Star Wars Rebel Challenge Recap – Day 3

Don’t forget to read about the runDisney expo experience and my recap of the Star Wars 10K

After running the 10K – and all-out racing about half of it to beat the time cutoff after nearly 45 minutes of character photo stops – I woke up at about 3AM Sunday with sore legs. But I geared up in my deconstructed BB-8 costume and we headed back out to the starting line for the half marathon, taking our time now that we knew what to expect.

After milling around and watching the pre-show (most of the same patter as the day before, but with a Vader appearance instead of a Jedi show), I kissed Mike goodbye and headed into the Corral G where I met up with a Twitter/IG friend Alex (who I’d met in person for the first time the day before at the We Run Social meetup)! Spoiler Alert: he PR’d in the half that day – congrats, Alex!

Just like the 10K the day before, the half started on almost the same course through California Adventure then Disneyland for the first 4.5-ish miles, and had character stops along the way. I had decided to not stop for any long lines, so I ran past the long line for BB-8 and skipped Chewy because I knew he’d be in the park. There were a few other stops for Rebels and I think an R2D2 stop again, but I DID stop for a few fun little things that took only about 2-5 minutes each, with almost no lines:

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Had to stop for just one of the Mile signs

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Stormtroopers found me!!

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I found a speeder! Wish I could have stolen it to finish the race.

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Alliance Starbird sighting on the roller coaster!

I also had to stop at around Mile 2 when I noticed the words scrolling along the marquee of a theater in California Adventure:

Yes, it says “May the force be with you, Princess Leia Organa”, and yes, I openly sobbed and had to catch my breath before I started running again. I was wondering if there would be a tribute to Carrie Fisher, and this was a very sweet, subtle way that still took my breath away. Well done, Disney.

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After we left the park at around Mile 4.5, the rest of the miles were out on the streets of Anaheim. I was prepared for this with my headphones, and also knew from previous runner’s race recaps that there would be a lot of on-course entertainment. BOY they weren’t kidding! Local marching bands, color guards, spectators, cosplayers – TONS of cosplayers! – at basically every step of the way there was something to dance to, smile at, take a selfie with, and generally enjoy.

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Like a random “halfway-ish point” sign that someone made and took our pictures with!

When we got to the cosplayers around Mile 7, I had a blast.

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Kylo Ren was the first person I ran into, and after taking a selfie and telling him to smile, he punched himself in the stomach to summon that anger in response. The Leia a few feet away from him was laughing as I got to her next. I asked her, “He’s your son, can’t you get him in line??” to which she replied, “I just can’t do a damn thing with him.” We had a good giggle at that:

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Beyond that, I stopped at SO many points for a few seconds to selfie with these folks – they were TRULY happy to be out there giving out high fives and taking photos. Some people even tricked out their cars!!

The energy on the course was like nothing I’d ever felt. Everyone was laughing and cheering and calling out character names, having a blast, and I swear when I passed the first section of cosplayers, my cheeks hurt from smiling so hard.

And just when I thought it was over, another wave of folks had lined up around mile 8! Han, Lando, a pack of hysterical Rebel pilots, Jyn Erso – even Finn came out to cheer us on!

These people gave me just the boost I needed to get through the double digit mark. Around Mile 10 I ducked off course for my third port-a-potty stop of the race and finally decided to stop at the medical tent nearby for some Imodium. My nerves were wreaking havoc on my belly (as they tend to do during big races) and while I ate light that morning, the cramps I was experiencing when I started to run again after every walk stop were getting to be very painful. Hey – running isn’t all glamorous selfies and happy fun time! But luckily the pill worked and within minutes I felt much better in time for the final 2 miles.

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I was feeling tired by this point, and I’ll admit I walked a little bit every half mile. The pain of re-starting my run though was a bit much so I decided to shuffle along without stopping once I hit the final mile. All the bathroom and photo stops had brought my average pace to around 13:40/mile so while I knew I wasn’t in danger of being swept, I also wanted to give it my all.

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Once we hit the Mile 13 marker, I took off. The crowds lining the finish chute were SO excited, and the energy was contagious. A few kids even yelled out “BB-8!!” when I passed and made me laugh.

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With the finish line in sight, I started to well up again (god I’m a huge softy), and crossed with a huge smile.

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And just seconds after I crossed, the confetti canons went off!

I was handed my half marathon medal and started crying for real now – I had done it! 19.3 miles in two days, plus extra from walking around the park too. It was a huge scary goal that I’d set for myself months ago with a slight bit of fear that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish it. But I had done it, and I was still standing and smiling!

