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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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.

My Longest Run Ever!

This weekend, I hit a huge milestone not just in my NYC Marathon training, but in my running career: I finally broke my half marathon “curse” and ran 14 miles, my longest distance ever!

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Let’s rewind and talk about how it went down.

Going into this past weekend, I knew I had 13 miles on the schedule, but I decided to go 13.5 to break through the 13.1 stigma. With the past few weeks of hip flexor and piriformis rehab I’ve been doing with my chiropractor, on top of strength training I’m doing 2-3x a week, I was ready to run my longest run ever.

Having learned from past mistakes, I prepped for this run like I would a race: I hydrated well, laid off dairy and cheese, and upped my carbs the few days before the run. And the day before, I stayed active and walked my 10,000 steps on a visit to the local “zoo”, but didn’t overdo it.

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goats and horses being friends ❤

I had my plain pasta with simple marinara sauce and grilled chicken and my one glass of wine for my pre-run dinner.

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I even treated myself to some popcorn at the movies that night (PS – go see Logan Lucky, it was hysterical!)

The morning of, I had decided to stick to the treadmill because of an iffy stomach (thanks, IBS) and headed out to the Y. Because this was going to be a half marathon, I decided to try something different and brought some pretzels in addition to my usual chocolate Honey Stinger gels. This turned out to be a fantastic idea that I’m going to be using in all of my long runs going forward!

Miles 1-5 were a breeze, thanks to a random assortment of new music and some idle mind wandering. I took 60-second walk breaks at miles 2 and 4 (with a gel at 4), then stopped the treadmill at mile 5 to stretch for a few seconds and refill my water bottle before starting again for miles 5-8. My average pace was in the 11:45 range, which was right on target to keep me from re-injuring my hip but staying confident and comfortable.

I checked my Instagram during one walk break and saw that my friends Tiffanie and Carlos had both rocked their awesome long runs (of 14 and 20 miles, respectively!) ALSO on treadmills, and decided then and there that I was going for the full 14 too. It was time to do big, scary things!

So I walked again at miles 6 and 7, then stopped the treadmill at 8 when I felt some burning on the arch of my right foot that I didn’t want to turn into a big honking blister. So I stopped, took my sock off and applied some anti-chafe gel, popped 3-4 pretzels, watered up and started once more for miles 8-11. My goal was to finish this 4 mile chunk with just about a 5k left, to mentally make it easier to handle. This strategy worked – and the pretzels worked so well as fuel that I didn’t need to take my second gel until my final stop at mile 11!

I switched from music to YouTube videos in the last few chunks, and let me tell you – video as a distraction is fanTAStic. I learned this in earnest last week when I had to do my long run of 9 miles on the treadmill after work on Monday and watched Moana on Netflix for the first time. I was shocked to see how easy it was to run while watching a movie I’d never seen before, especially one as entertaining as Moana. Although it’s hard to run while crying (damn that stingray spirit guide and soaring musical score)! For this long run, however, I opted for some more physically inspiring videos: here are some of my favorites.

Anyway, I rounded out the run with the final 3 miles and felt strong straight through til the final mile, where I cranked up the intensity to finish strong. By the time I finished though, I was so sweat-soaked that I had no moisture left for the happy tears I wanted to shed!

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I was shocked to see my average pace hovered near my best Half Marathon PR pace – although I stopped my watch for those treadmill refreshes, I probably only added about 5-6 minutes to my time total, which I’ll take.

All in all this was a huge confidence boosting run for me. I mean, I KNOW I’m running the NYC Marathon in November. But in the back of my mind, that teeny tiny little sesame seed of doubt lay dormant: you’ve never run more than 13.1 miles. You’ve tried this before and failed. You’ll fail again.

With yesterday’s strong performance, I proved to myself that I WON’T fail again; that I’m stronger both mentally and physically this time, and that I’m ready to take on the rest of my training and rock all 26.2 of those miles on November 5th.

NYC Marathon Training Update

I feel like every tenth post I write should start with an auto-disclaimer: I know I’m a terrible blogger and it’s been more than a month since my last post. But I promise I’ve got some good stuff to share and I’ll try to be more regular! 🙂

So when we last left off, I’d taken a nasty spill on the trail (ok, on the sidewalk getting TO the trail) and developed an infection as a result, which put me out of commission for 10 days. When I returned, I was worried that my lack of training would set me back in a big way, but I was wrong.

