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!

Not My First Rodeo (er, Full Marathon)

Fact: I will be running my first marathon at the 2017 TCS NYC Marathon this November.

Fact: I will start training officially for this marathon sometime in May or June of this year.

Also fact: This is NOT the first time I’ve started training for a full marathon.

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I know. Shocker.

But it’s true: I signed up for the Atlantic City Marathon back in 2014 and had to drop down to the half after injuring myself during training and basically losing my mental toughness as a result of said injury.

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I’m not proud of this; in fact I don’t talk about it a lot because I’m still kind of upset by it. I’d be lying if I say that redemption isn’t like 80% of why I’m ready to attack NYC later this year.

But I’m writing about it today because it’s real. If we’re all honest with ourselves, I bet you’ve experienced something similar in your life. I want to share my story so you realize you’re not the only person to set a big scary goal and not achieve it. And just because you don’t achieve it on the first try doesn’t mean it will never happen.

[just imagine a fun “never say never” gif that DOESN’T involve Justin Bieber, because I didn’t realize that’s like his phrase now]

While scrolling through my archives, I found this post about training for my first full marathon, and at first I was upset – seeing my old posts about marathon training bum me out. They remind me that I set up a huge scary goal for myself and I failed at the goal. Runners knee in both knees, calf strains, failed long runs and a few illnesses along the way all caused me to postpone my goal and that hurt. I can still remember crying on the phone with my friend as I told her I couldn’t do it. But I ALSO remember the relief I felt in finally saying it out loud: I wasn’t going to run the marathon.

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And while I didn’t run 26.2 miles, I gained a LOT of knowledge about myself (which I went into in greater detail in this post). Long story short, I discovered that I should want to run the marathon for myself, not for other people. And in getting there, I learned how to listen to my body, how my anxiety affects my training, how to manage that anxiety, and so much more.

I wasn’t ready to cross that finish line in 2014 for a number of reasons, both physical and mental. But the training I DID accomplish, and the lessons I learned as a result, taught me how to prepare on all fronts.

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And now I’m ready: ready to train, ready to fight, ready to push myself, ready to be scared. But above all, I’m really ready to cross that finish line and accomplish a goal it’s taken me nearly 4 years to accomplish.

How about you: what have you learned in setting big scary goals for yourself? Have you ever had to defer your dream? Let’s talk!

How Bootcamp is Changing My Game

Since the reality finally hit me that I will be running 19.3 miles over 24 hours in less than 6 weeks (and 26.2 miles around the City of New York in less than 12 months!), I’ve decided to step up my fitness game, one month at a time.

This month, I joined Bulldog Strength and Conditioning for a month of bootcamp/ Crossfit-style classes, with the goal of upping my overall endurance and strength training game in the home stretch before my next half marathon and spring race season.

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My friend Kevin found this place about a month ago to get us ahead of the holiday weight gain by taking a drop-in class the Saturday after Thanksgiving with our friend Angela. I’ll admit: I was hesitant. I’ve done a few month-long boot camp style memberships at other gyms and while they were good workouts, I wasn’t a fan of their mentality and sometimes condescending attitudes. In some cases, the instructors cared more about socializing with the members than helping them get a good workout. Too often I’d see people sacrifice form for time and just flail around without the personal attention they should have been getting for $150+ a month – or worse, they’d get injured!

Having an injury-prone body to begin with, I like to focus on form and doing things the right way for the maximum benefit and to keep myself healthy. And it’s important to me that if I’m working with trainers, I make a personal connection with them about my fitness history and don’t feel too intimidated to ask them for help. So I went into this class with a grain of salt. But from the beginning, the owner Keith was super helpful – asking me about where we found him, what our goals were, what we were currently doing to stay active, etc. When I brought up running, he was psyched to hear about my plans for a half in January and asked me smart questions. Before we even started, I was impressed.

