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!

Taking Time to Be Grateful

After doing this blogging thing for a few years now, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to me and how it’s changed my life. Which has caused me to get pretty introspective lately – in a good way.

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Back in 2003 I was miserable, but I hid it by being overly confident and brash. Think Samantha Jones from Sex & the City but without all the ridiculous sex stuff.

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but WITH the martini habit

I was in college, but instead of figuring out the balance of how to have a social life while excelling in school, I avoided going out almost entirely and threw myself into professional development instead.

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Taking extra classes, loading up on extra-curriculars, networking, building up my resume and getting an awesome internship with the NJ Devils. I took no prisoners and managed to do some amazing things. But my confidence was SO delicate.


At the end of every day, I was truly miserable. I would either hang out with my friends in their dorm rooms and watch TV and eat and drink to oblivion, or go back to my dorm room and do the same, but alone.

When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, I knew something had to change. I HAD TO CHANGE. To beat the odds now stacked against me, I started to pay attention to what I ate at the dining hall. I watched an hour of Everybody Loves Raymond on the stationary bike in our dorm gym instead of on my bed. And wouldn’t you know it, I started to lose weight – and my confidence started to grow too.

Fast forward a few more years: I graduated, got a big girl job in the real world, and jumped into the dating scene. I reconnected with an old friend from my high school days and we started something serious – and I even convinced him to marry me! My friends started having babies and getting married. Throughout it all, I continued to lose weight and shape my new life along with my new body.

 

Fast forward even further, to when I discovered running. I ran my first race in 2010, started falling into a rhythm, and discovered the world of running bloggers. I would see them talk about all the progress they were making and all the opportunities they had and get all moon-eyed over just how awesome that would be, never expecting to do anything like that. But after realizing that in addition to these blogs there was a whole fitness and running community on places like Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, I decided to jump in too.

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My first race ever: a Pink Ribbon 5K with my papa and cancer-free mama ❤

Instagram was my first foray into the online fitness community. Then I started blogging, and soon Twitter and Facebook followed. When I started this ride I NEVER expected it to be as much of a blessing it has been, and that’s the truth. But I put myself out there in a few different – and scary – ways: offering to share my story, baring it all about my history with depression and anxiety, talking about the impact weight loss and running has had on my personal relationships, etc.

And then one day, those things I used to see the running bloggers talking about – they started happening to me.

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Shape Magazine interviewed me. I was asked to take over the Brooks Running IG feed. I was invited to run the NYRR 5th Avenue Mile. I’ve been selected as an Ambassador for the 2016 RWHalf and Festival next month. And as I get ready for what is shaping up to be an unbelievable few months, I have to take this moment to thank you all for coming along on this adventure with me.

I am TRULY grateful for all of the amazing opportunities that I’ve been given; I’m one of the luckiest people I know. But none of it would be possible without you reading, commenting, liking, following, and being with me on this ride. Whether I know you in real life or have only ever “met” you online – or even if you never say anything! – please know that I appreciate you taking time out of your day and reading and looking at the stuff I put out into the ether.

Thank you for being here – and I look forward to seeing where this road takes us in the future!

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!

 

Playing Hooky

Last week was one of those weeks that had me screaming for mercy by Tuesday.

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Seriously, my run Tuesday night wasn’t about training; it was running off the crazy. Thank god my Spring Moves app gave me a nice boost by randomly playing a Pumpkins song at the start. I’m really digging this app – not only is it music I like, it’s also timed to match the pace of my running (even angry running like this)! Check it out for free for a month by texting JESSRUNSHAPPY to 41411 🙂

So long story short, I ended up doing some unexpected speedwork: I burned out with a super-angry 9:50 first mile and fizzled out with a killer headache by the 5K mark. But thanks to the angry mile, that final pace? #killinit! After that, Wednesday turned out to be a beautiful new day. No, for real: it was like 75 degrees out.

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Actual footage of me on Wednesday.

When I learned that Thursday would be more of the same, I focused REALLY hard on Wednesday to take care of everything at work, and played hooky Thursday! Well not really – I had some family stuff I needed to take care of in the morning anyway. So I asked my boss, checked with my coworkers to not leave anyone in the lurch, and submitted the day off to HR, and I was OFF. Destination: Manhattan!