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I hit the trails on Day 10 and nailed an easy 5K in 10:57/mile and felt fantastic. Having to take 10 days off really made me appreciate being able to run, and I jumped right in with both feet.

The next day, Thursday, June 15th, I jumped in a bit TOO hard and raced the Corporate Fun Run 5K with my company for the second year in a row – and ran my very first sub-30 5K!

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I’ll admit that the course was a tad short, but there have been SO many times where I missed a PR because a course ran long, so I’m taking it.

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We had a great time – in addition to coworkers, the race directors invited family and friends and clients to participate, so Mere was able to run this one with u! She nailed 2nd Female Overall and helped us get First Female Team overall, too!

Unfortunately, after pounding the pavement 2 days in a row after taking so much time off (and REALLY pushing it in the final mile for that PR during the race), I woke up Friday with a very tender hip. This is a minor issue I developed back while I was training for the second Disney race weekend earlier this spring. I learned how to take care of it with lots of different stretches and foam rolling religiously, so after taking an extra few active rest days with biking and stretching and yoga, it felt better relatively quickly and I was able to continue NYC Marathon training in earnest.

Instead of being All Caps Abbi with every run (where my Broad City fam at?) I’m forcing myself to run a bit slower to avoid re-injuring it, and I’m feeling very strong as a result.

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My training plan has me doing three shorter runs Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday, taking off Friday, doing cross training and a shakeout mile on Saturday, then running long Sunday. The only time I ran into an issue was with my mental game during my first double digit run of this cycle:

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It was a tough 10 miler. A touch of food poisoning kept me up til 1am the night before, so I slept in and felt good when I got up, but by mile 6 my body (and mind) were ready to quit.

Too often I’ve quit early on long runs because my body felt tired and I don’t like seeing my pace suffer from walk breaks. But with marathon training I’ve made a deal with myself: it’s not about pace, it’s about distance. No matter how I have to cover the miles on those daunting long runs, I’m going to cover them, pace be damned.

So when I wanted to quit at mile 6 on this run, I pictured myself at mile 22 of the NYC Marathon and realized there’s no way I’d quit THAT race with just 4 miles to go. So I kept going. And while I walked a lot, I still finished all 10 miles (the final mile was the fastest!) and I strengthened my mental game at the same time. It was a great learning and growth opportunity, and I look forward to many more throughout this training cycle!

After that 10 miler, I’ve managed to stay consistent, and rocked a solid 9 miler over this weekend. My mid-week runs will start to grow in distance as of this week, and I’m especially looking forward to doing the NYRR Long Marathon Training Run this coming weekend – 2 loops around Central Park in July heat and humidity is going to be a real test, but I need some hill and outdoor training- and Mere is coming with me, yay!

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Sister-in-law running fun at the Spring Lake Five ❤

So now that we’re caught up on my training, I promise I’ll try to be more consistent – I’ve got a few races to recap, along with some other fun surprises in the works, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, tell me: How’s your training going? Do you have a latent hypercompetitive streak like me and All-Caps Abbi? 

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!

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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Thursday Thoughts

So now that I’m properly caffeinated this morning – and I’ve had some time to unload the past 2 months of photos from my phone – I realize that it’s high time I update here! But because I’ve had a LITTLE too much coffee and not enough sleep, here’s a photo-heavy update on what I’ve been up to and what I’m looking forward to (in no particular order):

I ran another race in the city! 

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Back in July I ran an (uneventful, hence no recap yet) average 4 miler with NYRR at the Boomer’s Cystic Fibrosis Run to Breathe. This was smack in the middle of my “off” period between spring racing and pre-fall training, so I purposely went out just to run, take in the sights of Central Park in the summer, and earn another race in my 9+1 for the 2017 NYC Marathon. Speaking of:

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I’m only one race away! On October 30th I’m taking on the Marathon Kickoff 5M to earn my final credit for entry into the marathon! My first full, my first NYC… it’s getting real.

Training for the Rock n Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon has ramped up.

With my next half now less than a month away, I’ve been killing it on the mileage front – and my paces just keep getting better too. All of my long runs have been under 12:00/mile and I’m even gunning for a 5K PR at one of my two races this coming weekend.

