Not Your Average Vacation

If you follow me on IG or Twitter or Facebook,  you probably noticed last week that my photos all had a distinctly “not-NJ-in-December” feel to them. That’s because we went on vacation – to Florida!

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I wanted to do something BIG to celebrate hubby’s landmark 40th birthday this past Tuesday, but he’s a more reserved kinda guy. So instead of planning a big party he’d muddle through while silently wishing for it to be over, I did some research and discovered a rocket launch happening in Florida around the same time as his birthday. So after some secret airfare stalking and finding an unbelievable deal, I presented the idea to him (instead of surprising him). Thankfully, he was super stoked! So we were off to Titusville, Florida to visit Kennedy Space Center and watch as Orbital ATK launched an Atlas V rocket loaded with supplies up to the International Space Station!

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This is going to be a picture-filled post, so if you get bored by sunshine & giant rockets, I apologize in advance.

This was Mike’s first airplane ride, but I was so proud of how he handled it.

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It was a little nerve-wracking being 30,000 feet in the air, but it was an smooth flight with virtually no turbulence and we landed a few hours later in Orlando happy, hungry, and tired.

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It was my first time renting a car so I felt super important (it’s the little things, guys), and we had a great time checking out the area around the hotel. As it turns out, the whole area is ALL ABOUT THE LAUNCH. Like, that’s all you see on every sign everywhere. Even the bars are space themed. Seriously, one was named Launch. I kid you not.

We checked in and met the folks that owned the hotel (SUPER sweet people who offered us restaurant tips and coupons for the best seafood ever, more on that later), and they invited us back to the lobby that night for cocoa and cookies and to meet Dr. Ken Kremer, who was in town to cover the launch. Cookies, cocoa, and a fellow science nerd to talk shop with? Sweet!

After settling in, we headed out for dinner at Dixie Crossroads, where I quickly learned that any aspirations of healthy eating I had before this moment were merely fantasies. Because, well, fried dough covered in powdered sugar, you guys.

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Seriously, this was the meal our first night, and every night was this big. I didn’t beat myself up though: while it looks decadent, I kept the fried things to a minimum, stuck with mostly broiled seafood for dinner and salads for lunch, maintained a pretty good 70/30 balance (except for the giant gluten free brownie I had on the last day, #sorrynotsorry), and my iPhone’s health tracker clocked us at about 5 walking miles each day, so I think it all evened out!

After dinner we returned to the hotel and met Dr. Kremer where he was discussing the rocket launch and showing off some of his amazing photography in the lobby. As it turns out, he’s a speaker, freelance science journalist, scientist and photographer based out of – get this – Princeton, NJ! We traveled more than a thousand miles and still run into Jersey folks, go figure. He’s a mega-smart guy whose articles and space exploration photography has shown up in NASA, National Geographic, NBC News, CBS, and more, and he was in town to cover the launch. We chatted about the various photos he had on display, got really into some space stuff, and called it a night.

Day 1 was the day of the launch, so we went to Kennedy Space Center to explore for the day, then boarded a bus out to the Banana Creek Viewing Area in the afternoon but (spoiler alert) it was scrubbed due to rain. No matter though – it was rescheduled for the next day and we still had an amazing time! Here’s Day 1 in photos:

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Rocket Selfie time

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There really is a person in there, I promise.

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Atlantis Robot Arm attack!

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They snapped this before putting us on the bus – too bad it didn’t happen IRL!

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Astronaut Brian Duffy – amazingly intelligent, easy going, and witty too!

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With the actual Atlantis shuttle

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Excitedly waiting in the drizzle for a rocket launch!

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But sadly being soaked by the downpour after the launch was scrubbed.

To drown our sorrows, we went to the Cracker Barrel (our first experience!) across the parking lot from our hotel and feasted. There are no pictures from that because our hands were covered in butter. But we did fall in love with the peg game and now can’t stop playing it!

Day 2 was clearer, but the WIND was very strong. Word from NASA was a 40% chance of the launch happening that night, but we were optimistic (and let’s be honest, we had nothing else to do) so we boarded the bus, took a little tour, and tooled around the Saturn V building then headed to the viewing area once more. Here’s Day 2 in pictures!

