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!

Back to Training and Lumo Run Review

I officially kicked off training for the Rock n Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon (my fall goal race) earlier this month, and I’m following roughly the same plan I used for the NJ Half Marathon where I set my current half PR. The addition of a few more 9+ mile runs during that training cycle (5 or 6 vs my usual 3 or 4) made a huge difference and helped me clinch that 15 minute PR, so I’m hoping to see similar results this time. Well, maybe not another 15 minute PR, but you know what I mean 😉 With 6 weeks to race day I’m already up to 9 mile long runs, and my pace is still pretty on par with where I was back in May, so yay for that.

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Training began uneventfully with 3-4 mile runs twice during the week and a long run on the weekend, and I was super stoked to try out a new training tool: Lumo Run.

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A little sensor you clip onto the back of your waistband, Lumo Run isn’t just a tracker; it’s a tiny trainer that observes five key metrics during your run to help you improve your running form through real time audio feedback via an app on your phone.

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Full disclosure: the folks at Lumo Run sent me this sensor to test it out in exchange for my honest opinion, but I will say that I was interested in a tool like this even before they reached out to me. I don’t have the luxury of being able to work with a personal running coach, so this little tool is the next best thing.

To start, it had me run a 10 minute calibration run to see what my form and mechanics looked like, so I went out for a 5K with a friend on a hot sticky night after work.

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During the first 10 minutes we covered .87 miles while the pleasant trainer voice (Australian?) coached me to keep my posture straight and told me I was doing great. Once the calibration run was done, however, the real work began. And this woman made us WORK.

The first thing she suggested I work on is cadence, meaning the number of times my foot strikes the ground in a minute. My steps per minute were around 156 during my calibration run, so Lumo had me work on getting up to 163 SPM. To help us stay on track I played a song with a beat of about 168 BMP and the Lumo Run trainer immediately saw that we were hitting our goal. A happy little chime sounded, with the voice explaining that I’d hear the chime when I was successful. In addition to checking my cadence, the trainer also offered reminders to keep my posture straight, and announced my pace and time at the half mile and mile marks. You can change the settings on how often you hear feedback, which is a nice feature.

Once the song ended, we almost immediately slowed down without realizing it and were treated to a sad trombone “womp womp” and the instructor telling us that we weren’t meeting our cadence goal. After 2 miles of chugging along at this new rhythm, we were shredded – but ultimately we hit our goal. To help me improve my cadence after the run, it offered some post-run exercises, complete with explanations and videos too. Very helpful.

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One of the exercises to help me work on “Bounce”

After that run, I wanted to run again to keep improving. So I took it out a few days later and quickly learned just how hard this thing was going to make me work.

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Hello, little Lumo Run!

At the beginning of the run, the trainer announced my new goal was now 172 SPM. But, I turned on some music with a faster beat and set out from my house up the crazy hills of my neighborhood. And there was my first mistake. Up a small hill: Womp-womp. Flat: Ding ding! Yay! Up another larger hill: Womp-womp. Dammit! Finally after a mile of struggling to avoid the sad trombone of failure, I stopped at a red light and discovered the one minor thing I don’t like about Lumo (and can’t figure out if it’s a setting I haven’t discovered or what): even though I “paused” my run on the app, it automatically ended my run after about a minute of waiting! It was frustrating: now that the run was “over”, it marked me as not meeting my goal even though I wanted to keep working towards it, and even if I restarted, my distance and other stats would restart at 0. Overall not a dealbreaker, but kind of irritating.

Because I was now obsessed with nailing a full workout at 172 SPM the whole time, I had to take it out for another run last night – and while it was a struggle, I did it!

Even though I stacked the deck by running on an almost entirely flat course, it was still hard as anything to maintain that cadence without hearing the womp womp. A few times I even cursed out loud at the sound because I was so sure I’d been nailing the goal but wasn’t!

In short, Lumo Run is a ridiculously good motivator. I’ve only run with it a handful of times and worked on ONE metric with it, so I’ve still got a ways to go. But with a tool that’s so clear and immediate with its feedback, for the first time I’m actually looking forward to putting in the work because I know it’ll pay off. It’s like having a tiny trainer in my ear at every step, and the results are right there in my run.

And in addition to having this really cool tool, Lumo is also currently hosting the #ThisIsMyCoach Instagram contest: simply submit a photo or video of your coach using the hashtag #ThisIsMyCoach explaining why they are an inspiration, and you could win a grand prize VIP trip for two to the Kona Ironman Championships! For more info, visit their site and be sure to enter by 5pm PST on September 1 for your chance to win. 

