Running Like a Well-Oiled Machine

Forgive the pun-ny title, but I just couldn’t bring myself to come up with anything more creative to give you an update on how things have been going this past month.

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With the Dark Side Challenge about a month away, I’ve been keeping up with my training relatively well – only got sidelined with minor life-related issues twice so far, which isn’t too bad considering I never really stopped training after the Rebel Challenge in January. My weekly runs are hovering around the 11:00/mile pace and under, and even my long runs are strongly around 11:30ish.

Aside from running all the miles, I’ve also branched out this training cycle, and have tried things I never did before. Namely, taking a Barre class with my sis-in-law Meredith.

I’d heard of Barre before, and know that lots of celebrities swear by it – it was the kind of thing I read about and go “Hmm. That’s nice,” and move on. But when Mere suggested we try out a class at a shop not too far from where we both work, we went for it. And let me tell you – I now know why all those celebrities are in such good shape. Holy hell.

For those of you who haven’t tried this specific form of torture, it goes like this: you enter a small room lined with mirrors and a ballet barre with about 20 other women. A small, energetic woman then comes in, blasts music and starts barking orders that all the other women seem to already know, and you struggle – for the next 50 minutes – to keep up with these teeny tiny movements they’re doing with a tiny medicine ball, resistance bands, and a red yoga mat. You stand, you sit, you hover, you balance, you squat, you lunge, but here’s the kicker: all of these movements are done in TINY, TEENY INCREMENTS. At one point the instructor told us to “trace the outline of a quarter with your toes”.

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It doesn’t sound difficult, but I – and my fluttering, screaming thighs – assure you that it is extremely difficult. I specifically remember glancing over at Mere in the mirror at around the 15 minute mark, and we both looked like this guy at each other:

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It was intense.

BUT – having said that – we WILL be doing this again. It was an insanely good workout, and we both felt it help open up our hips and strengthen parts of our legs we never knew existed before. I’m all for trying new things, and this was no different!

Speaking of trying new things, I recently picked up a bunch of ice cream and snacks courtesy of the folks at Eat Enlightened – have you ever tried this stuff??

Their shtick is ice cream that’s low in sugar and higher in protein – think Halo Top – but it’s SO creamy and unbelievably delicious. I’ve already devoured the Peanut Butter Cup pint and gotten halfway through the Red Velvet, no shame in that game. They also sent me some of their Bean Crisps, which are a real game changer. I struggle with savory cravings and hate that my only options are chips or other semi-junk-y food that only take care of my taste buds but not my actual hunger. The crisps have 7g of protein per 100 calorie pack (!) and the flavors are awesome. In addition to the sea salt pack I already put away last night, they have sweet and savory flavors like wasabi, sweet cinnamon, sriracha, garlic & onion, and cocoa-dusted. Full disclosure, they sent me this stuff for free to review, but I’m not making it up when I say:  So much yum. 

How about you: How was your February? Have you tried Barre? Or Eat Enlightened snacks? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Product Review & Giveaway: The Stinger

Back in January, I started seeing ads for this thing called The Stinger on Facebook, and it intrigued me: it’s a ball that you freeze and massage yourself with to alleviate post-run soreness, plantar fasciitis pain, shin splints and other issues. Fast forward to a few weeks later when the folks at Recoup Fitness reached out to me to see if I wanted to try this toy out – having experienced like 3 of those 4 things, I was down.

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A few days later, my Stinger arrived Saturday morning just as I was about to head out for a long-ish trail run, so I was stoked to give this thing a shot after a true test. Here in NJ that weekend we were experiencing a weird heatwave, breaking nearly 70 degrees on both Saturday and Sunday, so I was ready to get out there and run A LOT.

After lacing up and hitting the newly thawed trails for over an hour and 6+ miles on Saturday in new kicks, I was sore. My feet especially were angry with me at all of the twisting and balancing I had to do to keep from slipping out on muddy trails. I even discovered a few aches and pains I’d never felt before, and worried I’d need to take it easy the next day. So I broke out my Stinger and rolled for a half hour or so while we watched a movie later that night.

Fun Fact: Cats love the Stinger. Or at least my cat does. 