I had been itching to run in Central Park on my own since I started racing there last year, but I honestly didn’t think I had it in me. How was I going to carry all my stuff with me? What if I got too hot or too cold? Where would I run?

I finally realized that the only thing keeping me from this adventure was ME. So I took care of my business Thursday morning, loaded up my running pack with a clean change of clothes, ran the mile from our house to the train station, and got into Manhattan around noon. My goal was to do 4 miles around the park loosely following the path I’d run in recent races, so after a quick subway ride to 81st street I got out at the museum and took off across Central Park to the East side where I found my landmark: 1040 Fifth Avenue.

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When I see those terraces I just feel peace. Don’t know why, but I’ll take it.

It was a beautiful day: a little warm and muggy at 70-ish degrees, but overcast so not too hot. There were tons of people everywhere, laying on blankets in the grass, running, biking, taking pictures, juggling, singing, so it felt like a party everywhere I went. I even ran through a CBS shoot of Limitless, so keep an eye out on future episodes for me wandering through the shot in my little blue backpack.

I stayed more or less on the main path but went off on little side paths that seemed interesting, like up on the Reservoir Running path, or around the statue of the King of Poland on horseback. Rocking along to my music and taking in the sights – this is what running is all about. Going into the city was easy, I thought, why didn’t I do this sooner??

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After about 40 minutes or so I’d hit 3 miles (with all the stopping for pics and what not), and my knees were screaming. A quick check of my health app showed that I’d done more than 8 miles already with all the extra walking – no wonder I was tired! I also hadn’t eaten or drank anything, so I stopped at a little pretzel cart for water, took a gel, and decided to call my run at 3 miles.

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Well, my body had other plans. Once I got out of the park and saw the straight shot of Central Park West ahead of me, I thought, “Let’s try for 3.5.” Within minutes, 3.5 miles turned into almost 4, and I was COASTING at an even faster pace with nothing in my way to stop me. Turns out that little fueling stop was just what I needed, because I finally made it back downtown to Columbus Circle at 4 miles UNDER 11:00/mile!

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I was so psyched! The last mile just blinked by, and that pace? As I hobbled down the subway steps at 59th street to get back to Penn Station, while my knees were killing me, I still felt invincible.

After inhaling a turkey sandwich and picking up a brownie to split with the Mister later that night, I smiled to myself the whole train ride home. It just goes to show; sometimes you need to switch things up and go for it, even if “it” seems impossible. I’ve learned the anxiety I feel about something is almost always scarier and more paralyzing than the actual thing itself, whether it’s a big race or a solo adventure in Manhattan. Once I’m in the thick of things I almost always say to myself, “THIS is what you were afraid of?”

How about you – have you gone out of your comfort zone lately? What happened? Tell me all about it!

Make Stuff Happen

I’ll write a full post about last night’s 2nd acupuncture appointment this weekend, but long story short: it was another home run. We started treatment on my knees and while the affects aren’t as immediately as apparent there, he did continue to work on my anxiety and over-eating pressure points, and those two areas of my life still feel like they’re in perfect harmony for the first time in more than a year. It’s a great feeling and I’m looking forward to keeping it up throughout this winter, especially now that we’re about to be hit with a snowstorm that will keep me in my house (where the junk food is) for the next 48+ hours.

After my appointment I went to bed at my normal time and slept so soundly that I didn’t open my eyes again until they popped open at 5:45 all on their own. It was like a switch was flipped and I went from “OFF” to “ON” and I was ready for anything. So I decided that instead of rolling over and fighting to get back to sleep for one more measly hour, I’d go to the gym for one last run before the snow keeps me in the house for the next 48-72 hours.

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Evidently only about 6 other people had the same idea. Nutjobs.

I wasn’t going out for any records with these miles – while not technically junk miles, they were more of a test to see how my knees would fare after their first acupuncture treatment. My doc had warned me that they might still be tender but harmless, so I wanted to see for myself what that meant.

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The earlier the workout, the louder my tights get.

As it turns out, I barely felt a difference at all – at least I experienced no NEGATIVE side effects. I hopped right on my favorite corner treadmill, turned on my tunes (the same random rockin’ playlist from the Joe K 10K) and after only about 3 minutes of warming up, I broke into a smooth 11:32/mile pace and stayed there for 2 solid miles. Not bad!

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The extra time was that silly warm up – I need to remember to stop and re-start to get accurate times on the treadmill!