The class size was small; about 10 people, which was great – no crowding, plenty of time for personal interaction, and room to move. We kicked things off with a warm up that included 200M sprints, and Keith and his co-trainer were quick to point out that I should find this part easy, calling me out in front of the class – this was fun! After the warm up, they started cranking some old Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails music to get us into the groove, and we were off onto interval training, two workouts that we repeated two times each. The moves seemed simple at first, but after one minute on and only 15 seconds to move to the next workout, we were MOVING. My one friend had to tap out because it was so intense, and I don’t blame her – I had to pause a few times to keep my breakfast from coming up to make an appearance!

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After just over 40 minutes, we finished completely spent, sweaty and shaking, and I was hooked. I hadn’t pushed myself like that in months, and it felt great. I’ve been so scared of overdoing it and not being able to run that I’ve been shortchanging myself. No more.

On the spot I decided to commit to a month with Keith and his crew. But because he’s a smart businessman and a good trainer, he was open to discussion. He understood that I couldn’t commit to a full 5x/week schedule simply because the gym is 30+ minutes away and I need to spend more time running for now, and was able to work with me on a plan that fits my schedule and my budget.

Last night I took my first class of the month and I already can’t scratch my nose without that soreness in my arms and shoulders – and I screamed when a sneeze earlier this morning made my abs work unexpectedly. But I’m pumped to see where these workouts take me in my running. Tomorrow I’ve got 7 miles to run, and another class Sunday.

It’ll be a tough schedule to stick to this month to get all of my miles in AND reap the benefits of a month of bootcamp too, but I’m committed. If I’m going to do this 26.2 thing, I’ve got to do things I’ve never done before and work harder than I ever have in any training cycle – but I’m ready!

NYRR Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff 5M Race Recap

On the Sunday before Halloween, I headed into the city for the NYRR Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff 5M – my final 9+1 race to earn entry to the 2017 NYC Marathon!

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I was excited to take on this race for a number of reasons – the main one being the fact that it got me into the marathon! It was really cool seeing all of my hard work this year culminate in this final race, and the fact that it was a 5M sweetened the deal: this was the final distance I had yet to nab a PR in this year, and I wanted to be able to say I PR’d in every distance in 2016!

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The morning of the race was shockingly warm: temps were already in the 60’s by the time the sun came up, and rising quickly. I had layered up with the plan to ditch my sweats and sleeves before the start, but ended up shedding them pretty much as soon as we got to the park.

After hanging out in Mineral Spring for a bit we headed to the corrals where I made a quick port-a-potty stop, stretched out, and popped some Run Gum after the first gun went off and the faster corrals took off.

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This stuff really is the bomb – I’ve been using it before and during most of my races and runs for the past few weeks and notice a huge boost. Maybe it’s mental, maybe it’s just the caffeine,  but either way I’m loving it.

Once I crossed the start, I swear I caught a runner’s high within the first quarter mile. It was so incredible: the sun was shining, the crowds around me were pulsing with energy, my pace was on POINT at 9:50, my legs felt fantastic and fresh, and the city was humming. I tamed my inner speed demon a bit as we neared the first mile and I knew my favorite few was coming up fast.

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I mean, come on. Look at that. How can you see that and not be moved? I ran with my phone out just to snap this pic and a few runfies because I was feeling myself (sorry not sorry) and then put it away to focus on the task at hand: nabbing that PR.

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Miles 2 and 3 went by relatively easily – the usual Central Park hills had me pushing a bit harder than expected, and the heat caused me to stop for water more than I anticipated, so I was averaging about a 10:30/mile pace. I was bummed – I was giving it my all but needed to break 10:19 to PR. By the end of Mile 3 I passed a photographer and thought if I’m not going to PR I may as well have a frickin blast! So have a blast I did:

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But a funny thing happened at the start of the final mile – we went downhill. I always forget about that downhill, even though I’ve run that same 4-5-6 mile route around the park more than a dozen times this year and go the same direction every time! And when we went downhill, my pace picked up. A lot. So much so that by the time I made it to 4.5, I was cranking at about a 9:45/mile pace and my average pace had gone down to 10:19.