Have you ever used a training tool like this before? What do you think? What’s your current cadence (and if it’s over 172, HOW??)

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!

 

UAE Healthy Kidney 10K Race Recap

Alternate Title: You Can’t Get the Post-Race Blues If You Don’t Stop Racing!

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At least that’s what I’m telling myself!

After running a 15 minute PR at the New Jersey Half Marathon earlier this month, I didn’t have much time to let the post-race blues settle in: I ran the NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10K just two weeks later. I had registered months earlier to keep the momentum going after the big race and while it was kind of a drag to “have to” keep training, it turned out to be the perfect setup for a new 10K PR!

On race morning we woke up nice and early, then headed into the city on the usual 5:37AM train. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day: mid 70’s, sunny, and clear. My previous 10K PR (1:16:22, 12:17/mile) was set at the Trenton 10K in November, and I’d just blown that pace out of the water at the NJ Half (11:51/mile) two weeks earlier. My daily runs post-half were in the 10’s and 11’s, so it was entirely possible to PR. I decided to bear with the heat, push as hard as I could (within reason) and leave it all on those Central Park Hills.

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Before the race we hung out at the party sponsored by the United Arab Emirates and the Healthy Kidney Foundation – an odd combo, but where else are you going to get to hang out with sheikhs and Sidney the Kidney? I met up with my sis-in-law Mere who was running that day too, and we couldn’t resist having some fun with Sidney and his photo booth props:

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After some good luck hugs, we squeezed into the corrals just as the national anthems wrapped up. And right before we started moving towards the start, fellow Mermaid Club gal Lizzie texted me – she was right outside the corral! Luckily we managed to connect, I got another good luck hug, she took off for the second half of her training run (hooray for her not being injured anymore!), and we crossed the starting line with cheers and fist pumping.

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I kept a good 11:30 pace through the first two miles, sipping from the bottle of Cocogo I carried with me when I needed and powering over the rolling hills. The only downside to it finally being a gorgeous day: it was HOT. I’m talking stifling. When you’ve only run in cooler temps, rain, and snow for 6 months, 72 degrees is like running through soup. But I motored along and clocked in the 5K at just under 36 minutes. Not my best, but considering I was only halfway done, I still had plenty in the tank, so woohoo.

Fun fact: The day before, the internet was abuzz with news of the cast of the next Star Wars film landing in Ireland for some intense filming that weekend. So instead of getting lost in my usual “what is life” thoughts, I entertained myself as I ran by imagining what they were doing at that exact moment. Hey, it’s my brain, I can daydream about what I want!

The loop we ran took us in the opposite direction I’d enjoyed during the past few Central Park races I’ve run, so that kept it interesting at least. But at around mile 4, I started to flag – the heat was really intense when we moved into a full-sun area. It was funny watching the crowd of runners slowly shift from one side of the path to the other to stay in the shade. I was grateful I’d decided to bring my bottle with me at the last minute – once I finished the Cocogo, I stopped at every water station and filled the bottle back up with 2 cups of water and left with a cup to sip on as I re-charged with some walking.

I wasn’t too concerned with my pace at that point – my watch had me at about 11:51/mile by mile 5, and I figured I could push through the final 1.2 even a tiny bit slower without missing the PR. For the second time in two weeks I was running relaxed, knowing I had a good PR in the bag. After working for 3 years to get faster, it’s a strange feeling, let me tell you!

At about 5.3, we came up a hill and I spotted a familiar sight pinned to the back of a fellow runner: The Skirt Sports Ambassador logo!

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I took out an earbud, came up alongside her, and said, “Skirt Sports Ambassador?” She smiled, “Yes!!” I was so excited – “Me too!!” I shouted. As it turns out, my “new” friend Jillian was a fellow Skirt Sports ambassador who lived in the area and decided to laminate our logo to help folks identify her on the course! I love that idea by the way, nice one Jillian 🙂 We kept each other company for the next half mile or so, chatting about how we got connected with Skirt Sports and where our running journeys had taken us recently. When she heard I was so close to a PR, she told me to go ahead at around mile 5.8, so I wished her luck and tore off for the finish.

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I glanced down at my watch – this would definitely be a PR, I was so stoked! Two PRs in two weeks, I never thought it was possible. As I spotted the finish line, gave Mike a wave as he snapped my picture, and crossed the line officially at 1:13:30, 11:50/mile.