I’ll admit I didn’t think it was doing much at the time – sure, it felt fantastic, but it wasn’t much different from my frozen water bottle, was it? Either way, I rocked and rolled and even used it on my sore quads too, digging into the tightness I’d developed taking on new terrain that morning, and went to bed.

The next morning, I was shocked to find that my feet did not hurt at all. Those aches and pains that worried me yesterday were completely gone. Perhaps the Stinger actually did more than I thought! Because I was feeling so good, I decided to hit the trails again, this time with my husband, and in a more technical trail.

And once again, I rolled with the Stinger that night, this time all over my legs and feet which were now shot from 2 solid days of activity. Again, I woke up Monday morning feeling NOT like I’d just put 10+ miles of trails on my legs in two days.

As it turns out, the Stinger really does do what it says it’s going to – and not just for running, either! Last week I went down to Atlantic City with an old friend for a straight-up girls’ night of dancing and debauchery (in high heels) and I made sure to pop my Stinger in the hotel fridge.

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After 5 hours of dancing in high heeled booties, I was so relieved to wake up the next day and use the Stinger on pretty much every part of me. Even the new knots in my back I’d developed in the hotel bed enjoyed the ice cold massage.

The best part is, it’s always ready to roll: I just keep the ball in the freezer at all times and pop it into its handle whenever I need a quick roll out. It travels well (it’s very small) and gets the job done pretty much instantly. In short, if you’re looking for an easy, portable way to relieve your aches and pains – running-related or not! – the Stinger is a great option.

Want to try it out for yourself? I’m giving one away! Enter here and spread the word – contest runs now through Friday, when I’ll announce the winner at noon EST. Giveaway is open to US residents only, sorry!

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But if you HAVE to have one right now, the folks at Recoup are giving you 10% off AND free shipping when you order your own Stinger – just use code jessrunshappy!

Good luck!

Shoe Review: Altra Paradigm 2.0

As an Ambassador for the Runner’s World Half & Festival, I was lucky enough to be introduced to Altra Running, the main sponsor for the whole weekend. Golden Harper, the founder of the company, was involved with our ambassadorship from the very beginning, even hosting a Facebook Live chat to help us learn about what Altras would work best for us.

I’m always scared to try new shoes with my history of injuries. But right before the RW Weekend, even my old faithful Brooks had turned on me, so I was open to try anything. Between a nagging plantar fasciitis flare up and shooting pains & numbness just 3-4 miles into my last long run before Rock n Roll Brooklyn (then again, heartbreakingly, on race day), my feet were not happy and I was ready for a change.

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Given my preferences for the cushy Brooks Transcend, Ravennas, and Asics Kayanos, Golden recommended I try the Paradigm 2.0 and hooked me up with a pair, and I won’t make you wait any longer for the big reveal: I freakin LOVE them.

I started out in a 9, my usual size, but quickly realized they were too small and swapped out for the 9.5, which fit great. They do say that you should go at least a half size up in Altras, and Golden even says I should go up to a 10 (!!) but I haven’t tried them yet because I refuse to get out of the 9.5’s.

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Seriously, I’ve worn them almost every single day this week.

I wasn’t planning on wearing them to race because they say you shouldn’t race in shoes you haven’t run in before, so I wore them for the first time Friday for our November Project workout and the rest of our crazy day. It was like a miracle: no pain whatsoever. Just one day earlier I took my last pre-race run in Asics Kayanos and felt the numbness and shooting pains around mile 2, but 24 hours later I spent nearly 8 hours and 6 miles of working out, jogging, and walking in the Altras with zero pain.

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The key is in a few different features unique to Altra: the footshape toe box and the zero drop construction. Basically, the shoes are shaped like your foot (giving your toes room to breathe and move naturally), and the toes and heel are equidistant from the ground, unlike other brands where your heel is higher and the front of your foot takes more unnecessary stress. There’s a lot more science and actual FACTS to back this all up here.

After going back and forth on what to run the Five & Dime in, I decided at the last minute on race morning to wear the Altras – and I was not disappointed. I set out in the 5K simply to enjoy the scenery, take it slow and baby my foot. But when I finished and realized how good I felt, I decided to push a little harder in the 10K and unexpectedly PR’d, even with the hills on the course!

