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. ❤

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!

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?

Newport Half Marathon, Here I Come!

Because I have the NYC Marathon coming up in less than 8 weeks…

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… I’ve purposely kept my racing schedule down to a minimum. This time last year I’d run more than a handful of races in all distances while leading up to my October half marathon, but that was because adding shorter distances while training wasn’t too big of a deal for me then. What was a 5K the day after a 6 mile long run, right?

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Fast forward to this summer, when I realized my marathon training plan would have me doing double digits nearly every weekend from August-October, and suddenly the idea of adding a 5K or 10K before or after didn’t seem so appealing.

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That’s not to say I’m completely bereft of races from now through November 5th; I could never miss the Seaside Semper Five on September 16th (especially after what happened last year), so I’m running that.

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I was a little wary of adding anything more though, because the next day I have 16 on the calendar. It will be my longest run to date, and while I just had a super successful 14 miler a few weeks ago, the thought of doing 3.1 before it is a little scary.

But when the folks at the Newport Racing Series reached out to me to see if I wanted to run the Newport Half Marathon the next day on 9/17, I jumped at the opportunity: I had a fantastic time at the Newport 10K back in May, and knowing how well the race would be organized (and being familiar with at least half of the course!), I would be thrilled to use the half marathon as a training run in the lead up to my marathon. Thirteen point one miles of cheering spectators, beautiful views, and aid stations on my long run? Meaning I only have to run 3 miles on my own afterwards for my 16 total?

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Yes, please!

So I’m super stoked to be running the Newport Half Marathon and can’t wait to nail my mileage with the help of a few thousand friends and spectators. Plus I get a medal at the end of it; how many long training runs give you a medal? Uhm, none, I think. So yeah.

It will be kind of weird knowing that everyone else is out for blood during the race while I plod along at my marathon goal pace to keep my legs fresh. I’m definitely going to force myself to walk most of the 5K the day before to really give it my best shot and not show up to the starting line completely shredding, but I won’t be gunning for time or a new PR at this race at all. It’s fast, flat, and a beautiful course, and I plan on just enjoying every step of those 13 (er, 16) miles.

What do you think: Have you ever used a race as part of your training? Would you consider it? Let’s hear it in the comments!

Star Wars Dark Side Challenge Recap: Half Marathon

With the 10K complete (and another day of Florida fun under our belts), mama and I got back to the hotel on Saturday night and found this fun voicemail on our room phone:

Gotta love that Disney touch 🙂

The next morning we woke up nice and early – 2:30am again! – and after putting on Flat Vader, I headed out for the Dark Side Half Marathon and the completion of the Kessel Run Challenge and Disney’s Coast to Coast Challenge!

The same bus ride as the day before took us to the same Start location, but instead of doing any character photos, I hung out near the stage area and watched the pre-race show (and almost got picked for the trivia contest but chickened out)! The best part was getting to see The Last Jedi trailer on the big screen with everyone, and admiring the insane costumes some people were running in.

That’s a Millennium Falcon in Mickey ears, a SUPER REALISTIC Krennic (hubba hubba), a Dark Helmet, and yes… a George Lucas (I stole the pic from Disney’s website, it’s too perfect). 

My friend Lizzie was running the half with her uncle, so we met up and headed over to the Corrals, where we chatted and waited for a final bathroom break, then went our separate ways. While waiting to start in Corral E, I managed to get some video of the fun psych up speech the Stormtroopers gave every morning about these races being a test for Captain Phasma to find the best soldiers and it gave me a little giggle.

Another fun thing I caught was the HUGE fireworks display they set off at the very start – Disney really pulls out all the stops for these things!

After corrals A-D and E1 went off, one of the coolest things happened: the corral was cut in half RIGHT in front of me and I was one of the folks that got to hold the start ribbon!!

Me and the folks around me were losing our minds – how cool was it to START our corral? It was an awesome experience to be the very first people to start, and gave me a taste of what the elites must feel (although they probably don’t selfie NEARLY as much when it happens to them):

When the gun went off and the fireworks shot off over our heads, I ran through some ash from the firework and laughed the whole first 100 yards – we felt like we were in the Olympics all by ourselves up there! I had to calm myself though: no sense in going out at an 8 minute mile when I still had 12.1 more to go.

The first 3-4 miles in the dark were on the highway and in back roads between parks, and almost immediately I noticed a difference from the 10K. They had more music on the course, screens playing the movies, and one section where they laid out a crazy laser light show along a stretch of about 100 yards between forest on either side, complete with big speakers playing music and background noises and Ewok battle cries to simulate the battle on Endor! I loved it, even if I did get blinded by a few rogue lasers.