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All smiles, I accepted my medal, found Mike, found Jillian in the finisher’s chute and snapped some pictures with her, and after saying goodbye to Jillian we all made our way back to the pre-race party area for the finisher’s festival (and to get my snazzy green tech shirt).

When we got there, I re-connected with Lizzie who had finished her training run and joined us for our new post-race tradition of coffee and pastries at the Columbus Circle Starbucks!

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Medium Roast & Raspberry Swirl Loaf: to die for

After we all said our goodbyes, we couldn’t pass up a gorgeous day in the city. So I changed out of my sweaty gear and we headed back downtown to check out the new ThinkGeek store on 33rd & Broadway, had some celebratory pub grub at the Cock & Bull, then made our way back to the train station 10 miles later where I sat down and refused to get up until the train arrived. 16 total miles for the day is no joke, ya’ll!

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Thanks for the edit, Carlos the Runner!

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It was a LONG day, but ultimately I ended it knowing that I’d run another PR just a few weeks after nailing my best half ever. Even with the heat and hills! I’m excited as ever to see what else I’m capable of next, and can’t wait to have you along with me for the ride!

NJ Half Marathon Recap: A 15 Minute PR!

Spoiler Alert: I ran the NJ Half Marathon on Sunday, and I PR’d by 15 minutes!!It was honestly the best half I’ve ever run, even in pouring rain and chilly temperatures. Let’s jump right in!

The weekend of the race was crazy busy: my dad’s birthday Friday, my friend Tina’s bridal shower Saturday, and race day Sunday. To keep myself sane, I took off on Friday and headed down to the expo to get my bib (and Tina’s bib too, she was racing despite having her shower the day before!).

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I’m used to expos being insanity, but at 2PM on a Friday, it was perfect. The process was a little disjointed: walk to a table for your bib, then another table for shirts, and another table for pre-paid parking tickets. But because it was so empty I can’t really complain, I didn’t wait more than 5 minutes at each area, and was able to relax, meet the pace team, and talk shop with other runners with no pressure.

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The following day I went to Tina’s shower, came home, cooked myself my new pre-race go-to dinner of grilled chicken and pasta in light tomato sauce. After laying out my outfit & relaxing with some coloring and a Melissa McCarthy movie, I headed to bed at 9PM.

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My eyes opened up at 3:27 entirely on their own before my 3:30 alarm, and I was ready to go. One cup of coffee, one banana, and two pieces of bread with a bit of peanut butter later, we headed out at 4:45. The race morning weather reports didn’t look promising: much like the Atlantic City April Fool’s 11K, the forecast called for rain, the only question being how much. After picking up Tina and heading to the start at Monmouth Racetrack, I was grateful we had a warm building to hang out in (even if they closed all bathrooms but one, leaving a HUGE line). There we met up with Meredith who had decided to race as well, and the runner girls hung out while the guys hung back and caught up on their own 🙂

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We waited on line for the bathroom to kill time, but by the time we got to the door a half hour later we had to go again! This worked out great though – we got out at 7:20, leaving us just enough time to head out into the cold mist and into the corrals where I almost let my nerves get the best of me. I had talked up this race to anyone who would listen to me, and I set a big goal for myself by publicly aiming for a new PR. The cold and the rain made me start to doubt myself, even with all the extra training I’d done.

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You are looking into the eyes of a woman who wants to run.” Run back to the car where it’s warm and dry and she doesn’t have to run 13 miles.

It’s funny how karma works though, because right before getting behind the gate and being left along with my frayed nerves, my local running friend Tracy spotted me and gave me the best good luck hug ever! She was such a trooper coming out in the pouring rain to cheer us on – it meant a lot to see her, especially just when I was getting so nervous!

Back in Corral J (as usual, near the end), I spotted pacers for a 12:45 half marathon and a 12:24 full marathon. Initially I’d planned on going with the 12:45 pacer for the first 10 miles and saving myself for a final 5K kick, but having never run with a pacer before I was afraid that if I lost them at a water stop or fuel break, I’d never catch back up. So I decided at the last minute instead to run by feel at around 12:00-12:30 just like I’d done in training, and if I had to pick up the 12:45 pacer towards the end, they’d be there.