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Mike with an Apollo capsule.

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The view from under the fuel tank at the Atlantis building.

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Part of a beautiful tribute to the lives lost in the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters. Truly moving.

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The Saturn V rocket on display.

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Hubby really got into the action 🙂

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The Vehicle Assembly Building

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Space Salad! No seriously, they grow some of the greens they use in the cafe’s salads hydroponically, just like they’re trying to do in space. SPACE SALAD!

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Panoramic shot of the Banana Creek Viewing Area before it got crowded.

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Our marriage summed up in one GoPro shot.

Spoiler alert #2: the rocket launch was scrubbed again, this time due to wind! It was still immensely cool to be at the viewing area again, this time with a smaller crowd, and to hear the live audio feed from NASA broadcasting on the PA system outside. I still get goosebumps when I watch the little video I took of the pre-flight systems check (and the cheer that erupted in the crowd when we got to hear those magic words: “You have permission to launch.”

I dare you not to cheer when you hear it 😉

After the second failed attempt, I won’t lie: I was bummed. That was our last shot at seeing it in person, and that made me sad. Mike was still super happy though, and that’s what matters. OK, he did, at one point, say through gritted teeth while we held our breath waiting for the launch, “Just press the button, send it up! A $100 million dollar rocket can’t handle a little wind??”, but that was it.

To turn the negative of missing the launch into a positive, I decided to take him out for an early birthday dinner at the restaurant our hotel manager recommended: Shiloh’s Steakhouse.

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Not pictured: his twin lobster tails and my gigantic sea scallops. Again, butter-covered hands.

It was so nice to hang out in the warm(er) weather with the river right there, eating seafood and laughing about wanting to waste the millions of dollars and take the chance by sending the rocket up even if it wasn’t ready. When we got back to the hotel we decided to bring our peg game (yes, we bought our own for $4) to the open air lobby for some play time, but stopped into the main lobby to see if Dr. Kremer was there – and lo and behold there he was, with his friend Klaus!

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We hung out in the lobby with Klaus and Dr. Kremer for another hour or so, drinking cocoa and eating cookies and talking about everything from rockets to Instagram to traveling. We even caught Ken on TV when the local news station did a bit about the scrubbed launch – they interviewed him about his thoughts and we were there to see the magic firsthand. It was pretty fun, to say the least 🙂

After saying our goodbyes, we hung out in the open air lobby and played our games for a bit, then Klaus stopped by again and we chatted for a bit, then we finally hit the hay.

Day 3 was a blur – we went back to the Space Center for a few hours, walked around and generally took our time looking at all of the things we breezed by earlier to get to other attractions. It was so nice, just strolling through the Rocket Garden in 75+ degrees and sun… even though we were headed for the airport at 5pm!

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I took a “run” on a space treadmill!

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Soaking up some last minute sun before our trip back to NJ

Finally we headed back to the airport to drop off our car, check in, and wing our way back to chilly NJ! It was a whirlwind 4 days that we’re still smiling about, even a week later.

If you’re looking for something fun to do that’s not the usual “sit on a beach and drink all day” vacation, I’d definitely recommend the Kennedy Space Center. It’s totally NOT just for kids – and even as a person who was previously only semi-interested in space stuff, I was riveted by some of the things I learned! No lie, I found myself going “Wow,” on multiple occasions, and learned so much about the space program in general and where it’s headed. It’s really fascinating stuff!

And if you go, definitely check out Dixie Crossroads restaurant. Just wear stretch pants.

Five Things That Happen During Every Race

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

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

1. The Faster Person

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

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

2. The Bathroom Fake-Out

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

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

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

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

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3. Running Regret

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

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

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Bonus Points for knowing what movie this is from.

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

4. Mental Math

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

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

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

I cried for the whole next mile.

5. The Single-Serve Friend

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

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

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

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

Weight Loss & Running Fearless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m a Skirt Sports Ambassador Captain!

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I’m so excited to announce that I have been named a Skirt Sports Ambassador Captain!!

According to their site, “Skirt Sports Ambassador Captains play a leadership role in the community of Skirt and in how they share our collective voice of Real Women, Real Bodies and Real Inspiration. They are Skirt lovers, networkers, bloggers, videographers, athletes. They innately share Skirt Sports Core Values and Mission and enthusiastically represent the brand.”