The rational side of my brain was screaming to slow down; there was no way I’d be able to push even faster for another half mile. But the balls-out competitor in me told that rational part to shut up and run; I’d hate myself if I missed that PR by a second per mile just because I wimped out in the final kick.

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The crowds were thick, so I had to weave around a lot of people. A girl that had been keeping pace next to me must have had the same idea to drop the hammer, because she took off like a shot and nudged her way through the crowds we were stuck in. I was so grateful – she was much shorter than me so she essentially parted the sea of people and I followed in her wake until we turned the corner before the finish line.

Her pace was a LOT faster than I was ready for – I saw 8:45 at one point! – but when I neared the finish and saw my 10:16 average, I left it all out on the course and crossed at 52:45 (Garmin time) with a new unofficial PR.

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Walking through the finisher’s chute was tough on shredded legs – I was wobbly and I couldn’t catch my breath, but it felt incredible. This is racing, I thought. This is why I do this. To chase my former self and prove to myself that I can do things I never thought possible.

Even though I didn’t PR officially by the gun time, I can honestly say I gave it everything I had and my watch says I did it. So I’m counting it 😉 And with that, I’m on my way to the 2017 NYC Marathon!!

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How to Prepare for a Half Marathon (or any race, really)

When I first started running I had NO idea what I was doing. I showed up way too early to my first 5K in a cotton tank top and shoes I bought because I liked the colors, I didn’t eat enough before the race, and I had a miserable time. Ask my husband: after that race, I said “I don’t think racing is for me.”

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Clearly, I AM A LYING LIAR WHO LIES.

Fast forward 6 years and here I am nearly 9 half marathons and countless 5Ks, 10Ks, and other distances later, and a lot smarter about how to prepare for race day. Whether you’ve run one race or 1,000, here are a few lessons I’ve learned that will hopefully help you get to the finish line with a smile:

1. Make a list

I am super Type A. I love order and planning and preparedness and lists. I will legit write something I’ve already done on my to-do list just to cross it off and get that feeling of accomplishment. Should I probably see someone about that? Perhaps. BUT, this character trait (flaw?) has served me well in my 6 years of racing, and it’ll help you too.

Make a list of everything you will possibly need for race day – and I mean EVERYTHING – like a week in advance, and start gathering it in one space like the dining room table or a box in the corner of the bedroom. Check the list often. And while you’ve probably got a handful of your own things that you know you’ll need on race day, here’s a list to get you started:

  • sneakers
  • socks (no cotton – spend the money on good running socks and your feet will thank you!)
  • top (tank, tee, longsleeve, layers, in tech fabrics – no cotton!)
  • sports bra
  • bottoms (capris, shorts, tights – same tech fabrics)
  • underwear (if you don’t run commando)
  • headband/hat/ponytail holder/bobby pins/any hair/head gear you usually need
  • headphones & music player (if your race allows them)
  • GPS watch or phone
  • anti-chafing gel or vaseline
  • lip balm
  • deodorant
  • sunblock
  • sunglasses
  • race belt
  • extra safety pins
  • fuel (Gu, energy gels, etc – 2x what you normally need just in case)
  • race number (if you already picked it up)
  • toss away water bottle
  • toss away top layer (if it’s going to be cold at the start)
  • garbage bag (if it’s rainy)
  • phone holder
  • any good luck charms or jewelry (I’ve always got to have my MARSOC Foundation bracelet and an inspirational wrap)
  • dry top & bottoms (and underthings) for post-race
  • flip flops or a second pair of sneakers & socks for post-race (because trust me, you will NOT want to put the ones you ran in back on after you take them off)

I love to lay out a Flat Runner the night before to keep track of all my gear and double check that I’m ready – and it helps to post on social media so that folks at the race know who to look for and can cheer you on in the comments, too!

