Impostor Syndrome

If job searching after working for one company for five years is like jumping back into the dating pool, starting a new job is like the first day of school, but on steroids. And much like a new school year, I looked forward to starting my new job back in March because it meant a fresh start. But more than that; I had the chance to adopt a new persona.

You see, for five years at my last job, I was known as the runner. But after the NYC Marathon, I wasn’t running. So I didn’t feel like a runner anymore. I had a serious case of Impostor Syndrome.

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When meeting new people at my job, the subject of hobbies came up a lot as an ice breaking conversation topic. But I avoided talking about running at every turn, even though most of my new coworkers had already seen the blog – hell, it’s on my resume, and the fact that I’d created Jess Runs Happy from the ground up helped land me my current role as a Social Media Manager. Instead, I focused on other things – my cat, my husband, Star Wars.

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It wasn’t so bad: I got to make a lot of new friends with varied interests by *not* focusing on running. And don’t get me started on all the new friends I made by hosting a surprise May the Fourth party. But as it tends to do, time passed. My injuries healed. I started running regularly. I had the urge to chase big scary goals again.

While it’s only been about two months or so, I’ve run more in these 8 weeks than I had in the previous 8 months, and I feel like I’ve learned something with every mile – especially as I get stronger with every run.

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Last week I ran three times, and improved with each run. I even ran 4 miles for time,  just to see how much better I could do than the previous run. I blew my old time out of the water and posted a 4-mile time I haven’t seen since pre-NYC Marathon training a year ago.

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I’m getting nostalgic about marathon training. I’ve got blisters from new socks again. That old black toenail is acting up again. I’m eating more carbs and going to bed early on Saturday nights to run on Sunday mornings again.

I’m proud to say I’m a runner again. 

I don’t know what made my Impostor Syndrome go away. Maybe it’s all the happy mood chemicals flooding my brain thanks to regular running; maybe it’s a fluke and I’ll have another bad week or month or year. Whatever happens, I’m going to ride the wave as long as I can and I’m looking forward to it.

I’m cleaning out the running gear that doesn’t fit anymore. I’m packing my bags every other morning for my evening run and avoiding those late night snacks I’ve grown so used to. I’m signing up for races in the future so I have something to work towards. What matters is I’m feeling more and more like my old self, and that feels good.

 

Marathon Training Movie Reviews

So now that we’ve established that my marathon training nostalgia means that I’ve completely lost my marbles, come with me on a trip down training memory lane – with a twist.

I give you: The Jess Runs Happy Marathon Training Movie Reviews.

In this series, I’m going to examine the movies I watched on the treadmill, all through the lens of a runner and rate them based on very specific, marathon-training-based criteria:

  1. Distance: Pretty simply put, how many miles did I run while watching this movie?
  2. Sob Factor: Because marathon training had a knack for making me emotional, especially towards the end, how many times did it make me cry?
  3. Inspiration Meter: Not all movies are about running, but they can still light a fire under you. How engrossed did I get in the movie that I was inspired to run farther?

At the end of each review I’ll tally the total points to give it a total score that means absolutely nothing in the real world but will hopefully give you a little chuckle. Ready? Let’s kick it off with a film that stands out in my memory right off the bat:

Neon Demon

This film had been on my must-watch list for a while, mainly because it looked *cool*. Dakota Fanning stars as Jesse, an aspiring model in a strange, fever-dream version of LA that’s filled with fashion-world predators. The marketing made it look like a slick, visually striking murder-mystery-with-a-neo-noir twist – and it was, at least for the first hour that I watched during a sunny post-work 5 miler. Hell, it even had Keanu Reeves and a mountain lion!

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Basically, Jesse leaves Georgia for L.A., and meets up with makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone) and two models, Sarah and Gigi. The fashion world is obsessed with Jesse’s youthful innocence, and the film makes no bones about the literal consumption of uncorrupted, perfectly packaged beauty and youth. She’s innocent enough, and I genuinely felt frightened for her in some scenes, like when she’s left alone with a creep-tastic photographer, or when she hears a woman being attacked violently in the hotel room next to hers one night.

But just as I finished my first 5 miler with this film, she walks the catwalk in a show and literally goes through the looking glass, into the heart of darkness. When I picked it up the next week during another 5 miler, The Neon Demon took a HARD left into psychological, gory horror-ville.