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The runDisney staff made it super easy for me to get my Rebel Challenge medal, calling out that challenge runners were to take a right to have our photos checked (they photographed us at bib pickup) and to receive our medals. I didn’t have to wait at all, just walked over and was handed my medal and wished congratulations. Then we had the option to take Rebel Challenge photos (yes please!) and walked out of the finisher’s area with my second runDisney snack box of the weekend to meet up with Mike.

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It was a beautiful morning, and after shuffling back through Downtown Disney to get to the bus, we made it back to the hotel for a quick shower and got back out to Disneyland for our first day in the actual park – and to show off my new bling!

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Overall, it was an incredible experience, from start to finish. I was so impressed with the way the race was managed, and won’t lie – I had such a great time that I upgraded from the Dark Side Half Marathon to the challenge so I’ll be taking on another 19.3 for the Dark Side Challenge in April!

Stay tuned for my final post about my Disney trip, in which I eat all the Star Wars themed things and get the best hug of my life from a real Wookiee!

Star Wars Rebel Challenge Recap – Day 2

After Day 1 of the Star Wars Half Marathon weekend, it was time to finally get to the RUNNING part of the show! On Saturday morning our alarm went off at 2:45 and we were dressed and out the door by 3:30.

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By staying at a hotel so close to Disneyland, we had access to the free shuttle that came right to our hotel door every 20 minutes and dropped us off at the entrance to the park. So convenient! Also, the start was at the far end of Downtown Disney, where all the bakeries and coffee shops had opened early especially for the races. Which meant we got to take our time and sip some tea (and I got my pre-race fuel on!) at a nice warm Starbucks at 4am.

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The pre-race staging area was… I’m just going to say it… awesome. It was relatively empty by the time we got there at 4:15, and with the start more than an hour away we had time to wait in short lines for fun photo ops like the Wampa Cave on Hoth, and the Trash Compactor scene!

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Listen to them, R2 – they’re dying down there!

In addition to some warmup dancing, the race announcers did their little patter and I was all in.

They played trailers for the movies and had cast members as Jedi do a little lightsaber show that I know is meant for children but I still cheered for and shed a tear or two because I am a huge baby. Come on, they’re JEDI!

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Soon it was 5am and we had to herd ourselves into the corrals. I said goodbye to Mike and easily found my way (after a little bit of people traffic) to Corral D. Huge balloons with our letters on them were stationed all along the road and cast members directed us by reading our assignments on our bibs and pointing us in the right direction. Easy-peasy.

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Easy-peasy, times a MILLION

I made a new friend in the corral (what’s up, Ali!?) and we chatted to pass the time before the prompt 5:30am start time. By 5:45 we toed the start, and finally the horn went off!

We started on a slight uphill, and immediately I noticed: it was COLD! I had expected California to be warm, dammit, but it was in the 40’s at the start. But we charged through the first half mile in the dark, along a service road and into California Adventure where we were treated to cute Star Wars mentions (logos projected on the sides of buildings, the theme music playing throughout the whole park, etc).

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At one point right before Mile 1, they played the audio of the scene where Rey and Finn steal the Millenium Falcon, and I had a good laugh when me and another Rey on the course both decided to yell out, “The garbage will do!” together.

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At Mile 1 I stopped for a quick photo op with my namesake and was pleased to discover runDisney perk #4,281: photographers that use YOUR camera! At every stop the Disney folks were true pros, taking TONS of photos for free and handing your camera back so you can take off running. I was so excited to learn this – but also sad to see the next photo stop was R2-D2 and C3PO, and the line was LONG.

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It was ok, I reasoned with myself, I only planned on stopping for the one character I knew would be there: BB8. Knowing it’s the Light Side, I expected R2 and 3PO but I’m not SUPER crazy about them. I also figured Chewy and probably Vader would be on the course, but knew I could get pics with them in the park, so didn’t want to waste time there either. BB was the only must-do I knew of. Until a certain Master of the Knights of Ren showed up and threw a monkeywrench into my plans. But more on that later.

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From Mile 1 we continued on past Paradise Pier and backstage – because it was the first time I’d seen any of this, I could feel myself welling up at some of the really amazing sights:

From there we continued backstage to the 5k point where I found the line for BB-8 and made my first stop. A 25-minute long stop!

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I even made friends with line mates like this woman who wanted a picture for her granddaughter because “Rey is her favorite!”