After a quick selfie, a good luck hug and kiss from Mike, and 17 minutes of waiting while the faster corrals took off, Corral J hit the start and we were off! The mist turned into a light rain as we rounded the parking lot and went up a slight hill to enter the little towns we’d be running most of the course through.

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Miles 1-4ish felt good – a little warm, a little fast at 11:24-11:45, but good. At mile 3 I actually told myself, “Too fast!” after checking my watch. I’d done one 10 miler at 11:39 per mile ONCE, but could I pull it off again on race day? I got my answer at mile 5 when I felt my watch beep and thought it was only mile 4.

For the majority of the race I took in the crowds of runners around me and got all the high fives I could from the spectators. Seriously – every other house had some kind of race action going on. My friend Dan (above)  was cheering on his girlfriend Michelle and gave me the strongest high five EVER at around mile 5.5! Other folks brought out their lawn furniture and umbrellas to sit and cheer, while others set up tables filled with water bottles or orange slices.

Even though they had official aid stations every 1.5 miles or so (which I grabbed water from without stopping every time), my rain-proof layer had me overheating and I felt paste-mouth creeping up after my mile 5 gel. As if on cue, we passed a house who had left a case of 36 water bottles on their front lawn. The best! I grabbed a bottle and it became my good luck charm until mile 12.

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I’m glad I got a picture with my lucky bottle 🙂

At the halfway point, I still felt good but had a brief flash of anxiety: “I have to repeat what I’ve already done? There’s no way I’m going to feel this good much longer. Impossible.” And again – as if on cue – we passed a stretch of spectators who’d set up posters with inspirational quotes. One from the Matrix was just what I needed to see at that stretch:

“What are you waiting for? You’re faster than this. Don’t think you are, know you are.” – Morpheus

As I passed that sign I read it out loud to myself. I repeated it twice: You’re faster than this, Jess. Don’t think it. KNOW IT. And just like that, my legs felt fresher and I attacked the second half of the race with renewed energy… just as the skies opened up and it began to POUR!

Seriously, those last 7 miles were in basically a downpour. But we motored on! I grabbed an orange slice at one house, thanking the woman and her daughter who were standing in the pouring rain cutting oranges and cheering us on. At what I thought was mile 8 I told myself “5 more miles, not bad!” – then I brushed the rain off my watch and realized it said Mile 9, and I laughed again: I seriously didn’t notice another mile go by!

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No one deserves to be this happy at mile 12 of a half marathon in the rain.

I took my second gel, and for the next 3 miles we wound through downtown Long Branch past some shops and headed for the boardwalk. At this point I was deliriously happy. No, really: at mile 11 Shake, Senora came on my iPod and I started singing and run-dancing, getting some WEIRD looks from the folks I passed. #sorrynotsorry I’m feeling better than you, sir!

By the time we got to the boardwalk at mile 12 I was practically bursting – my watch’s average pace of 11:45 meant I was well on my way to beat 2:50. With about a half mile to go, Formation came on my iPod and I floored it. I felt like I’d just started Mile 1, weaving around people left and right, the finish line in sight.

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PRs aren’t pretty.

I passed Mere, Damian, and Mike all standing at the sideline in the pouring rain, screaming my name, and waved with a deranged smile as I glanced at my watch just before the finish: I was going to cross at 2:35!

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And that’s exactly what I did, throwing my arms up in the air and completely breaking down in tears. Final Time: 2:35:13, avg. pace of 11:51/mile.

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The best part: I ran the second half FASTER than the first!

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According to my Garmin the course was long, so my watch time is much better too. But either way, I ran a 15 minute PR in the pouring rain, and I felt like a million bucks.

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I met up with everyone past the finish line, crying my eyes out, and had the best hugs and celebration I can ever remember having! Meredith was especially excited; as a fellow runner, she knew just what it meant to crush my time by 15 minutes and jumped in the air squealing with me over it!

After some thought, I think this race felt so easy for a handful of reasons:

  1. It was a new (to me) course so I was seeing everything for the first time, which took my mind off the fact that I was running 13 miles in the pouring rain.
  2. It was a bigger race AND I was running 1:00+ faster per mile so I was surrounded by more people, making me feel less isolated than I usually do at the back of the pack.
  3. I created an entirely new running playlist with music I hadn’t run with before.
  4. Lastly – and most importantly – I put in a LOT of hard work! I didn’t take any time off after my last half and kept up my endurance with shorter distance races throughout the winter (the Joe K 10K in January, the Gridiron 4 Miler in February). Because I was already running 6+ miles when my “official” training started, I was able to work up to double digit runs faster and run more of them too. 5 long runs of 2+ hours (instead of the usual 2) massively improved my confidence in being able to cover the distance without bonking.