And I. Was. Not. Prepared.

 

The second half of this movie is so violent and strange and disturbing that I legit went off my company’s WiFi and watched on LTE because I worried I’d be put on some kind of list for using company resources to watch it.

While Jesse turns into the exact opposite of the naive ingenue she was in the first half of the film, Sarah, Gigi and Ruby all turn on Jesse too. And their true, witchy natures come out to… I guess play? Because when I say they turned on her, I don’t mean in a Mean Girls, three-way-calling-while-secretly-listening-in-while-we-talk-trash kind of way. I’m talking about pushing her off a diving board into an abandoned pool and murdering her with knives, then bathing in her blood in some kind of occult ritual kind of way.

It would have been weird enough to end there – I haven’t even mentioned the necrophilism, the knife swallowing, or the blood rivers that Ruby apparently can control with her punani. But instead, it kept going, for a final scene where…. I’m going to be real with you, I nearly had to stop the treadmill to be sick. I was going to copy and paste the final paragraph of the Plot section from Wikipedia, but honestly I don’t want to have that kind of copy on my blog. So go read it there, and then come back. Just know that I’m not responsible for any nightmares you may have from visualizing it.

Back? OK. So yeah. I finished mile 5 just as the credits started rolling, and basically regretted ever wanting to watch this movie in the first place. The worst part was, I’d been recommending it to people after watching the first hour! I immediately took to IG to recant my statements about it being cool and vowed to watch a whole movie before recommending it to people.

But hey – it helped me run 10 miles and gave me a good story, yeah?

Distance: 10 miles over 2 nights, a solid 2 hours of nonstop running. And running in fear counts, so it gets an A+ there. Best I could hope for in a film while running.

Sob Factor: I did not cry. At all. I screamed a lot though. So let’s give it a C- here.

Inspiration Meter: I wouldn’t so much call it inspiration as I would call it… distraction. But again, because I was so focused on the film, I forgot I was running on more than one occasion. A+.

Overall Score: If you can handle gore and don’t mind going “What the actual f*ck?” about a dozen times in an hour, by all means, give this a go. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Solid B+.

Stay tuned for the next installments where I cover movies like Ex Machina, Zoolander 2, and Paterson!

Muscle Memory

Guys, I don’t know what’s going on these past few days, but I’m just going to come out and say it:

I’m nostalgic about marathon training.

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I honestly don’t know what snapped, but I find myself scrolling through old pictures and videos from those peak NYC Marathon Training training months of September and October of last year from the other side of the finish line, I suddenly feel… nostalgia.

Particularly those late weeknights where I’d run 5, 7, even 10 miles after a full day of work, all by myself, alone in the office gym with no one but me, myself, I, and my cell phone.

It was hard work. It was painful. And I KNOW I was burnt out, especially towards the end – hell, I have videos where I said exactly that to the camera:

I also remember a few nights where the miles wouldn’t come easily. One night I wound up screaming at myself for not being able to run 10 stupid miles when I’d just done 15 the weekend before.

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But there was also a lot of joy in those hours of running. I watched a lot of movies I’d been wanting to watch. I cracked myself up when I realized I’d filmed 3 Insta-Stories in a row about Jeff Goldblum’s Instagram feed and younger-than-me wife.

I had a blast talking to the camera about how I attempted to run the first mile or so on an incline and simulated the race course (with disastrous results).

I was happy knowing my body could do nearly impossible things. I was achieving new goals with every run. I remember driving home after some of those longer mid-week runs at 8:30, even 9PM some nights, singing along to my radio in total joy over what I had accomplished.

Go ahead and say “I told you so”, but… I am profoundly sad that I’m not doing that this year.

Does this mean I’m going to sign up for another marathon tomorrow? No. Not by a long shot. But it’s helped me learn that a lot of my marathon anxiety – and the general bad taste about running that was left in my mouth after the race – stemmed from the fact that it was my first time doing this big, huge, impossible thing.

With a little perspective, I realize now that the first time I attempted any distance, from 5K to half marathon, was rough. But with each race and each training cycle I kept at it, got stronger, learned new skills to cope with the dark times and better anticipated what to expect. Why would the marathon be any different?

In my nostalgia, I went back and re-read one of my final training posts from last year, when my sweet friend Liz gave me this gift when I was at the absolute lowest point of training:

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I thought “one day” meant Race Day.

I was wrong.