We chatted with each other as the line crept up, and after about 15 minutes I realized catching up to my old pace after this stop was going to be brutal. My legs had gone cold. My knees started to lock up. It was OK, though, I told myself. This was my only stop. Right before I got up to take my photo, a woman behind us announced that her friend ahead of her just spotted Kylo Ren on the course at mile 3.7.

::cue record scratch and breaking glass::

Say WHAT? I had no idea he’d be out there! I HAD to get a photo. Would I be able to make it? I looked out at the course, where folks were still moving at a moderate pace, but a lot of walkers were in there too. I could do it, I reasoned. I HAD to. I asked the cast member as we prepared for my BB8 pic: Kylo is the next stop, isn’t he? He nodded. How fast am I going to have to run to catch him? This cast member, bless his heart, merely took my phone from me, closed his eyes and said solemnly, “Really fast.

Well that settles that. Take my pic and let me RUN!

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And run I did! No, really: I glanced at my watch as I sprinted the next .6 miles and saw an 8:12 pace at one point. I wasn’t messing around. And sure enough, right at 3.7, there he was: Kylo Ren. Along with a line that looked to be about 34 miles long.

But I didn’t care. I jumped into the line and it turns out the line wasn’t THAT long – after standing for about 5 minutes, we’d moved almost halfway through the line. I even had time to snap a photo of another runner dressed as Kylo Ren, complete with his flowing raven locks (a hysterical wig):

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Another 5 minutes later, a cast member announced that the sweepers were only 10 minutes behind us. 10 MINUTES?! Panicked, I counted 5 people ahead of me. I could do it. I had to chance it. If I jumped out and sprinted and missed my photo op, I’d hate myself. So I stuck it out. And I am SO glad I did. Because Mr. Ren seriously enjoyed sassing me. And judging by how I reacted in the photos, I enjoyed it too! Observe:

Stage 1: You aren’t so tough.

Stage 2: Oh my god you’re actually kind of tough and getting all up in my personal space with your face and your finger, please stop, or maybe don’t, also is that Dolce & Gabanna cologne?

Stage 3: this is where I actually started asking the cast members what to do, because Kylo was still monologuing about how he could teach me the ways of the Force and blah blah blah and I had to get running because the sweepers were on their way.

The funniest part of this whole interaction was that the cast members just rolled with it. No one was like “OK, great! You’re done!” They just let me flounder helplessly as they snapped pictures of me looking right at them, begging them for help. That’s commitment!

Finally, I was able to grab my camera and I  TOOK OFF. Knowing the sweepers weren’t too far behind, I wasn’t about to stick to my leisurely 12:xx pace for the last 2 miles. I knew it would shred my legs before the half, but I had no choice now. But that didn’t stop me from having fun:

Yes, I did airplane arms through Tomorrowland.

I couldn’t help it, I was riding the high of nailing both character stops and the unexpected excitement of getting to hang with Kylo Ren! But by now we were now in Disneyland proper, and it was CROWDED. I fought my way through crowds and weaved where I could, wanting to make up some lost time but still managing to snap pics of some Stormtroopers and Captain Phasma as she stood on a bridge and watched us all go by.

With less than a half mile to go, I slowed down; my legs were TIRED from all the sprinting, and I knew the half the next day wouldn’t feel so easy if I pushed straight through. So I walked and jogged to keep my pace, and had a huge laugh when I ran into a crew of Matt the Radar Technicians:

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Bonus: I think I now have my costume for the Dark Side 10K in April!

As I neared the finish I got a burst of energy: all the folks lining the finish area and cheering for us were SO excited, calling out our character names and even finding our names on our bibs to cheer us on that way. It was truly incredible to cross the finish line and finally get my BB-8 spinner medal!

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After getting my medal, the finisher’s chute led us through a tent where I picked up a bottle of water, snack box and banana, and then I found Mike easily near the stage. I breathlessly told him all about the race, we all wandered through Downtown Disney back to the buses, surrounded by the ::clink clink clink:: of everyone’s medals as they walked, and we made it back to the hotel for a quick shower before the We Run Social meetup at Trader Sam’s later that afternoon (and a churro).

It was SO incredible to finally meet all the folks I’d only ever chatted with online – the running community is the best. Once the excitement settled down, we headed to Tortilla Jo’s for a victory lap of guacamole and wine, and some yummy fuel before the half marathon the next day!

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Stay tuned for my half marathon recap!

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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2016: The Year of That. Just. Happened.