I could have kept going. I even had about another 10-15 minutes, enough for another mile, but I just couldn’t help myself – the sunrise was too inviting, and I decided to do something different and shake up my routine.

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Could you stare at that and not want to go out and breathe it in??

I hopped in my car, pulled out of the gym and into the park’s parking lot (they’re right next to each other) and drove right to the edge. I parked, walked out to the beach, and just breathed in the frozen air while the sun rose before me.

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It was super cold – about 18 degrees – but I couldn’t help myself. I stood there like a fool for those full extra 10 minutes, smiling the whole time. It felt so good.

It hit me then that I never would have seen this – never would have felt this peace, gotten this fresh air – if I hadn’t gotten up out of bed and moved. I was so tempted to roll back over and sleep another hour. But that’s not what this whole thing is about, is it?

Too often we complain about not having time to make stuff happen. We’re “too” everything. Too tired, too busy… But after riding an emotional roller coaster for the past few months, I’ve realized that the only way to make shit happen is to make it happen YOURSELF.

No one is going to walk up to you with a free hour and tell you to do whatever you want. You need to make the time. Sure, you’re not going to feel like climbing out of bed an hour early. But once in a while, if you push yourself to do something that’s not on the schedule or that takes you off your usual course – even for 10 minutes – you just might surprise yourself.

You’re the Best

First off: I didn’t realize that yesterday’s post would start a chain reaction of warm wishes and personal story sharing that totally turned my day – hell, my MONTH – around.

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Thank you all so much for your comments, emails, texts, Facebook posts, etc – each new note brought a smile to my face (and yeah, some tears too, because I’m still a little weepy). You guys are really the best out there. The fitness community is so much like a family, and it’s so comforting to know that when things get dark, just throwing a tiny lifeline of a blog post out there into the ether will sound the alarm and bring me a world of sunshine.

To answer your next question: I AM feeling a bit better, every hour and every day. Thank you! The old saying to “fake it till you make it” is my unofficial mantra these days, and it’s working. It’s good being back at work where my brain is busy and doesn’t have time to focus on negative thoughts. I’m trying not to numb myself in front of the TV and pushing myself to do little tasks like clean out my home office and reorganize photos. I went swimming and did yoga last night to keep my  body moving, and it felt GREAT.

But when I tried to run again yesterday, it was extremely slow going – while I felt like I was pushing at full intensity, I was only going about 13:00/mile, which was soul-crushing to see. So I’m instead focusing on getting my blood pumping in other ways, any way I can manage. What this will do to my performance in this weekend’s race, I’m not sure. I’ll try to run today and tomorrow, even a mile. But come Saturday morning, I aim simply to finish. Those Central Park hills are unforgiving, and everything is an effort when I feel like this. I set some big goals when I signed up for this race a few months ago, but when life gets in the way and puts a roadblock there, you’ve got to adapt and overcome any way you can!

So thank you all once again for your kind words, for sharing your stories, and your heartwarming support. It really means the world to me to have you with me on this crazy ride!

Climbing Out of a Black Hole

I try to keep things 100% real here, but it’s hard when things get tough. I mean, the title of my blog has “happy” in it. If I’m not happy, what am I? But this is my blog after all, so here goes:

When I started this fitness journey back in 2004, I was more than 100 lbs heavier & suffered from crippling anxiety, OCD, and depression. My hands would crack and bleed from over-washing and some days I couldn’t even leave my dorm. With 5 years of exercise, therapy, medication, and a healthier diet, I managed to find my way out of that hole. And even though I managed to wean off the OCD medicine (and haven’t had an episode in years), I will occasionally fall back into that hole.

Which is where I’m at right now.

For the past three weeks or so, I’ve been in an emotionally bad place. The best way I can describe it is like I’ve been watching a movie of my life. Some days it takes a huge effort just to get out of bed. A few days, I slept 18+ hours and have had no motivation to do anything. One day my husband had to physically pull me out of the car to take a walk at the park, and all I wanted to do was cry the whole two miles. At holiday gatherings I found myself fighting back tears while watching everyone else laugh. I’d put on a happy face to go for a run or to a movie, and then fall right back into staring at the TV or a blank wall, trying not to cry.