2. Figure out your race day fuel plan early

Depending on your speed, fitness level, what your stomach can handle & what you prefer, race day fueling strategies vary from runner to runner. My best advice is to treat your long runs like race day and figure out what works for you by testing out your options every run.

It took me a while to perfect my plan, but on race morning I have a slice of whole wheat bread with chunky peanut butter and a banana, and half a cup of coffee. Then I’ll take a chocolate Honey Stinger gel about 10 minutes before the race start with a few sips of water. During the race I’ll drink water as I feel I need it (every 1-2 miles depending on the weather), and take a gel every 5 miles or 50-55 minutes with a cup of water. For some people that’s overkill, and for others it’s not enough.

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Not a wise choice: fueling entirely on Reeses. Although I’ve  never tried it…. brb, eating 5 lbs of Reeses and running a half marathon, will let you know how it goes.

It’s worth noting that I can’t take other gel brands – even other flavors of Honey Stinger! – without getting stomach cramps, so don’t give up on something if it doesn’t work the first time. I used to think that ALL gels gave me cramps, but after experimenting with different flavors and brands, I figured out what works for me and you will too.

3. Fuel your body right ahead of time

I’m the first to admit I’m not the best role model when it comes to food. I don’t deny myself wine and cake if I’m craving them, but I also do it all in moderation too. So what works for me might not work for you.

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And I love pizza. Did I mention pizza?

But the week before a race, I cut back on cheese and greasy foods and load up on water and carbs – not pasta twice a day every day, but just a little more than usual. And the night before a race my go-to meal is a serving or two of regular pasta with plain tomato sauce and simple grilled chicken.

Just like you should use your long runs to find day of fuel, treat the day before your longer runs like the day before a race: drink lots of water throughout the day, find a pre-race meal that keeps you satisfied and doesn’t weigh you down – and get PLENTY of sleep!

4. Pace yourself

This may seem like common sense, but for me – and many others that I’ve talked to about it – it bears repeating: throughout your training, be honest with yourself about your pace and know what to expect on race day. You can’t run at a solid 12:00/mile for most of your training and expect to run a sub-2 hour half.

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Not unless your name is Meb and you were phoning it in your ENTIRE training cycle. But I doubt you’d be reading this if you were.

It’s also easy to get caught up in the excitement of race morning and take off at an 7:30/mile pace with the folks around you at the sound of the gun, only to burn out like a tenth of a mile in because your usual pace is almost double that.

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This is important especially if you’re just starting out. In addition to your GPS watch or tracking app, whatever you prefer to run with to track your pace, they make these neat little wristbands or tattoos that you can wear on race day. They’re a great way to stay on target and save yourself a bunch of mental math out on the course. I’ve used them at a few of my races and really like them!

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5. Get there early, have fun and smile!

 

On race day, things get hectic very quickly. Plan to get to the start at least 45 minutes before you need to be there (or before your corral closes). It may seem like overkill, but the last thing you want to do is stress yourself out by running late. And once you’re there, remember that the hard part is over! You’ve already done all the work. Now you get to celebrate your hard work on the course with thousands of your fellow runners – and you’ll probably get a medal at the end of it!

Have fun, make small talk with the folks around you (if they want to), soak in the atmosphere, high five spectators on the course for extra energy (I pretend every high five is like a Super Mario Super Star), and enjoy the ride. Keep an eye out for photographers and throw up the devil horns or peace signs or wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care, and cross that finish line with a smile – you did it!

 

There’s plenty of stuff I’ve probably missed and could write more posts about, but do you have any other advice to add here? Let me hear it in the comments!

Love to Run Giveaway!

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, why not treat yourself to a little something? Well my speedy sis-in-law, Meredith, and I are hosting a giveaway so you can do just that!

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That’s right: when you enter to win our Love to Run Prize Pack, one lucky person will win a whole bunch of goodies: one Cocogo water bottle & 3 Flavor Variety Pack, one Greecie Girl tank top, and one pair of Saucony arm warmers!