By about Mile 5, the sun started coming up, but thankfully, it stayed behind the clouds. It was a true blessing:  with the sun hidden, it stayed relatively cool, even though the humidity was still around 90%, even at 7am.

In addition to a few character stops that I didn’t bother making, I got to see another fun piece of Disney magic around mile 6: a real live elephant! I didn’t get a picture, but apparently the Animal Kingdom park has an elephant care and rehab facility where they treat the animals, and one was hanging out watching us run! I know there’s some controversy around the fact that these guys are even there at all, but I had to laugh at how random it was to find an elephant on my half marathon course. Only in Disney.

After the Animal Kingdom we headed back out on the highway for mile 7 on, and my stomach was starting to get a little wonky. So I stopped at a medical tent for some Immodium (just keeping it real, folks), and headed back out for the final 5-6 miles feeling much better.

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The view of the rest of the crowd behind me from an overpass we ran under then over.

One of the last character stops I made was partially for the character and partially just so I could get a break from running in the humidity! Darth Maul was never really a *must have* for me, but I turned out to really enjoy this guy. The cast members managing his line led him off for a break right before I got to meet him, so I was “first” in line again. The one cast member thought the line deserved a photo, so she snapped one. And when she showed me, I HAD to have it. But as I was giving her my cell # to text it to me, Darth Maul came back and had to wait for me to finish chatting. He was not pleased. Either that or that’s just his face. Either way, it made for some funny photos:

After Darth Maul, we ran through Hollywood Studios and I managed to get a fun picture with my squad, along with some nice runfies and shots of the scenery:

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While I had gone easy for most of the first 10 miles, I ran the last 1-2 miles feeling strong.

It was the same route we ran the day before so we got to pass the Dolphin and Swan resorts before entering Epcot for the final stretch (and I got to see Hux again! What’s up, General Bitchface Weasley?!)

Bonus: as we went through the Boardwalk, I found Denny of the Diz Runs podcast spectating at mile 11 (he’s at the far right in a red shirt below)!! Seeing a friendly face and giving him a big ol’ sweaty hug was just the boost I needed to get me to the finish.

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As if Mother Nature knew we were almost done, the sun came out FULL force as we rounded the corner into Epcot.

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Having to run the final mile in full sun was brutal, but the view was nice and knowing we only had a mile left made me run stronger than ever.

After learning that the finish line was just on the other side of Spaceship Earth during the 10K, that big metal ball was a sight for sore eyes.

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Sore, sweaty, exhausted eyes.

I gunned it and made it through the finish with a big ol’ smile – I had completed the challenge!

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After getting a cold towel and my medal (and a bottle of water that I was instructed to have OPEN as I passed through the finisher’s chute, thanks to a bunch of attentive medical volunteers), I was directed to the challenge tents where I picked up the bling that made me want to do this whole thing: my Dark Side Challenge medal, Kessel Run Challenge medal and Coast to Coast Challenge medal.

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I won’t lie: I cried when the volunteer put the last medal around my neck. She hugged me and said “Oh, bless you! Congratulations!” and I couldn’t pull it together. These medals were more than just pieces of metal; they were the culmination of a LOT of hard work, travel, and time, and they were finally mine. A fun side effect of all that bling: the music they made when we walked around the finish area:

After a quick stop at the medical tent to ice my sore calf (no big deal, just tenderness), I hung out and waited for one last picture with Kylo Ren (again with my awkwardness), and called it a day.

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Stay tuned for the final recap where I head into the parks and round up both Disney experiences in one last post!

Star Wars Dark Side Challenge Recap: Expo & Pre-Race Fun

Oye I promise I haven’t fallen off a cliff – I’ve just been super busy with a new exciting role at work and other life-related fun. But now that I have some time, I’m going to start my recaps for the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge! Let’s kick it off with the expo and pre-race fun!

For this race-cation, my husband opted to stay home and let the girls off the leash for a weekend – that’s right, Mama and I took on Florida in a big way. The flight was excellent (any day that starts with a mimosa that’s 95% champers is a good day) and we landed, picked up our rental car, and arrived at the All Star Movies Resort ready to take on the world.

Our first order of business was to get to the Expo to pick up my bib and ALL THE MERCH. After dumping our luggage and grabbing a snack, we hopped on a bus to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex where everything was located, and found it to be super easy to navigate. We even made friends with a gentleman and his tween son on the bus – dad Paul was completing the Kessel Run Challenge like me and his son Avery was taking on his first Disney race. We had a good time talking Star Wars and racing while my mom shook her head, saying “you people are all insane but it’s great!”