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When I crossed the finish line and realized what I’d done – AND realized my feet still felt brand new with no pains whatsoever – I was so happy I could have cried. Finally I found a shoe that didn’t put any pressure on the sensitive parts of my feet, my knees felt fantastic,  and if I’m being honest, I think they’re really freakin cute, too!

Fun Fact: after I crossed the finish line, I ran into the expo and found Golden, gushing to him about how happy I was in these shoes. He was so thrilled, and recommended that I get the 10’s instead to be even happier. I said OK and agreed to bring the 9.5’s back the next day and he’d have a pair of 10’s sent out to me later in the week. But when I wore my spare Asics to the expo the next day and my foot started going numb just an hour into the day, I swapped back into my Altras in the middle of spectating the half marathon (literally, took my shoes off on the side of the finish line) and told Golden I was sorry but he’d have to knock me out to get these Altras off my feet. I’ll buy a new pair when these quit but in the meantime, I don’t want to go one day without them!

I’m so excited to run now, knowing that I won’t have to worry about that creeping pain or numbness. I ran energized and happy the whole 9+ miles that day, and every run since has been smooth and pain free. I even ran 7 hilly miles this morning in them, completely blowing my expected pace out of the water and falling in love with running all over again.

Fun Fact #2: I’m already eyeing an old pair of the 1.5’s to match my Rebel Challenge costume (how can I not when they come in the perfect shade of BB-8 Orange???)

Once I started talking about them on social, I’m hearing from lots of other folks who love their Altras, so let’s hear it – have you tried them? What did you think? Would you ever give them a shot if you haven’t already? 

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??)

Springtime Update!

Oye. I can’t apologize enough for the break in blogging I’ve taken recently – I have good reason though! Work has been gearing up in anticipation of a big product launch and a lot of events that I’m managing, and I also came down with a nasty stomach bug that knocked me out for pretty much the last 4 days. BUT – I have been running, and happy, and all the things that you keep coming here to read about, so let’s recap the past two weeks with a LOT of pictures!

After my hooky day in the city, I had a pretty OK long run that weekend. It was definitely not the great 10 miler I had the week before, but I know exactly why that was the case: I had no water. 
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The time on the watch up there is a lie, because I stopped the watch each time I took a break to heave for breath and work the paste out of my mouth, which was about 4 times after mile 5, when I ran out of agua and the temps soared past 65.

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But, the weather was nice and I was able to finally wear my new Skirt Sports Happy Girl skirt in Psyched – a print that while sufficiently loud for my tastes, matches nearly everything I own!

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Want some Skirt gear of your own? Use code JRH20 at the new SkirtSports.com and get 20% off your order!

After that learning experience, I took on the next week of training with a little less intensity than I wanted. My first run of the week was banging, thanks to Mr. Kenny Loggins here (any Archer fans out there get why I was so stoked when this was the first song of my run??)
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But after that I did some biking on Wednesday to cross train, and Thursday was lost due to it being St. Patrick’s Day. I DO celebrate other high holy days aside from Christmas, you know.

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So does Sammy “I’ll Allow This” Gamgee

I also was super stoked to get my shipment from Swanson Health Products:

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Full disclosure – these folks reached out to offer me a gift card to order whatever I wanted in exchange for a shout out here, but after one order I can honestly say they’re freakin’ awesome!

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This chocolate bar I ordered from them: EVEN MORE awesome.

I’d never heard of them before, but once I took a look at their website I was sold. They’ve got everything you could possibly want: vitamins, snacks, cooking stuff, juices, you name it they’ve got it. And the prices are really more affordable than I expected too. I’m a big fan of the brown rice pasta pictured up there, and of course that amazing chocolate bar (the wrapper of which I had to fish out of the garbage for a picture because I ate it so fast). The Tart Cherry vitamins were also a great find – I’ve been meaning to try them out and thanks to their deal of the day I was able to get two bottles for the price of one! Give them a visit and let them know I sent you 😉

That weekend – yes, after skipping my second run of the week, bad runner – I took on 9 miles. And it was not very good.