Enter HERE!

Click on over to enter now – there are tons of ways to earn entries, and you’ve got until 12AM on Valentine’s Day to enter! Please note: this contest is open to US residents only.

After you’ve entered, click over to Cocogo to treat yourself to some all natural hydration at an even steeper discount! They’re bumping up our promo codes throughout the giveaway to a full 20% off your order at their online store – simply enter JESSRUNSHAPPY or MERETHERUNNER14 (all caps) for 20% off your entire order.

So what are you waiting for? Enter our giveaway now, share the link and spread the love – and we can’t wait to see who the lucky winner is!

 

NYC Marathon Lottery & Acupuncture #2

This isn’t my usual kind of post, but because I’m so excited about my day, I had to share!

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Woo-hoo #1: At noon, I entered the NYC Marathon Lottery for the first time ever.

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You heard me: I threw my hat into the ring for a chance to run 26.2 miles around my favorite city in the world in about 10 months. Having never run more than 13.2 (ish) miles in my life, this is the most terrifying, exciting risk I’ve taken in a long time. I mean, my odds of actually getting in are astronomically low, but what the hell? Gotta be in it to win it.

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Me, when I find out they let me in.

Woo-hoo #2: I’ve got my second acupuncture appointment tonight!

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Having this to look forward to makes me so indescribably happy, I can’t even put it into words. I had an awesome experience my first time around, and 2 weeks later I’m still feeling the positive effects: hello, weight loss, decreased appetite, and finally feeling balance in my life once again!

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In addition to continuing to work on my existing issues that we started treating in session 1, we’re also going to be working on my knees today so I’m excited to see how that works out.

So that’s my Thursday in a nutshell! How about you? Are you entering the NYC Lotto? Have you tried acupuncture? Did you know it was possible to use nothing but Kristen Wiig GIF’s in one post?

What’s On Your Calendar?

2016 is fast approaching, and with it comes a new chance to fill up the weekends with races and long training runs – one of my favorite parts of the new year! I’ve already started building my race calendar, and while I’m still waiting to hear about a few races (helllloooo, NYC Half Marathon lottery??), I’ve managed to come up with quite a list so far:

  1. NYRR Joe Kleinerman 10K  – I’ve unofficially (er, “officially”, now that I’ve said it here??) decided to enter the 2017 NYC Marathon via NYRR’s 9+1 Program by running 9 races and volunteering at one throughout 2016. The Joe K 10K is my first of 9 and while I’ve done Central Park a few times, I’ve never been in what’s probably going to be about 15 degree weather!
  2. NYRR Gridiron 4Miler – This is another “hey why not?” race that I’m adding to my calendar for something different to do in the throes of a tri-state winter, and to add to my 9+1 for the year.
  3. Atlantic City April Fools 11K – After getting serious runner envy when I see everyone running these races every year, I finally decided to sign up for my first 11K ever. Auto PR anyone? And because I’m not doing the AC Half this year,
  4. NJ Half Marathon – This is going to be my major goal race of the spring. Instead of running the Asbury Park Half like I’ve done for 2 years now, I’m finally doing this one instead. Just like the AC Races, I always get runner envy seeing people at this race and it usually falls the day or week after Asbury, making it impossible for me to participate. But this year I switched things up and it’s going to happen!
  5. NYC Triathlon – Holy crap, THE New York City Triathlon, enough said.