This doesn’t just benefit me, either – just for reading my blog, you get 20% off any Skirt Sports apparel or virtual Skirt Sports race registration with my Ambassador coupon code! Simply check out with code SSJRH20 and enjoy!

It’s an honor to partner up with an organization that’s all about empowering women of all ages, shapes, and sizes to achieve their fitness goals, and I can’t wait to share the love with you all, too!

My NYRR Spotlight

About a month ago, NYRR sent out an email requesting stories of the folks who planned on running the United NYC Half Marathon. I sent in my story on a whim (kind of like how I did with my race entry!). To my surprise, they contacted me shortly after that to see if I would be willing to share my story on their social media channels – I was floored! What an honor. I’m content to tell my stories here on my little blog and through The Mermaid Club, but I never would have thought I’d be able to reach such a huge group of fellow runners through the NYRR!

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Check out the original Post by United Airlines NYC Half on their Facebook page, and stay tuned to read the new stories they’re posting every day until the 15th – if you ever needed inspiration or motivation, you’re sure to find it with this group of awesome folks!

How Do You Caption Your Life?

The other night I posted something on my Instagram feed that seemed to strike a chord with everyone, so I wanted to share it here. It was about how we have a tendency to put ourselves down, even if we don’t realize it.

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You see, too often I see these great pictures from amazingly inspirational folks, but the captions say things like “I’m so slow, but I did it!” or “it wasn’t as fast as I wanted but…” And it got me thinking: What purpose does that negativity serve?

None!

I even caught myself as I captioned the pic up there. I had run 4 hard miles after coming back from a stretch of not running and struggling through Sunday’s 10-miler, and my per-mile pace was a minute slower than I had hoped. And I started out my caption with “Well it sucked and was slow as hell, but…” and I thought, I’ve captioned almost every running picture with something negative like that for almost a month! Wtf?!

Now, aiming for a goal pace is one thing, but constantly putting yourself down and judging every run harshly because you’re not “fast”? That’s wrong. Take my 12:44/mile pace for example. To some folks 12:44/mile is slow as molasses. But to others it might be the ultimate in speed! And regardless of the number, I was hauling ass! I put in a hell of an effort and left it all on the mill. So I changed my perspective and patted myself on the back for a job well done. And wouldn’t you know it: I felt stronger! Instead of dreading my next run and praying that I’m not going to be “slow” again, I’m just going for it.

Now it’s your turn. I challenge you to rethink the way you caption things, whether it’s your runs, or your body, or even your life in general. Because in the end, the only thing that matters is not your opinion, but your effort!

The State of the Union

I don’t know about you folks, but the holiday season of 2014 – 2015 has been pretty great to me so far!

First, Christmas came to town, and we had a blast. I mean, my mama-in-law got me a tiara. Like, a legit crown.

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“Put it on me, put it on me, put it on me, put it on me!”

Santa Claus was also really good to me this year, with an awesome new Under Armour hoodie in my favorite Kelly Green, a gorgeous little 13.1 silver necklace, and a brand spankin new Garmin!

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I’ll be the first to admit: I love my old Garmin 305. That thing has been steadfastly there for me on every run for more than 4 years now, and I’d venture a guess to say that it probably runs better than I do (imitate rimshot here). But the thing is like running with the Startship Enterprise Command Module on your wrist. It doesn’t feel like it, but it looks ridiculous, and makes easily glancing at my stats near impossible if I’m wearing sleeves – nevermind the fact that sleeves won’t even fit over the thing. This new 610 was a welcome addition to the family, and I broke it in with a nice run Christmas morning and haven’t looked back since!

Unfortunately hubby caught a nasty cold that day, so instead of the usual post-Christmas shopping bonanza, we spent the next 3-4 days laying low.

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I did make a friend on one of my runs though! He followed me for a whole block and I had to walk him back to his house.

After one day of work last week, I was laid up with the same funky sickness from the 30th-the 2nd, and while it SUCKED, I’m pleased to say that I slept for about 18 hours of every day to recover, and I loved it. After the first few days, the week was still a huge success! We rang in the new year with loved ones..