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This is another case where the numbers lie – I carried a bottle of water with me and managed to get my hydration situation under control, but the last 4 miles were allll aboard the struggle bus thanks to skipping my second run. I just felt out of shape. You know what I mean. I managed to push through a much slower second half than first half while having flashbacks of horrible race experiences where I burned out too early and vowed to take on the next week with renewed intensity – but not after a pretty awesome weekend filled with hockey, BB-8, and Starbucks (Cherry Blossom Frappuccino, I love you)!

My first run that week was better – my usual 4 miles at a bit slower than I wanted, but still solid pacing. I swam on Wednesday for the first time in a while and remembered just how awesome swimming really is (thanks for coming with me, Kevin!), and then took on another 3 miles on Friday to break in my new Brooks Transcend 3’s.

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Saturday night I went out to a bachelorette party at Pinot’s Palette, where you can bring wine and snacks and paint a masterpiece – which was a stinkin blast!

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I did take it easy on the wine and snacks though, because I had a long run early the next morning before Easter festivities:

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And while the pacing on this looks slower compared to other long runs, I’m actually extremely proud of myself: the first 5 miles were excruciatingly slow thanks to a 2 am bedtime, and yes, SOME wine, at a total of 1:02. I told myself those whole 5 miles as I saw my pace hover around 12:15 that this run was about endurance, not pace. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. But after my gel at mile 5.5? I ran those last 5 miles in 56 minutes, baby! My final mile was even in the 10’s, I almost screamed. It was TOUGH, and took a lot of focus especially in that final mile or two when I just wanted to walk, but I did it and proved to myself that I could come back from a sucky start.

I vowed to look at training not as *just* training but as a way to build my confidence in long distances, and with each long run this cycle I’m learning something new and loving it. Nevermind the fact that I woke up late Sunday/early Monday with the stomach flu to end all stomach flu’s. Seriously, I was curled up on the bathroom floor at one point, crying and begging Jesus to take my pain away. He must have been super surprised to hear from me then, of all times.

BUT the plus side – if there is one – is the 4 days I had to take off to recover gave me time to heal from blisters, calf pain, and general soreness. I’m ready to rock a few miles tonight as a shakeout before Saturday’s 11K down in Atlantic City for the April Fool’s Race Series for sure! This race is about fun – coming off a bad illness like this I know I lost a lot of strength (I broke a sweat taking the stairs at work today), so I’m not going to push myself. It’s not worth it with my goal race coming up in May.

So that about does it for me, kids! How’s your training going? Tell me all about it in the comments!

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!

 

Happy Knees, Happy Life

Ever since my ACL reconstruction in early 2013, I’ve had knee pain. The surgery knee aches when the weather changes, and I’ve got patellar tendinitis in my “good” knee from favoring it so much post-surgery. To deal with the achiness, I turned to glucosamine and chondroitin (PS, don’t tell me these aren’t words, autocorrect. They very much ARE words). After surgery, my surgeon recommended I take them via a supplement to help with joint discomfort – but the pills were HUGE. Seriously, they’d get stuck in my throat and hurt all the way down… not fun. So I chose achy knees over choking and stopped taking them.

When when I discovered Joint Juice, angels sang. It’s the same stuff in those honking-ass vitamins, but in a tasty liquid that’s only 20+ calories per bottle. Full disclosure: Joint Juice hooked me up with a bunch of juice and asked me to talk about it here on the blog, but I was happy to do so because I was already a fan. I love reviewing stuff – and don’t hold back on my real opinions, even if they’re negative! – but when it comes to something you put in your body, like this supplement, I would never recommend something I didn’t use myself.

And use it I do! It doesn’t erase the pain entirely (nothing will do that), but the aches take longer to set in during a run, and go away faster afterwards. I also threw in a Plyoga class (hello, jump squats and side lunges), lifting, biking, boot camp, and other stuff that make my knees go “nope”, and never slowed down. Even last night’s 4 mile treadmill run felt like a breeze, and the treadmill is usually where my knees go to die!

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Because I’m a science-behind-the-magic nerd, I learned that glucosamine occurs naturally in your body. We tend to produce less as we age (and piling on the miles doesn’t help either), so supplements like these actually do help. And chondroitin is a major factor in healthy cartilage, meaning that when you combine it with glucosamine, you get improved joint function and mobility.

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Yes, that’s a mini fridge filled with Joint Juice and champagne. This is 32, guys.