It’s taken me nearly a year, but all the physical and mental pain I went through to get to the end of 26.2 is finally starting to make sense.

And that’s pretty cool.

Mile 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy 2018!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You thought I was kidding about the porg-jamas?

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

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

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

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

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

Post-Marathon Recovery

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

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

… or so I’ve been told…

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

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Yeah…  I’m still not feeling those blues.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NYC Marathon Race Recap

You guys.

I have some news:

I RAN A MARATHON!

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

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So let’s jump right to it, shall we??

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, I was a bit wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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T-Minus 5 Days

When they told me training for a marathon would take a lot of my time, I didn’t realize just HOW MUCH of my time that meant. On top of a very busy season at my day job, running for 2+ hours after work and 3-4+ hours on the weekend leaves me with little time to do things like blog, hang out with friends, and keep up with laundry at home.

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…and painting Star Wars pumpkins for Halloween!

Thankfully, since I hit 20 miles a few weeks ago and began my 3-week taper, my mileage has slowly decreased and allowed me more time to catch up on things.

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PS – 20 miles?? HOLY HELL

Sure, I mostly just end up sleeping instead of doing the things I should be catching up on, but sleep is just as important as running in marathon training (or so I’ve been told).

One thing I’ve been grateful for these past few weeks is that I’ve got sponsors backing me up on this journey. It may seem silly or trivial, but having the support of Altra Running and Poland Spring Brand Water means I can focus less on my sneakers and my hydration plans and more on getting the most out of my training.

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When it comes to my sneakers, I’ve been a die hard Altra fan since I discovered them a year ago, so it’s fitting that I get to rep them as an ambassador. They truly saved my running career after I developed plantar fasciitis along with numbness, burning and pain in my toes. I suffered through the Rock n Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon in severe pain and nearly considered taking a break for a few months. After that race, the pain was nearly constant, no matter what sneakers or shoes I wore. But when I slipped into my Altras – seriously, within MINUTES of slipping into them – the pain subsided, the numbness faded, and I was walking without pain for the first time in weeks, if not months.

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and they’re cute, too!

So I joined the Altra cult and haven’t looked back. I’ve been training exclusively in them and have already broken in and marked up my NYC pair. I’ve been remarkably lucky this entire training cycle to not have any issues with my sneakers like I’ve seen other runners go through. I guess the old saying is true: when you know, you just know.

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And with Poland Spring Brand, I really lucked out: as a major sponsor of the NYC Marathon, they reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in partnering, to which I said sure. While I’m rarely seen without my refillable water bottle, I usually have a big flip-top bottle of Poland Spring Brand on hand for my runs because it’s easier to drink from while running. But, just like I mentioned earlier, refilling my bottles and buying more after I ran out usually ended up at the bottom of my marathon training checklist and I would wind up just filling my reusable bottle with whatever I had on hand, usually the office tap water.

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Enter Poland Spring Brand, with a nearly endless supply of water to help me throughout marathon training. No, really. I have 24-packs everywhere to ensure I never run out: in my car, under my desk at work, in the fridge at home – I’m talking everywhere. These guys have kept me running with fresh tasting water for the past month, and will even be there on race day, at every water stop along the 26.2 mile journey through the 5 boroughs of NYC.

And they haven’t just been there to help me while I’m running; I’ve also been able to up my pre-run hydration game thanks to them, and as a result have seen a huge improvement in my long runs. In the past, I’d heard folks talk about hydrating the day before a long run and thought “I drink water, I’m good.” But once I started keeping track of my hydration and forced myself to drink 2-3 extra bottles a day before a long run, I found myself going faster and farther without fatigue during my long runs. Sure, I also pay attention to what I eat and get lots of sleep and do all the other things they say you need to do, but the hydration makes a huge difference.

See those paces up there? Yeah, I’m shocked too.

So now here I am, having finished my last long run of 8 miles on Sunday (at 11:47/mile!), I’ve got 3 on the calendar today, and I’m ready to take on that marathon. I’ve followed the plan nearly to the letter, I’ve fueled the right way, paid attention to my body and rested when I needed it, and now it’s time to rest and prepare for the victory lap around NYC in 6 days.

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Bring it on, NYC!

NYC Marathon Training Update

Because “I ran, I ran, and I ran some more” gets boring awfully fast – and because I now have a few months of training under my belt and monthly updates are easier – here’s a look by month of how my training has been going!