But it’s taken a lot of work. As a result, my weekday nights are filled with post-work crosstraining and treadmill runs (because it has been HOT in NJ this summer), meaning I’m not getting home until late most nights. And on the weekend when I’m running long, I spend one full day prepping for, doing, and recovering from my long runs.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m SO lucky that my husband supports me in all this ridiculousness and cooks and takes care of the house while I’m out running, because otherwise we would be eating a lot of dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets and pasta. I mean, we ARE eating that a lot, but if not for him, we’d be eating it ALL the time. Plus the lawn would be a jungle. Thanks, babe.

I got a new bike!

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After struggling through two sprint triathlons last summer on my beat up old mountain bike, I finally caved and got myself a new, speedier bike. I noticed an IMMEDIATE difference – I’m so much faster and lighter, it takes virtually no effort to get going once I get on the bike. In my first tri on it, I shaved nearly 15 minutes off my time from last year to this year. And while I’m not 100% ready to make the jump from two legs to two wheels (I’m still Jess RUNS Happy, after all), this new toy has been an invaluable part of my training and fitness plans this summer.

I hung out with the Brooks team in NYC.

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A few weeks ago I had the chance to participate in a fun little video shoot with the Brooks folks in NYC. While I can’t spill the beans about it just yet, I promise you guys are going to love what’s in store.

While this is just a quick peek (I still owe you guys a recap of my triathlon!), there’s how my summer has gone in a nutshell. How about you? Tell me everything!

NYRR & FRNY Pride Run Race Recap

On Saturday, June 25th, I ran the NYRR/FRNY Pride Run 5M and had – quite honestly – one of the best race experiences I’ve had in recent memory.

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This race was dear to my heart to begin with; I’ve been an ally in the LGBTQ community for as long as I’ve known what those letters stand for and take every opportunity I can to show my pride. The past few years I wasn’t able to race due to vacations or other plans, so this year, I registered as soon as it opened up.

Then just a few weeks before race day, the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando rocked the community. But on race day, we came together to lift each other up and race as one, holding those 49 beautiful people and their families and loved ones in our hearts at every step.

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It was a perfectly sunny day, and as we got to the race site and milled around with the crowd, I hydrated and snapped pics on the way to the corral. I was SO HAPPY to run into my favorite running buddy Mr. Lu and finally snap a photo with him! This guy has run every NYRR race I’ve done, and our paces are roughly the same. He’s gotten me through quite a few difficult miles with his perfectly steady gait and the jingly bells he holds in his hands when he runs. Anyone else every run into him too?

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Once I got to the corral I hung out and caught up on social media then took my place and got ready to run. The crowds were thick, but everyone – and I mean everyone – was kind and happy and supportive. As I’m usually alone in the corral, I tend to put my headphones on and smile at runners around me, but don’t get a lot of smiles back. This time, everyone smiled and wished each other a great race, gave a thumbs up, something.

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Peter Ciaccia opened up the race with a speech that I managed to partially get on video and I’m so grateful I did:

I can’t lie – I shed some tears at those remarks, and still do watching them now. He’s right: the madness has to stop. I don’t care what your political leanings are and I’m not here to get into a debate – this is my blog, not the comments section of a Facebook post – but at the very least, we can all agree that what really matters is humanity and love and respect. And if you don’t agree, then you can take your opinions elsewhere and kindly unfollow me, thank you very much.

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After Peter’s remarks the horn went off and we were off for the 5 mile loop around the park, where I was quickly overwhelmed by the love and support coming from all angles. It was heartwarming. People on the sidelines screamed for every single person, offering high fives, wearing tutus and glitter and wigs, giving out gummy bears – and that was just in the first quarter mile!

Once we cleared the crowds, I choked up as I spotted the signs people were racing with – some had written the names of the victims of the Orlando shooting on their bibs, others held posters or made special shirts. I got especially emotional when I came up on one man wearing a laminated collage of the faces of all of the victims on his back. I cried as I passed him, giving him a thumbs up and a nod that he returned.

Beyond the scenery and the crowds and the amazing environment, the run itself was uneventful – I wasn’t gunning for a PR after taking some training time off in the weeks leading up to the race, so I ran my own race and took my time in the growing heat and full sun. I told myself as long as I stayed under 11:45/mile I’d be happy.