Long story short, I highly recommend this stuff! If you’re looking for something to help your joints as you ramp up your spring training, you can find it at Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, or order at their online store. I dig the Cran Pomegranate flavor (if you couldn’t tell by the picture of our mini fridge up there), but the Blueberry Acai was delish too. Try it out and let me know how it helps you run happy!

Do you have any favorite supplements of your own? Any knee issue sufferers prefer something different? Let me know in the comments!

Up Your Hydration Game: Cocogo Giveaway!

That’s right, it’s giveaway time again! This time I’m giving away a 3-Box Variety Pack of my favorite on-the-run beverage: Cocogo!

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I discovered Cocogo after some of my favorite Insta-peeps talked it up on their feeds, and after one try I was hooked. Because I have a hard time taking some gels and other fuel, I’ve tried a lot of sports drinks throughout my training. And Cocogo is the only thing that keeps me hydrated while maintaining steady energy levels through my whole workout. Made with real fruit and coconut water, this stuff doesn’t leave a funky aftertaste or give me stomach cramps like some other products.

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Ready to try it out for yourself? Click on the pic of the boxes up there, or click here to win a 3-Box Variety Pack of all three flavors: Grape, Lemon-Lime, and Raspberry Passion Fruit.

If you can’t stand the thought of missing out, I’ve got a great deal for you too: now through 10/31, use coupon code JESSRUNSHAPPY (all caps) for 20% off your Cocogo.com purchase – that’s double the discount you’ll normally get with my code! After 10/31, you’ll still get 10% off, but why wait?

Enter for your chance to win (US entrants only, please!), share that contest link with a friend, and pick up some Cocogo of your own – then tell me what flavor is your favorite!

Oofos Recovery Sandals Review & Giveaway!

Last Christmas, I discovered some random no-name recovery sandals online and tried them out. They were too big so they made me trip, and they were ugly as sin so I couldn’t wear them outside the house, but they kind of helped. At least they were better than mushy, no-support slippers. Fast forward to early this summer when my training kicked into high gear and the giant pink sandals had to be retired because they’d lost their oomph (and GOD did they stink, TMI, I know). I was in dire need of supportive recovery sandals, and that’s when I discovered Oofos.

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After trying them on at my local Road Runner, I bought myself a pair of the Originals and promptly cursed myself for not getting them years sooner – they were amazing!!

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My ankles and calves felt immediate relief, and my poor knees felt like they’d never gone through the torture I put them through in 5 years of running! They were perfect, both in style and comfort. These cradled my feet and gave support right where I needed it, and because they didn’t look like the typical “recovery” footwear, I could wear them everywhere. True girly-girl story: one Saturday my hubby and I went into NYC for shopping, dinner, and a show, but I had a 9-miler planned the next day. I knew I’d be walking around for 5-6 hours, but didn’t want to wear my sneakers – I wanted to dress nicely for the show and dinner (the struggle is real, folks)! I decided to pair the Oofos with one of my favorite faux-dressy maxi dresses and rocked the “I can’t believe I’m so comfortable” look all day – and nailed my run the next day too. #winning

And because the folks at Oofos ROCK, I also recently got to try out the Oolala’s, a classed-up version of the Original. With a glossy, colored upper and a slimmer silhouette, they’re just as comfy as the Originals, only now I get to wear them with my dressier outfits at work!

4 months into owning these babies, I don’t think a day has gone by where I don’t wear them. Besides wearing them to work if I want, I slip them on as soon as I get home to give my joints a break, and don’t take them off til bedtime. And now that the weather is turning colder, you better believe I’m eyeing the clog styles so I don’t have to sacrifice comfort for warmth this winter!

But enough of me talking about them – you know you want to try them, right? Well you’re in luck, because I’m teaming with Oofos to give away a pair of recovery sandals to THREE lucky readers! Just enter the giveaway here and check back next week to see if you’re a winner (contest is open to U.S. residents only). So what are you waiting for? Enter now – and good luck!

Seaside Semper Five 2015 – Race Recap (and a Discount Code!)

Last year I ran the Seaside Semper Five 5k for the first time and fell in love with the race – I mean what’s not to love about a fast, flat 5k that runs along the boardwalk for 1.5 miles and ON the boardwalk for 1.6? My 2014 time was one of the year’s best, so I was excited to see what 2015 would bring.