August

If July was when I built my base, August was when I started to get serious. My training plan had me logging 3 runs between Monday and Friday, and this was the month where I found the right balance. The plan as it’s published has these runs back to back to back, but my body just isn’t built like that. So after a few weeks of burning out and a skipped run or two, I realized I needed to shift some things around to maximize my training time. The result was a solid month of miles – and the end of the piriformis/hip flexor pain I started out with! Total August Miles: 86

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September

In September, my mileage steadily grew to the point where my mid-week runs were up to 9 miles. NINE! Before this whole marathon training thing started, 9 miles used to require a few days of psych-up time and a full Sunday. Now, I bang them out under 2 hours after a full day of work and call it a Wednesday. That fact will never not impress me!

This month I also learned the importance of stretching and strength training. Sure, the hours and hours of running I do each week take up a lot of time, but I’ve learned the hard way that stretching and strength training are non-negotiables. With this being my highest-mileage month EVER, I finished September feeling strong and ready to take on the home stretch. Final September Mileage: 121 miles

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October

While we’re only 11 days into it, October has already started off with a bang, with my highest mileage week ever from 10/1-7 (37 miles). I kicked off the month with an 18 mile run and felt incredibly strong. This weekend I take on my longest run ever, a 20-miler. October will be my hardest month in terms of mileage, but I know the payoff will be worth it!

Training Notes

In general, I’ve hit my training stride. Through trial and error, I’ve figured out the magic formula that works best for me:

  • Sunday long run
  • Monday rest
  • Tuesday first short run
  • Wednesday long mid-week run
  • Thursday rest/cross train
  • Friday 2nd short run
  • Saturday cross train
  • Repeat!

That’s not to say that I haven’t felt the burnout that comes with any training cycle. I’ve only experienced it before in half marathon training, but this is a whole other beast.

There was a moment a few weeks back when things were getting tough. We all have lives outside of running, and mine weighed heavily on me. I broke down one night and wanted to quit everything. I was tired of running, my body hurt. I was over-scheduled and under-rested, and mentally shredded. After mentioning my struggles to my friend Liz, she surprised me a few days later with a beautiful gift that – of course – made me cry:

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It’s crazy what running has brought into my life. The emotions, the friendships, the pride, the tears; sometimes when you’re in the thick of it, it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re doing this. That end goal is pretty hard to see when you’ve got to drag your ass out of bed before the sun for a long run to fit in the rest of your day’s plans, or when you’re at mile 4 of a 9 miler at 7:30pm on a Wednesday and would rather do ANYTHING but spend another hour on that treadmill. I’m running this marathon for a whole bunch of reasons that I forgot in that moment, but I’m grateful for being reminded in the sweetest way possible.

I’m in the thick of Peak Week at the moment, with 10 miles on the schedule tonight. And while it sounds crazy, I look forward to it. It turns out, pushing my body to do things I never thought possible comes with a whole new sense of accomplishment I’ve never felt before. And I know that while this feels pretty incredible, it’ll be nothing compared to how I’ll feel when I finally cross that finish line on November 5th.

Newport Half Marathon Race Recap

After a great experience as a Blog Partner with the Newport 10K in May, I was invited to run the the Newport Half Marathon in September and jumped at the opportunity. Sunday started out muggy and warmer than expected; Mere was running this race with me (well, she finished like 90 minutes before me but you know what I mean) and as we headed into Jersey City we prayed the sun would stay behind the clouds for our race to keep the temps low.

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Spoiler alert: it did!

A note about parking: a big factor in my race decisions is how easy it is to get to. My nerves are already shot enough on race morning, I’m not about to drive myself insane circling a city for a parking spot or navigating a bunch of detours. Anyone who’s driven in northern NJ will tell you that it’s a bitch and a half, so I was skeptical about a race IN Jersey City. But these folks are total pros, and even though we rolled up to the race area a bit later than I wanted, we still managed to get a parking spot in the huge deck very easily thanks to the clearly labeled streets and tons of race volunteers. A++ for that, Newport Half Race Team!

After parking, we stopped at the porta-potties (again, plenty of clean options available, another A+ for the event crew), hung out for a bit, and waited for the start.