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In the final mile I saw that I had kept my promise to myself and was nearing an 11:3x/mile finish, so I gunned it and crossed the line officially at 57:37 (or an 11:32/mile pace).

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Garmin time is always better 😉

I was even MORE excited at the finish to find that not only did I finish fast enough to get a race shirt IN MY SIZE (they’re usually all gone by the time I finish), but they were handing out RAINBOW BAGELS!

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How can you not smile at rainbow bagels??

Because it was a hot day and we had plans that afternoon, we weren’t able to wander around the city like we’d wanted, but it was just as well because I was hot and sticky and needed to shower. And while the event was bittersweet and emotional and turned me into a big ol’ blubbery mess more than a few times, I had to smile when I hopped onto the subway and saw what the NYRR posted at the end of the race:

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A post-race proposal!

Love IS the only thing that matters, plain and simple.

Race Recap: NYRR Retro 4Miler

On Sunday, June 5th, I earned my 5th race towards my 2017 NYC Marathon 9+1 entry and ran the NYRR Retro 4 Miler in Central Park!

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Full disclosure: I almost skipped this race. After hanging out with sick people the weekend before, I came down with a nasty throat infection and a cough that kept me up 3 nights in a row. The medicine I started on Thursday helped almost immediately, but I was left with wheezing and coughing that wouldn’t go away. I wasn’t quite ready for my first DNS though, and decided I’d walk the damn thing if I needed – I wanted that 9+1 credit!

Happily, Sunday morning I woke feeling pretty good. Three days of meds and 12+ hours of sleep a night really did the trick, and while I still felt tightness in my chest, my legs were itching to run after 3 days off. So I geared up with my new Pro Compression Neon Waves and Skirt Sports Ambassador trucker hat and we headed into the city for a warm, rainy race.

The forecast called for thunderstorms later in the day, and it was overcast from the start, which kept us from overheating. After getting there super early and bibbing up (that’s a thing, right?), I made my way back to the corral and stretched for a bit. This was a fun race that I’ve wanted to do for a while: NYRR gets into the whole “retro running heyday” theme by blasting 60’s and 70’s music, encouraging people to run in vintage tube socks and sweat bands, and time-callers on ladders at every mile marker barking out the race time from their stop watches. It was a cool vibe, if I may borrow a retro turn of phrase! [omg I’m so sorry that was so lame. I’ll see myself out.]

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color-coordinated cheeseball

After the gun went off, we made our way around the 4 mile inner loop of the park in a thick pack. I really love running NYRR races – the corrals are packed all the way to the end and it’s just a totally different experience when you’re surrounded by other runners at the same pace and have the opportunity to pass people. It’s so much more motivational!

As we shuffled along, I kept an eye on my pace – to keep from coughing, I aimed to go SLOW, but my body was not having it. I was averaging 10:30 through the first 3/4 mile! Also, I was pleased to realize that running kept my cough at bay. Finally at the end of Mile 1, we rolled up on my favorite terraces and I couldn’t help but stop and smile.

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I had to take a picture – this was the first time this year I saw my favorite spot in Manhattan all covered in lush greenery, and the sight of that balcony breaking through the trees really made my heart swell. I had to remember that moment 🙂

As we coasted through into Mile 2, I was surprised at my first mile split: 11:07 even with the photo stop! And it felt effortless! Even as the skies opened up and it started raining, my new music was jammin’, the crowds around me were flowing – I even picked off a few people and kept them in the rearview the whole way just to challenge myself. Briefly I thought: wouldn’t it be cool to nab a new 4M PR, even while sick? I did some mental math: I’d need to run sub 11’s the whole way, but shoot – the first mile felt like nothing, why shouldn’t I try??

So try I did. And Mile 2 FLEW by at 10:30 (!!) – I was pumped! So pumped, in fact, that I burnt out [insert sad trombone music]. Hahaha – I had to know it was too good to be true. There was a pretty killer hill around the 5K mark that I charged through at full speed, using my arms to pump and build momentum. As this is something I rarely do, my whole body was on fire by the time I got to the top of the hill, and my breathing never got back to normal. Oh well. That’s what I get for being ambitious after coming off a sick break!