The morning of the race we headed down to the shore. And man, it was FOGGY!

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In addition to the fog, I was surprised at just how HOT it was already. The week prior to the race saw morning temps in the gorgeous 60-65 range, but mother nature still had some summer up her sleeve and it was already 75-ish degrees!

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After finishing half a bottle of Cocogo to top off my fuel levels (since it had been more than 2 hours since breakfast), I made my way over to the start area and began to loosen up. I sang along to my music, dancing to Uptown Funk, wiggling and jiggling and getting excited. I was feeling good!! PS, yeah I know I’m that girl when I sing and dance to myself at a race. #sorrynotsorry

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It was especially nice to be surrounded by some really inspirational folks at this race. It’s a fundraising event for the MARSOC Foundation, which supports active duty and medically retired MARSOC personnel and their families, as well as the families of Marines and Sailors who have lost their lives in service. The Marines and veterans running the race are some of the most dedicated folks I’ve ever met, and it was an honor to run with them.

The gun went off a little after 9 and we took off through the haze and heat. It was crowded but not too bad – I didn’t find myself getting passed by EVERYONE like I sometimes do in these smaller races. In fact it was the opposite – the first mile clicked by almost too easily at 10:30 – who was I?? I didn’t feel like I was pushing at all, so I kept on, but that heat though – UGH! By the water station/turn onto the boardwalk at mile 1.5, I was desperate for water. The poor kids at the table didn’t know what to do with the runners clamoring for the little cups of water they were pouring from bottles, so they handed out the full bottles instead. Smart kids! So I grabbed a bottle and continued onto the boardwalk for the next mile or so, sipping every 2-3 minutes with walk/run intervals to keep from overheating.

Around mile 2.5 I came up behind a gentleman with a faux-hawk who took a look at me over his shoulder, made a face that said “Oh hell no,” and took off. Thanks for the motivation, dude! My average pace had gone from 10:30 to 11:25, but I was determined to beat this guy and bring my average down again for the finish. I turned on my latest power song (Run the Jewels’ “Close Your Eyes”), cranked up the pace, and passed him at about mile 2.8, and just kept on going. This was my first time “chicking” someone – it felt good!

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Nearing the finish line I saw 35:xx on the clock and kicked it into high gear, crossing officially at 35:26 (although my Garmin said 34:40, so neener neener)!

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Considering I ran it in 2014 in 36:50, I’ll take either result! Mike found me and we walked back inside the Sawmill where I chilled out, stopped dripping sweat, and finished my Cocogo.

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Within a few minutes I was feeling great again, so we headed down the boardwalk in search of some good old shore food.

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The haze still stuck around, turning the boardwalk into a pretty cool scene!

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This is what I mean by good old shore food: pizza bigger than my HEAD!

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Also ice cream. I did not eat any, but I had to recreate last year’s gigantic ice cream cone pic!

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We also met up with my cousin who had also run the race – Hi, Heather!

Once the haze was gone and the sun came out, I started to poop out. I had a triathlon the next day and forgot my sunscreen (BAD runner!) so I didn’t want to overtax my legs or my skin too bad. We called it a day and headed home to relax, and another successful Seaside Semper Five was in the books!

Honestly, my success at this race had a lot to do with my fueling. Usually I eat a lite pre-race breakfast when I wake up and end up racing at least 2 hours later, which doesn’t leave enough fuel in the tank. This time I planned ahead with my Cocogo and sipped continuously on half a bottle for about an hour before the start once we arrived, and I was thrilled with my performance. My energy levels stayed consistently high throughout the race (no mile 2 slump) and my stomach stayed cramp-free!

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I’ve tried a lot of different fueling options in the past, but for my day to day runs and shorter races, Cocogo is the answer for me! If you want to try some out for yourself, I’m super excited to announce that I’m a new Cocogo Ambassador, and I’ve got a great discount for you! Use code JESSRUNSHAPPY and get 20% off your order through the end of October – after that, the code will get you 10%, but why wait? Pick up a box and try it out for yourself today! Let me know what you think – I love the raspberry/passion fruit, but grape is slowly becoming my go-to. What about you? 🙂