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Full disclosure: while waiting, I had a bit of a panic attack. The craziness of the pre-race crowds two days in a row, combined with the lack of sleep and extra physical pressure I had been putting on myself all came to a head and I just wanted out. I didn’t want to be there. I felt itchy all over. My skin burned and my insides churned. I couldn’t catch my breath and I felt like crying. So I sat on the curb while everyone around me chatted and took a few deep breaths to work through it.

I didn’t plan to wait until World Mental Health Day to publish this post, but it’s fitting that I share it now. Anxiety doesn’t always look like hysterical tears or someone hugging themselves and rocking; sometimes it’s a quiet, forced smile or a stoneface when everyone else is laughing. I’m not going to gloss over my mental health issues to paint an unrealistic picture. We need to break the stigma of talking about these things, and I want to help do that, one blog post at a time. So yes, I had a small panic attack before the start. After a few minutes I was able to pull it together and we went on with our morning, but if you ever feel overwhelmed and scared, just know that you’re not alone!

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Once we realized the crowd was moving to the start corrals we headed over with them and seeded ourselves. It was a smaller race so the corrals were about 50 feet apart, which was nice. Mere said farewell and headed to her corral and Mike stayed with me to send me off at the start, and away we went.

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Right away, the humidity was an issue. It was hard to breathe and my muscles were super tight from racing Seaside the day before. I took it slow because I still had the goal of adding miles at the end of the race. But by mile 3, my right calf and ankle felt like they were wrapped in super glue: tight, hot, and angry. So I pulled over to a curb and stretched for a good minute or two – clearly this was not going to be one of those “omg I am so strong!” races. I was OK with this.

After mile 3, I was feeling better, my ankle and calf had loosened up, and even though I was drenched in sweat already, I fell into a groove behind these two girls at my exact pace, who had to be twins – they had nearly identical builds and ponytails, even their gaits were similar.

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I took my first gel at the water stop near 4.5 and finally stopped for a bathroom break at about mile 6 in the park. Then we turned onto the waterfront path at 6.5 and came face to face with Lady Liberty and the NYC Skyline – and I kid you not – Taylor Swift’s Welcome to New York randomly came on my iPod and the run immediately took a turn for the better.

I sang, I danced, I pointed at the skyline – hell, I cried some happy tears – all while running straight for that beautiful city in front of me.

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I’m sure the folks around me thought I was insane, but I didn’t care. Seeing the city was just the refresher I needed to get me through the rest of the race. We curled through the park for another few miles, and about halfway through mile 9 we cruised through a water stop manned by a crew of teens who cheered us on with big smiles. I had to laugh though – as I took my second gel and walked through, one of the teens sitting on the curb nearby shouted to her friend across the course, “Oh my god, my legs are SO TIRED!” to which I replied without thinking, “YOUR legs are tired???” She immediately blushed and covered her face and laughed with everyone around her – “I’m sorry!! I mean I ran yesterday so I’m sore! But you’re running so much more than me, you’ve got this!!” It’s always fun to interact with the volunteers 🙂

Around mile 10.5 as we neared the city again, I started to feel some twinge-y pains in my left ankle, possibly from overcompensating for the sore right ankle earlier in the run? Either way, I slowed down a lot here, and even stopped to fish a rock out of my shoe at one point. Then just before mile 11, we turned the corner where a small group of spectators stood. A woman was there with an older woman and a younger guy, and she was holding a sign that said “Almost there!” Of course, I laughed and said with a smile, “You’re not allowed to say that until Mile 13!”

Well, apparently this woman had enough of being heckled by runners the whole race, because she immediately snapped back at me in a super-nasty tone: “IT’S AN INSIDE JOKE.”

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excuse me??

I laughed in her face and waved her off. Um, an inside joke with who? One of the thousands of runners out here on the course with me? How about if you don’t like the comments you’re getting, you put that sign down until this inside joker of yours passes by, and you keep that sourpuss to yourself, mmkay?

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ANYWAY, it was right about then that Formation came on my ipod and I kicked it into gear for the final 5K. I texted Mike to let him know I was about a half hour away and took off at my now slower pace to keep that tender ankle from rolling. At mile 12 we hit the waterfront and cruised along there for the final mile and a half, and I crossed the finish line at 13.5 miles in a semi-decent time for a training run on tired legs.

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Overall it was a perfect course and a well-organized race, just like the 10K. If you’re looking for a nice flat half marathon with pretty views (and a medal, too!), definitely check this one out.