I walked a bit through the last water stop & watched my pace creep back down into the 11:30 range. At mile 3.5, I figured what the hell and took off again. I could do anything for a half mile, right? So I dropped the hammer and rounded the corner to the finish, passing two particularly obnoxious friends who had been walk/running and throwing their arms dramatically out to the sides for the past mile (WHY? There are PEOPLE around you, sweethearts!) and sprinted into the finish for a 45:42 finish at an 11:26 pace.

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Garmin time is always better, dammit.

Once I crossed the line, I slowed to a stop and almost immediately started coughing and wheezing. There was a moment of panic there when I couldn’t catch my breath without coughing even more, so I slowed my breathing, walked carefully, and briefly glanced at the medical tent. But after a few more yards and a big ol’ cup of water (thank you, soaking wet volunteer, for manning a water table in the rain!) I was fine. I grabbed a cinnamon raisin bagel and an apple, found Mike, got my shirt, and we headed home.

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All in all I did much better than I expected to –  my 4M PR is 44:13, so I came pretty dang close – and for a fun themed race, I’ll definitely look to do this one again next year.

Race Recap: NYRR Run for the Parks 4 Miler

In my journey to complete my NYRR 9+1 I headed to my third Central Park race of the year on April 10th – the Run for the Parks 4 Miler. In all the pictures of past races, people are smiling in tank tops, happily jumping through the air and gamboling about like bunnies in the fresh buds blooming all around the park. This year? Not so much.

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I’ve run some cold races in my life. Frozen hail, snow, pouring rain, driving winds. But even though the sun was out for this race, I felt like I was never going to get warm again, ever.

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Maybe because I  had to wake up at 4:30 for a 5:37 train after running 10 miles on a treadmill the day before.

Either way, we made it into the city bright and early, and headed uptown on the subway to the start at around 70th street. While it was super cold, I will say that this race is going down in history as the biggest surprise of my life: after toiling away at my pace for months, all the hard work has paid off and the NYRR finally bumped me up out of the last corral!!

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No more L for “Last”! Finally! K for “Kickass”!

Just like the consistent improvements I’ve seen in my times, I’m sure this was a fluke and I’ll be dropped back down to L in my next race (because this race’s time wasn’t too hot), but with the race bib above, I can definitively state, with photographic proof, that I was NOT last in at least one NYRR race in my life.

After jumping up and down and squealing over my shiny new K for a bit, we headed to the corral. I kept my big fluffy coat on as long as possible, but once I got behind the corral fence and had to hand the coat off to my hubby, I froze *instantly*. I had layered with a longsleeve and my cold weather insulated Brooks jacket (and a hat and gloves!) but it just wasn’t enough. I usually warm up after the first half mile or so, but not today. My toes and fingers were so cold they ached.

Once the gun went off, my frozen feet even affected my running! They were so numb that I had to change my gait for the first mile, which wasn’t fun. NBD though: I had gone into the race aiming just to finish – having done my long run on the treadmill the day before, my legs were aching to begin with, and I wasn’t about to push too hard so close to race day.

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The funny thing about running 10 miles the day before a 4 mile race: 4 miles seems like NOTHING! Seriously – once I heard the first mile click by on my watch, the second mile felt like it flew by even faster. I finally warmed up to a comfortable temperature by mile 2, and I was even picking some folks off as I cruised along at around 11:50. I hadn’t expected to go that fast!

Mile 3 came and went, and once I hit 3.25 I started to pick up the pace. The arches of my feet were angry at the hills I’d taken so soon after pounding them on a treadmill for 2 hours, but I kept telling myself it was almost over. And once I saw that finish line, I sprinted – finishing in 46:58, avg. 11:46/mile!

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To make things even more exciting, I had a friend waiting for me at the finish line: Lizzie, a fellow member of The Mermaid Club, who lives a few blocks away from the park, came out to cheer me on and warm up with coffee after the race! She snapped all these great pics you see up there 🙂 We all met up at the finish and walked over to a nearby Starbucks where we BS’d about work, life, running, and all that other fun stuff for a while before heading back home to a warm shower and a nap.

Overall while this wasn’t my best NYRR race, my performance after a long run the day before surprised me and I’m pretty excited about checking another race off my 9+1 list too!