There are also some tentative races I’ve got in the pipeline, depending on budget, lotteries, and/or if I’m able to coerce others into joining my hair-brained schemes:

  1. The NYC Half Marathon – This is dependent on the lottery drawing next week. While I’d love to run this one again, I won’t be heartbroken if I don’t get it. It’s a lot for me to race two halves in one season, and it’ll clear up a lot of training time in February and March for me to run other smaller races for fun instead.
  2. The Asbury Park 5K OR Marathon Relay – Because I’m not doing the half here this year, I can’t NOT run in Asbury. It’s my favorite place to run in the world. I’ll definitely do the 5k, but if I can convince a few other people, I’d love to do the marathon relay! Any takers? 😉
  3. The Runners World Half Marathon – This would be my ultimate goal race for the fall of 2016, but I’m not pulling the trigger yet, ONLY because I’m not sure if I want to go for the full monty and register for the whole weekend’s worth of races and do the 5k, 10k, hotel and everything, or if I’m just going to head into town for the race on the day. Budgets and timing will help me decide later on – either way, excited for this one!
  4. NYRR Central Park Spring Classic 10K – This all depends on if I get into the NYC Half, which is scheduled for the weekend before. Not sure if I’d be ready to race a 10K a week after a half, but stranger things have happened.

What does your 2016 Racing Calendar look like? Do you have any plans yet or are you waiting like me?

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!

Weight Loss & Running Fearless

When I signed on to be a Skirt Sports Ambassador, I was thrilled – they’re all about encouraging women to move and embrace their bodies, no matter their size, age, or ability. Their message of fearlessness and acceptance is one that I wholeheartedly stand behind. Too often the snark and body-shaming in the periphery of the fitness community will  and spread those negative vibes. And as an Ambassador for their brand, I’m so lucky to be another voice for positive change. Given my own journey through the past 10+ years, I’m especially honored to help spread the message of being yourself and going after your fitness goals without fear.

When I first started running, I took it up as I started losing weight back in 2004, and had to start slowly – I weighed more than 270+ lbs and I couldn’t go more than a quarter mile before quitting.

before1I was uncomfortable in my own skin and frankly, felt trapped. I was just about to turn 21, I was in college and building an awesome new path in life for myself, but I didn’t feel “skinny enough” to do the things that other people around me were doing. Dating, going out to clubs and bars – I didn’t want to put myself out there because I was afraid of what others would think of me. I took every whisper, every look, every dating rejection as a result of my weight and my appearance, so I put up a wall.

Every day I would put on a show of over-confidence to mask the self-loathing going on under the surface, and each night I would retreat back into my own world, lock the door, and dream of the real me. I saw myself a hundred pounds lighter, living my dream life: successfully managing a full professional and personal schedule all with the confidence I knew I had inside.

Finally, a few days before my 21st birthday in July, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a crushing blow; my mother is my whole world. After breaking down in the hallway of our house when she said the words, my immediate reaction (later that day) was to go down to the park to run myself into oblivion. I had never run more than a mile before that day, but I needed to numb the pain and couldn’t think of anything else to do. So I ran. And I didn’t care about what anyone thought of me that day.

When I look back on it, I realize it was a desperate need to do something – anything – to take care of myself. The C-word has a way of putting all of your life choices into perspective, even if it’s not you but your immediate family. I now technically had “a family history” of cancer. And the only weapon I had against that was taking better care of myself. So after burning myself out in the park that day doing I don’t even remember how many miles (I lost count after 5), I started to pay closer attention to my choices: what I ate, how I moved, how I spent my free time. And wouldn’t you know it: by eating sensibly and moving more, I lost between 30-40 lbs in that first 6 months.

There’s a lot more to my fitness story after that – I went on to lose a total of more than 100 lbs in the next 5 years, AND my mother beat cancer and has been officially cancer-free since 2005! – but the point of it is this: you can’t live your life in fear. Fear of becoming sick, fear of losing your loved ones, fear of what others will think of you – none of it helps you, unless it motivates you to do something.

I spent most of my teen and adult life hiding from what I could become, and once I conquered that fear and did something about it, I finally found the courage I needed to change. I became an athlete; a runner; I became the me I always knew I was!

IMG_4183 (2)How about you: what’s holding you back from your dream? What do you plan to do to conquer it? Share in the comments and let’s lift each other up!