I won’t lie: four days later I’m still flying high on this one. And it didn’t stop on race day: I came in to work Monday to find a tiny little PR cake that my friend had customized with my shiny new finish time in icing!

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It’s safe to say this is my new favorite race, and barring any conflicts I will definitely be running this one again next year (hopefully in better conditions)! To everyone who cheered me on virtually here or even out on the course, THANK YOU! Your support has been a huge motivation for me, and I can’t thank you all enough. Even though most of us have never met in real life, knowing that you’re out there rooting for me fuels me to push harder in my training and leave it all on the pavement, and this race was no exception. Cheers to an amazing race – and all the great things I have yet to accomplish thanks to running!

April Fools 11K Race Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I feel cold just looking at us.

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

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

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

I told you it was pretty amazing.

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

Friday Favorites: Too Much Coffee Edition

I know what you’re thinking: three posts in one week? Who is this chick and what did she do with the old, lazy blogger Jess? Well, let’s just say I’ve had too much coffee and not enough breakfast this morning, so my new-found abundance of energy means you get a bonus post this week. So because I haven’t done one in a while, let’s check out some Friday Favorites: Too Much Coffee Edition!

House of Cards

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Never before has a TV show (or movie, for that matter) made me DESPISE characters so much, yet compelled me to keep watching like House of Cards. There were even times after certain events involving Corey Stoll’s character and poor Rachel, where I had to take a break from watching for a few weeks because I was so gutted. I hated these people for what they did, and couldn’t imagine ever caring enough about them to watch the show again. Yet, like a moth to a flame I kept coming back. Hate watching? Maybe. All I know is that Season 4 is officially out as of this morning and I’m REALLY looking forward to binging as much as I can this weekend.

Star Wars on Blu Ray

Guys. You guys. Linda, honey, just listen. I know I’m a geek for loving on Star Wars, but I don’t CARE anymore. At first I tried to play it off: no, I’ve had this Death Star blueprint shirt for a while, just never wore it. Yeah, I figured I’d get a Kylo Ren blanket cause the cats really like that soft smushy material and it was on sale.

Rey practicing the snow fight? Adam Driver interviews? A BB-8 puppet in action?? KYLO REN ON THE FALCON, YOU GUYS?! I have no more chill.

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See what I did there?

I can no longer hide it. When they announced the home video release date of the Force Awakens yesterday along with the DVD trailer up there, all hope for a normal future was lost. I’ve officially blocked off my calendar from April 1-15 for an extended two-week geek out while I watch all the deleted scenes, making-of documentaries, and memorize every single scene. I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it. I’m about to binge-watch Star Wars til my eyes bleed and I think I like it.

Coloring

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They had me at “anti-stress”.

Back in college my parents would send me little care packages every few months. One time my mom decided to throw in a dollar store coloring book and a pack of crayons as a joke “for stress relief”. Well, I colored the HELL out of that thing. And I even mailed home a few pages for them to put on the fridge, because I evidently never emotionally matured past the age of 9.

I like to think that my mom was the firestarter of the adult coloring book trend (not to be confused with adult coloring books, ya perv). They’re billed as stress release, anti-tension, mind calming things, and I’m here to tell you: it’s true. All of it. (see what I did there again? GOD I’m on a roll!)

Every few nights I take out my pencils and one of my coloring books (yes I have 3), pick a page and get lost. Bonus: I’ve been trying to get better about how much time I spend on my phone in the evenings, and this is a major aid there. Plus my hands are too busy coloring to snack too! Extra bonus!

I’ll color you a page and post it here for you to hang on your fridge if you want. You know. For decoration.

That’s about it for my Friday Favorites – I’ve had a good 24 oz. of water while typing and the caffeine is starting to wear off. So now it’s your turn: Have you ever gotten emotionally involved with a TV show? What do you secretly geek out over (and if it’s Star Wars, can we be best friends)? Want to color with me?? Bring your own pencils and we’ve got a date.

Gimme a Beat

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

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

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

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

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

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Not to mention some fancy Spring headphones!

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

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How can you be disappointed when they play Nirvana?

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

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And they even cheered me on when I finished!

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

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

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

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

 

Half Marathon Training Week 2 (& Giveaway Winner!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pins and Needles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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