Some more well-adjusted folks might read that and think “What a head case!” Hell, I even think that sometimes – I’ve had a perfectly happy holiday season, I have family and friends that love me, a great job, a roof over my head… what the hell could I possibly be so depressed about? And when I think that, I get even more upset, and it spirals from there. Those of you who’ve experienced depression or anxiety know what I’m talking about, and it sucks.

What brought it on? Is it just the Holiday Blues? The lack of structure being off from work for so long? The unhealthy food and abundance of wine? All three? Who knows. And it’s hard to even put into words exactly what goes through my head when I’m in the middle of it. But I’m lucky: my friends and family have all been nothing but supportive. And to be honest, today is one of my first good days. Coming back to work, monitoring my diet, and forcing myself to be physically active are all helping, but it takes time. I’m pretty sure I’m bouncing back slowly, but there’s always a fear that it’ll creep back up and paralyze me again.

I don’t have a specific purpose for writing this post, to be honest. Part of me needed to write it to clear my head, but it’s also for anyone who has gone through – or is going through – something similar. If you’re in the middle of it, know you’re not alone, no matter how lonely you might feel. The sun will come out. It always does. And don’t be ashamed to talk about it or seek help. Negative thoughts spread like wildfire and sometimes all you need to do to break the cycle is talk to someone else, even if it hurts.

I also hope that anyone lucky enough to have never experienced depression or anxiety realizes it’s not trivial. With physical illness, you experience symptoms that others can see; runny nose, broken bones. But with mental illness, the symptoms are hidden. So be kind to others. Even if they’re smiling and seem happy on the outside, you never know what kind of battle they’re fighting on the inside.

Five Things That Happen During Every Race

If you’ve ever run a race, chances are you’ve experienced some of the standard race-day highs and lows that most runners can relate to: the bliss of a clean port-a-potty, the agony of missing a PR, that tingly-all-over feeling upon seeing the finish line…

But what about the things that no one really talks about? Those things that happen during a race more often than we care to admit? I’ve run my fair share of 5K’s, 10K’s, half marathons, and everything in between, and there are some things that have happened so consistently that I’m sharing them now: the five things that happen during every race.

1. The Faster Person

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Listen: we’re all running our own race. I get that. The only person you’re competing against is yourself and all that jazz. But it’s only natural to feel that surge of anger and adrenaline when someone who’s been pacing you for the last 5 miles suddenly sprints past you triumphantly in the final mile.

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It’s even more infuriating and ego-crushing when that person is wearing a giant banana costume. Or is dribbling basketballs. Or wearing a Tom Brady mask and juggling deflated footballs. Not that I know from experience.

2. The Bathroom Fake-Out

We’ve all been there. I don’t care how well-trained your colon might be. Even the most seasoned runner knows that bubbling, burning feeling that can only mean one thing:

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(and if you say you don’t, you’re lying.)

It always seems to hit at like mile 3 of a half marathon that you aim to PR in. But the worst part is when you sprint to the nearest port-a-potty for emergency relief…

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Only to have nothing happen. Nothing!! I’ve lost count of how many times this has happened to me. The intense pressure just seems to build and build with every step, but once I’m finally in a safe place, the urge just disappears as quickly as it hit. I think Kramer called that “missing the window“?

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3. Running Regret

This tends to happen later in a race. The endorphins of a strong start have worn off, you’re long past the last aid station and you’ve still got the final few miles staring you in the face and a blister the size of Texas growing on your big toe. That’s when you say to yourself: “Never again.”

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Even in a good race, this fleeting moment of regret is enough to make me seriously reconsider my own sanity. I paid to do this? To wake up at 4AM on my day off, drive an hour, stand in the cold with a bunch of people I know are faster than me, then run for 3 hours? That’s it. I’m retiring from racing and booking myself a rubber room to roll around in for the rest of my life.

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Bonus Points for knowing what movie this is from.

Until I cross that finish line and the taste of victory is so, so sweet, then I’m all like, “When’s the next one??”

4. Mental Math

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You know exactly what I mean. “OK, so if I keep this 10:55 pace for the next 3 miles I’ll be at an 11:15/mile pace, but can I crank it up for the final 3 mile stretch? 3 miles is from my house to the park and back, that’s not so bad. But really I have 6 miles so it’s double that. That sucks. OK, 6 miles, that’s one loop around town, maybe that’s not so bad.”