The current trend is to say that 2016 is shaping up to end as a big, flaming, dumpster-fire-level disaster.

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Too soon?

And given recent events, I’m inclined to agree with them, wholeheartedly.

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Pictured: me, waking up on 11/9/16.

But I’m not going to get into THAT particular dumpster fire here because this is my happy place. What I will say though, is that in my own personal world – the world where I’ve been working hard and making shit happen for the past 11+ months – things have kicked SO MUCH ass I don’t even really know how to comprehend it.

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Yes, I’m talking about my year-in-review. But instead of focusing solely on running-related stuff, I’m looking back at everything I accomplished. Because when it comes to putting my mind to it and getting shit done, it’s been a banner year.

I’m calling 2016 The Year of That Just HAPPENED.

Let’s review, shall we?

January

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Hanging with my peeps at the Joe K 10K in Central Park in January

February & March

  • Set an unexpected PR at the NYRR Gridiron 4M Race, kicking off a year of setting PRs in nearly every distance I took on.
  • Went on my first solo adventure into Manhattan for a day of running, shopping, and general mental health related me-time.
  • Celebrated three years at my company (yes, I’ve got a 9-5 and don’t just run all day) and took on a new role that’s really kicked my professional ass to the next level – in a good way.

 

April & May

  • Ran my first 11K, in a total downpour.
  • Raced the New Jersey Half Marathon and set an unbelievable 15+ minute PR, ALSO in a total downpour. Apparently we had a wet spring here in NJ.
  • Set yet another PR, this time in the 10K distance, at the NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10K.
  • Was invited to take part in a social media photo shoot with the Brooks Running crew – which, let’s face it, was basically the coolest thing to ever happen to me up to that point.

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June & July

  • Celebrated National Running Day with my girl Meredith at a gorgeous new (to me) trail right near where I work.
  • Registered for the Star Wars Rebel Challenge in Disneyland – my first challenge weekend AND my first Disney race, double trouble!
  • Completed the run portion of the NYC Triathlon with two of my coworkers, taking on my first NYC Tri and a triathlon of that scale. This also prompted me to get a new bike for a season of triathlons I didn’t expect to take part in!
  • Ran the Jersey Capital 5K with a team of my coworkers and won my first award in the Female Team division.

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Photo by Brian Zuleta

August & September

  • On August 20th, Mike and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. FIVE YEARS! The fact that he hasn’t smothered me in my sleep after five years is really a testament to his self control. Round of applause for Mr. Mike.
  • After narrowly avoiding a disaster at the Seaside Semper Five 5K race, I ran the Hustle 4 Hannah 5K the next day with my coworkers and smashed my 6+ year old 5K PR.
  • Took part in the Jersey Girl Triathlon for the 2nd consecutive year and beat my previous year’s time – even if just by a few minutes.
  • Got sweet, sweet redemption at the One More Tri triathlon in support of the Special Olympics – and nabbed my first podium win as 3rd Overall Female Finisher in the Super Sprint Division!

October & November

  • Ran my final NYRR 9+1 Race and earned official entry into the 2017 NYC Marathon!
  • In what quickly became the NEW coolest thing to ever happen to me, I was invited to be an Ambassador for the Runner’s World Half & Festival weekend. There, I met some incredibly talented folks, ate dinner with Bart Yasso & the Runner’s World crew, did my first November Project workout, had lunch with Dean Karnazes, ran my first race in my new favorite Altra kicks, and nabbed a new 10K PR.

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Did I mention the part about spending the weekend with these celebrities? Cause yeah, I did that too.

And just when I thought 2016 couldn’t get any better, this happened:

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::record scratch:: Rewind! Adam Driver up there (yes, Mr. Kylo Ren himself for my fellow Star Wars fans) is an ex-Marine, and with his wife he started this organization called Arts in the Armed Forces, to help bring the arts to the military community. Check out his TED Talk for more info. After learning about the great things this group does – and knowing firsthand how beneficial theater is when you’re struggling with your own demons, thanks to my theater experience in high school and college – I decided to support their cause and buy tickets to their annual Broadway show at Studio 54 this year on November 7th.

I expected a fun night out on Broadway with my girl Julia, but what I got was so much more: a thought-provoking, stripped down performance that made me reconsider what a true apology really means; a Q&A with the playwright, actors, and people involved with AITAF; and yes, a moment with Mr. Driver himself, who was gracious enough to chat and pose for a picture. Class act, that Adam Driver fellow. A+. 10/10. If you’re passionate about the arts or supporting our military, give AITAF a minute of your time and I promise it’ll be worth it.