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…I found cool new workout tops on sale at Kohls for $5 each…

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… we had a perfectly quiet, talking about life, caffeine-filled, hot cocoa and people-watching night at Starbucks…

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he’s all mine 🙂

…we took my Dad into Red Bank for a day of Surf Taco, hobby shop wandering, and comic books…

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Catholicism WOW!

…and even though I had to skip 4 days due to illness, I managed to get right back on track for week 2 of my training plan with an Insanity workout (OUCH) and a totally-out-of-my-comfort-zone trail run with my friend Kevin yesterday!

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The smiles before the hills.

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Finally some action shots in nature!

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Overcast and 60 degrees – perfect running weather! 

I had a real blast on those trails. A year ago I’d be petrified to run on uneven terrain like that: the instability in my knee, the weakness in my quads, my lack of confidence in my running… let’s just say I would have passed on this invite. But as I finished my morning coffee and looked out at the misty weather, prepping for 4 miles on the treadmill to satisfy my training schedule requirements for the day, Kevin texted me with an invitation to go out and explore. And explore we did! For 4 whole miles and change, we ran through the hills and woods of Holmdel Park discussing life, love, and the need for two laundry baskets in a relationship. In a word, this run was perfection!

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And that brings us to today! I’m sore beyond words and exhausted – just like pretty much everyone else out there today who went back to work after however long they had off for the holidays – but I’m happy. At first I was super upset that I had gotten sick: there’s nothing worse than feeling like caca and having to stay home when you’ve got time off from work and want to be out celebrating and doing all the things.

But the cold or flu or whatever it was actually gave me just what I needed: down time. It forced me to relax and nap and recharge my battery, and I was able to recover with enough time to get some fun stuff done too. Instead of going at full tilt the entire 2 weeks, I was able to rest for most of it and as a result, I’m feeling relaxed, recharged, and ready to take on whatever’s coming my way in 2015!

How about you? I hope your new year is treating you well so far! Tell me all about it in the comments…

Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough People Do

If you know me personally, you know that I’m a big fan of lists (no, really – I freakin love them). And when you combine lists with running, I am allll over that.

So when this list of things the Hungry Runner Girl does to get through the toughest part of a run popped up in my FB feed today, it really struck a chord with me. There are some super helpful tips here! Many of these are tricks that I’ve used on myself before, like the “pick a spot and get there” trick, which I used to great effect in my last half marathon. I’ve also discovered that moving my arms faster actually does help me speed up, so I was happy to see that make an appearance here too!

But there were also a few tips that I never would have thought of in a million years! I love it when I stumble upon a helpful new running tip, don’t you? I was particularly excited by the idea of counting your steps: my major issue when I start to flag is that my mind gets sucked into a negative vortex and nothing short of an atom bomb will bust it out. But focusing on something as mundane as counting the number of steps I’m taking sounds like a fantastic way to break the negative cycle and focus on the literal “one foot in front of the other” motion!

I also enjoyed the idea of tying a rope around the person in front of me – usually I don’t like to concentrate on others in a race, but this seems like it’s more about the idea of visualization and distraction, which, much like lists, I am ALLLL over.

It got me thinking about some of my own Tough Times Tips:

1. Imagine how great it’ll feel to tell everyone about this after you’ve succeeded. Pride can be a hugely motivating thing. I personally have lost count of how many workouts I’ve pushed through, just to be able to say “Yeah, I lifted that much/ran that far/did that!” Vain? Maybe. Effective? 100%! Similarly:

2. Do it for the reward. Maybe you’ve promised yourself an awesome victory lap at the local diner after your race. Or perhaps you’ve got a massage on the schedule to relieve those sore muscles? Even if it’s just for the medal or for the personal satisfaction, keep your eye on the prize and you’ll be crossing that finish line in no time.

3. Go someplace else. This one is a little harder to do, and sometimes if you’ve been smushed up against The Wall for too long you may be better trying something else. But when I’m finding it hard to physically push when I’m at my limits, I just look up at the sky, pick a cloud, and imagine what that cloud has seen. Sometimes I’m able to picture some pretty awesome places – even if they’re 100% made up in my mind 😉

So what do you think? Do you have any other tips to add to this already awesome list? I’d love to hear them!