Speaking of insane, the Expo was B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

After picking up my bib, getting my photo snapped for the Dark Side Challenge, and earning some bracelets that noted my Coast to Coast and Kessel Run medal status for the end of the half, we stopped at the merch tents at the bib pickup building and the expo building (they were about 100 feet apart). After snagging a few things at the expo, I stopped by the Altra booth to say hey to my people there, and hightailed it out of the building. I was going on 14+ hours of nonstop action and needed a break.

Seriously, I posed with EVERY SIGN THEY HAD. I couldn’t help it. I was on Star Wars overload!

When we got back to the hotel at about 7pm, we were wiped out, but we still had to explore the hotel – and lo and behold, we discovered that they were playing a movie in the outdoor Movie Room by the pool!

The crisis of joy continued as I got to watch The Force Awakens while tooling around on social media and planning my race strategy for the 10k/half marathon to come in just a little more than 24 hours!

After the movie, we wandered to the pool for a bit, grabbed some dinner, split a Celebration Cupcake (because: CUPCAKE), and called it a night.

The next day was blissfully free of any plans, so we literally did nothing.

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No, for real, we really didn’t do anything but wake up when the hell we felt like it, ate breakfast, sat by the pool from about 7 hours, wandered around our hotel and made friends, and then went to bed again. It was GLORIOUS.

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The best part of our day was after dinner: in the hotel lobby, we stumbled upon a couple of women who were laughing their asses off at these screens hanging in the hall. See, we’d seen my name on one before, and wondered if it was just a coincidence. But these sassy ladies cracked the code: there were apparently sensors that read our Magic Bands (bracelets coded with our info that let us buy things all over Disney and get into our rooms), which then displayed our names on the screens. Krin and Julia realized that if they walked slowly past certain areas, it triggered their names to appear on the screens, which they demonstrated for us about a half dozen times, much to our mutual delight.

Seriously, we were laughing so hard I had to use the bathroom. It must have been the Disney Magic they pump through the air vents 😉 IMG_6994.JPG

After we got our cardio in by laughing with our new friends, we took a slow walk around the resort property and snapped some pictures – it really was a nice place, even if it was a more “budget-friendly” option it was still Disney, so the quality is everywhere!

After a glass of wine by the pool after dark, we headed back to the room for Flat Phasma and an early bedtime! That 2:35AM wake up wasn’t going to get any easier.

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Stay tuned for Part II: the 10K!

Spring Racing Season

While my summer and fall racing schedule is pretty barren (for good reason), I also left my spring wide open to accommodate the Dark Side Challenge in April. After running the Rebel Challenge in Anaheim in January, I learned how much training and recovery time I need around a 19.3 mile race weekend and didn’t want to overload myself too much with NYC on the horizon.

But now that the spring is nearly here – and I’m feeling stronger than ever before – I’ve added a few races to my calendar that I’m excited to talk about now.

The NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10K – April 9

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Having run this one last year, I was looking forward to it but didn’t know when the timing would shake out. Last year it was in late May, but a schedule change this year means it falls in early April – conveniently on a day when I need to run 12 miles! So I’ll head in to run 6.2 on the race course then add another 6 miles with my medal to complete my long run. I’m looking forward to returning to racing in Central Park as I haven’t been since the Marathon Kickoff in October – bring on that hill training!

The Dark Side Challenge 10K and Half Marathon – April 22 & 23

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I’ll be posting more about the prep I’ve been doing for this weekend soon, but a Spring Racing Calendar list would be incomplete without it.

The Newport 10K – May 6

This one I’m super excited about: I’ve heard of this race before but it’s almost always around the same time as the Asbury Park and NJ Half Marathons, so I was never able to make it. But thanks to my newly cleared calendar, this year when race organizers reached out to see if I’d be interested in becoming an Official Blog Partner, I jumped at the opportunity. So now I’m stoked to be taking on the “fastest course in the Tri-State area” on Saturday, May 6th, along the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway!

Now, I don’t know how quickly I’ll recover from racing 19.3 miles 2 weeks earlier (in January it took me a good two weeks), but I may even gun for a new 10K PR here. Based on what they say about the course being fast and flat, it sounds like I’ve got a good shot at it, so fingers crossed!

Front Runners New York LGBT Pride Run 5M

After running this one last year not too long after the attack in Orlando, I vowed to add it to my “never miss” list. It was one of the most supportive, meaningful experiences I’ve had at a race, and I’ll never turn down the opportunity to show my Pride.

So far that about wraps it up for my upcoming races – how about you, what does your Spring Calendar look like? Have you ever run any of these races before? Sound off in the comments!