during my last treatment, along with some breathing exercises that the doctor taught me. While it didn’t erase the pain (I mean, nothing will), the pain didn’t last as long and didn’t return when I stopped for the day. I had a few little pinches and pops here and there but nothing lingered. I’ll take it!

And I know I’m a broken record about it, but I can’t overstate it: the appetite suppression points he worked in my ears are unbelievably effective. I haven’t binged in almost a month and have lost between 8-10 lbs depending on the day. The urge to turn to food when I’m stressed, bored, or upset is simply no longer there. Sure, I get the usual pangs if I’m truly hungry (4 hours after a smoothie and an hour past my usual lunch time when I’m stuck in a webinar). And when I finally get the chance to eat, I also don’t find myself so ravenous that I reach for the first bad choice. Smarter choices are easier to make.

I’m super excited to see what this means for my half marathon training. Even though I only just started, the added energy, weight loss, and anxiety relief is sure to help across the board. I’ll be sure to post more about it as I continue both my treatments and my training, but in the meantime consider this a resounding endorsement for pins and needles!

What do you think – do you do acupuncture? Or do you rely on any other alternative treatments like it? Share in the comments!

 

NJ Half Marathon Training Week 0

Hey all! I’m currently in the middle of my first week of training for the New Jersey Half Marathon in May, and let’s just say I’m glad I added a few extra runs before the plan officially started:

I’m happy to say that the apocalypse you see up there is all but melted now, just over a week since it happened. Thank goodness, too, because I don’t think I could take trudging over a snow mound 4 feet high just to get to my front gate much longer.

To kick off my training a little early I did a few strength training + 1 mile run double workouts last week at the office gym just to get my body used to moving consistently again. I even surprised myself with a nice steady 3.5 mile run at what now feels like an “easy” pace – and on a treadmill to boot!

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Once the weekend hit, I went into high gear with an hour or so of strength training and cross training on Saturday, followed by my first “long” run on Sunday.

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The spinning, lifting, ab, and leg work I did on Saturday morning was made all the more intense thanks to those nifty little tights you see in the pic up there: Physiclo resistance tights. These babies have built-in resistance bands that add a little extra burn to every workout and make me sweat a little harder than I care to admit. That’s a good thing though, especially when I’m doing strength training!

Sunday morning I woke up to a delightfully sunny day, and did a happy dance when I realized it was almost 60 degrees. 60!! On the last day of January!! After babying a slightly pulled muscle in my back (thanks, over-zealous ab work and old mattress) all morning I decided to make the most of the weather and go for a run down the shore.

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I was so stoked! An hour or more all to myself with my new tunes and the ocean, what a great long run it was going to be! I went out thinking I’d aim for 5 miles, but if I did 4 that would be OK too. I’ve got the NYRR Gridiron 4 Miler next weekend in Central Park, which I plan on racing full out, so part of me is keeping things a little conservative this week.

Yeah, I was evidently SO stoked about this run that I left in a hurry and forgot my headphones at home.

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[sad trombone sound effect]

I had, however, driven more than a half hour to get to my running destination, so I had no choice but to go for it, sans music. Which I HATE. Yes, I know that running is all about connecting with your body and feeling the rhythm and getting into your own thoughts… yeah you know what? I’m kind of tired of my own thoughts. I’m an only child and have spent more time with my own thoughts than I care to admit. Sometimes I like just leaving the headphones at home and feeling it, but not this time.

To make things a LITTLE more bearable, I played a podcast by the hilarious Bill Burr on my iPhone speakers, just loud enough for me to hear, and took off on the boardwalk for my long run.

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It wasn’t exactly the head-clearing, zone-out for an hour and rock the groove kind of run I had hoped for, but it was good. I laughed at Burr’s ridiculousness – and had to turn the volume down when passing families with small children! – but after about 2 miles in one direction I started to feel the boredom creep in. This is usually where my tunes would kick in and carry me over the hump and into my second wind.

Instead of the refreshing boost I’d get with a new song, I instead just shut the podcast down and ran. It was not fun. I sang songs in my head. I bobbed and weaved through increasing crowds (who knew Asbury Park Beerfest was the same day?) and noticed that the lack of energy had affected my pace negatively – I was averaging about 11:49/mile at 3.5 and that made me angry. I knew I was capable of better!

So with the final half mile left before I got back to my car, I took off and breezed past everyone, leaping over crusty snow banks and splashing through puddles at around 9:xx/mile pace, loving the feel of the wind in my face and the cold breeze in my lungs. The sprinting paid off, and I finished at my car just over 4 miles at a much lower average pace, thankyouverymuch!

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I’ll call this Week 0 because while I’m more active than I’ve been in the off season, the workouts aren’t 100% on plan. Tonight is a rest night because I’ve got acupuncture appointment #3 (hooray!) and a run and strength workout scheduled for tomorrow, then a light shakeout run Friday to prep for Sunday’s race.

I’m really excited to see what Central Park has in store for me – my current 4M PR is 45:05 which will be hard to beat especially on those hills, but who knows? I plan on giving it 100% and seeing what I’m capable of.

How about you – how’s your training going? Any races coming up? Let me know in the comments!