Mermaids Take Manhattan

Get ready for some full-on running love, folks! A few weeks ago, I learned that my virtual friend Helena (aka Head Mermaid In Charge over at The Mermaid Club) was going to be in my area on business for a few days. And when she suggested we meet up in NYC for a post-work run and a chat, I just about died. I mean, this was like a celebrity chef inviting me to bake cookies with them, or a famous singer bringing me onstage for a duet!

After having one of those, “try on and toss everything around the room while finding the perfect outfit” moments before hopping on the train to meet her, I finally decided on an outfit and had the most magical night ever with the Queen Mermaid herself! We did everything from running past the UN to saying hello to a fancy horse, and more!

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Yes, I said a fancy horse. I didn’t stutter.

I was excited not just to meet Helena, but also because – I’m actually quite embarrassed to admit it, but – this was my very first time running in NYC! Yes, I live only 45 minutes away by train, and hang out in the city almost once a month, but I have never once gone for a run in that gorgeous city!

IMG_7791And I’d never done the Gun Show pose underneath an unfortunate angle of the Atlas statue either, so hooray for two milestones in one day!

When we set off from the hotel, I know it sounds cheesy but I could literally feel the pulse of the city as I ran. Weaving in and out of rush hour foot traffic, racing to beat the walk/don’t walk signs, breezing past the UN… and all with this amazing inspirational athlete by my side? Talk about a dream come true.

IMG_7788The UN: so shiny…

So we clocked a little over a mile of stopping and starting to get to Central Park, where we took a wrong turn and ended up in the zoo. Which is still magical, but kind of funny because we both had no idea where we were going.

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But we did get to see sea lions and the NYC skyline in one shot, which is so stinking cool.

Once we acclimated ourselves I steered us towards the famous fountain. On our way there we almost got plowed by a couple of guys going super hard (it was the first time I’d ever been the recipient of an “ON YOUR RIGHT!”, sorry guys), and we even stumbled upon a full-fledged training run with pacers and bag check and everything – holy crap do those runners know what they’re doing! It made me so jealous of these folks who live right there and can do this every night!

1979617_10152559467313884_5949450148250696152_nBut to be fair, I got to run with this chick, so I won 🙂

We chugged up and down the famous Central Park hills and chatted about the club, our families, our jobs, running, training – you name it, we covered it. And soon we were at the fountain, jogging and taking pictures and marveling at how gorgeous the place was at twilight.

10259752_10100325908284269_678304181260021219_nI had to be a tourist. A running tourist. A Rourist ™.

IMG_7801The fountain – not very good to hang around because I was super thirsty at this point.

IMG_7809I wish I could run here every day!

IMG_7800Mermaids take Manhattan 🙂

Once we circled around the fountain and through the other side of the park, we realized A) we were more than 3.5 miles from the hotel and still had to go 1.5 miles back and B) we had both forgotten money for water or a cab. So we slowly made our way back to the hotel with a few walking breaks and made it back to the hotel at about 4.5 miles. Then we swapped into some dry gear, headed out to a little pub around the corner, where we devoured vast amounts of delicious food and beer, all while swapping our favorite race stories.

photo 3A true running fairy tale!

I was so happy to share my stories (and a bunch of hearty laughs too!) with Helena – she’s done so much for my confidence as a blogger and a runner since we “met” online a year ago, and connecting with her in person was really an awesome experience! She really helped me put things into perspective with her awesome outlook, and I’ve found myself adopting her mantra: “coz why not?” So while I was sad to say goodbye, I was excited and re-energized to look at setting some new goals – like, perhaps a sprint triathlon is in my future sooner rather than later? Who knows? Coz why not?!

And after we parted ways, I managed to round out my mileage to an even 5 when I had to sprint the last half mile back to Penn Station to catch my train! Considering we’d aimed for 2-3 miles at most before calling it Beer Time, I’d say that’s not bad for my first run in the city!

Have you ever met a virtual friend in real life and had a great adventure like ours? Tell me about it! I’m always happy to hear about people connecting in a great way. Share the love!