Similarly, there’s the phenomenon (please tell me I’m not alone) where the mid-race mania causes all math knowledge to fly out of your brain. Like when my friend once met me at mile 6 of a half marathon and asked me how I was doing as she ran alongside me. “Not bad,” I shouted, “Only 4 more miles, I’m feeling good!”

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She just patted me on the back and sent me on my way with, “It’s more like 7, but you’ve got this!”

I cried for the whole next mile.

5. The Single-Serve Friend

This could just be a back-of-the-packer experience, but I’m putting it on this list. In every race, I tend to make at least one single-serving friend. The “Hi new Bestie, I love your running skirt! OMG how did we never know each other before this moment? OK I’m heading off now so take care, bye-bye forever” friend.

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These are the folks that you meet in the starting corral, or out at mile 5, or in the final mile when you’re both hurting and walking and experiencing the regret I just talked about up there.

Case in point: in my last half marathon, I made a single serving friend with an elderly gentleman who had been pacing me from pretty much mile 6. Instead of feeling anger when he would shoot out ahead of me, I’d use it as fuel and pick up my pace slightly to catch him. Finally, after 6 miles of that as I passed him in the final turn, he caught up to me and thanked me for pushing him the whole race. I had no idea – I thought he’d been doing the same for me! I thanked HIM and we laughed and ran for a quarter mile together, and then I continued on my way. Sure, they’re “friends” in the most basic sense of the word, but Single Serving Friends are sometimes just what you need out there!

What do you think? What things do YOU experience in every race that I left off here? Share in the comments!

Real Women Move: Spread the Love!

Happy May everyone! Or since it’s already 5/4, I should say: May the 4th Be With You! 🙂

This month, Skirt Sports is rolling out a new campaign that falls neatly in line with their already-awesome theme of empowering women to achieve their fitness goals, whatever they may be. It’s called Real Women Move, and I’m super stoked to be a part of it. They’re giving back to the fitness community in 2 ways: by creating and using the hashtag #RealWomenMove, they’re spreading the message that you can overcome whatever obstacles that get thrown in your path and make fitness a priority. Check it out on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook too! CaptureThe second part of this initiative focuses on physically making a difference in the lives of fitness-focused ladies. For every 5,000 hashtags, Skirt Sports will donate a Get Started Scholarship to a woman who is actively working to break her own barriers in running and fitness, which includes a free Skirt Sports top, bra, bottom, hat, socks, and a free entry to your first 5K! It’s an awesome program – and one that made me wish it was around when I first started running, too!

You see, back in 2004 as I was just embarking on my own fitness journey, I saw runners as the pinnacle of fitness. I was never good at running, even in school when we’d have to run the mile! If I put as much effort into running the damn mile as I did figuring out excuses to not run the mile, I swear I would have been a world-class sprinter by age 15.

I’d shlump into my gym in my baggy workout gear and take shelter near the elliptical machines and bikes, or scoot into the group fitness room for dance classes, kickboxing, weight lifting – basically I’d do everything but run. I was intimidated and easily defeated. Every time I tried to run, I would tire after only a minute or two and get increasingly frustrated.

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Fast-forward to around 2006 when I started making friends with the group fitness instructors at my gym. Some of them were the intimidating, buff-and-blustery types, sure. But many of these chicas were just normal people ranging in age from their 20’s to their 50’s, with real bodies… and real athletic abilities! It was then that I started to realize: I don’t have to be super-chiseled to do the things that I want to do! These ladies were confident, encouraging, and most of all: inspiring. And while I envied the physical bodies of those super-fit folks, I gravitated more towards the positivity that those “Real Women” were spreading! That made a huge difference in the way I viewed fitness, and ultimately helped me adopt a more healthy lifestyle. Once I realized it wasn’t about how I looked or what I couldn’t do, I took up running and realized it was all about what I could do. And the rest is history!

Now, to help motivate and inspire others to focus on their own fitness journey, I invite you to take part in this campaign in two ways:

  1. Snap a pic of yourself breaking down walls and keeping the focus on fitness, and tag it with #RealWomenMove – let’s spread that positivity!
  2. If you or someone you know deserves to win a Get Started Scholarship, share your story or nominate a friend here!

If you’re ever in need of a pick me up or a motivation boost, I’m telling you – lace up your sneakers and search for the “RealWomenMove” hashtag, because there are some seriously inspirational people out there, you just need to know where to find them. And SkirtSports has brought them all together!