So there you go. My 2016 in one 1,000 word blog post. I nailed PRs in my personal, professional, and running worlds, and really can’t believe how fortunate I’ve been. Sure it took a lot of work – especially that half marathon PR, Jesus Christ did that take a lot of work – but when I look back on my year I can’t help but be amazed at how lucky I am to do what I do and share it with you.

How about you – what are you proud of accomplishing this year? Share in the comments!

Runners World Half & Festival Day 3

When we last left off on Day 2, I’d had a ridiculously fun-filled day with the Runner’s World crew and my fellow ambassadors, and was prepping to run the Five & Dime.

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At about 7AM (thanks, 8AM start time!) Ryan, Amy and I met up with some other folks in the lobby and headed to the start about a mile away. It was brisk out there; 33 to be exact. I had opted to check a bag with clothes to change into, but my dumb ass didn’t actually pack a jacket, so I chattered my way there in one long sleeved layer, easily checked my bag, and we hung out in the corrals for a bit.

I was so excited – I even ran into my Fifth Avenue Mile buddy, Arun!

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He rocked the Grand Slam like a boss (congrats again, you magnificent bastard!)

As the gun went off we shuffled our way through the chute and up the first little hill to start the 5K. Given my foot issues in the past week, I planned on treating the 5K as an easy warm up, and even kept my phone out so I could snap pictures of the scenery I’d heard so much about.

Admittedly, photos of the scenery don’t do it justice – especially the pictures from the run over the bridge. The only negative thing about the race I will admit to is the construction happening on the bridge: the huge crowd of middle-to-back-of-the-packers could only fit so well in the half lane we had to share with the returning faster runners and around the first half mile we came to a full stop. I’ve never had that happen in a race before. But whatever, I wasn’t going for time here!

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super serious runner, extremely angry about having to stop for 3 seconds during a race

The course was quick, kind of hilly, and there was a surprisingly good amount of folks out there cheering us on so early in the freezing cold! By the time I got to 2.5 I snapped a few more pics, made a beeline for the finish, and crossed in 36 & change.

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With a bit of time between races, I ran back to my bag and dropped off my medal and some finish chute goodies (hello Veggie Straws and Godiva Chocolate bars!), circled back to the start area for the 10K, met up with Ryan again, and then we were off!

I put my phone away for this run so I don’t have any scenery shots, but the professional race photos were FREE (!!) so I have lots of those to show off.

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thumbs up for free race pics!

I felt good through the 5K mark and realized that I was pushing a pretty fast pace with absolutely no pain. I walked through some of the more challenging hills at mile 4, got a high five from a dude dressed as Jesus outside a church (and I’m pretty sure that was a real nun sprinkling holy water on us too, so there’s that), and took a gel at around the 5 mile mark. As we went back up over the bridge we ran in the 5K for the same final 1.5-ish miles, I realized it was mostly downhill from that point on, and I could potentially PR.

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So I sucked it up and started passing people left and right in the final mile, run-dancing a bit when 24K Magic came on, and before I knew it I was crossing the finish line at 1:11:19, setting a 2+ minute PR!

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When I looked down at my watch as they handed me my second medal of the day, I felt a happy tear or two well up – coming off of such a disastrous race in Brooklyn the weekend before, this was just the performance I needed.

 

Needless to say, I floated on cloud 9 for the rest of the day. On the way back to the hotel, I grabbed a slice of cheesesteak pizza and a salad for my victory lap, and managed to get in a solid nap before our Pasta Dinner with the Runners World Editors and other runners.

Bart even played host and got us our cake!!

It was a great dinner – there was even a marriage proposal at the table next to us! What a time to be alive. David Willey, Bart Yasso, and Brogan Graham all said a few words – and sang Happy Birthday to Runner’s World!

Apologies in advance for the shaky camera and profanity.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel, but not before taking some awesome pics at the little red carpet setup they had outside the dinner:

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The best part about taking photos with so many people is the abundance of angles and cameras – one person even had the iPhone that takes video pics (how Harry Potter/living photograph!!) so we get gems like this:

With the paparazzi appeased and our bellies full, we got back to the hotel just in time for the hotel bar band to start up. While some more responsible folks opted to turn in for an early bedtime because they were racing the next day, I hung out with the stragglers, listened to the band, talked shop, and had a glass of wine to celebrate my PR and unwind. I was a bit sad to think that my weekend was basically over, save for the cheering on at the half marathon I planned on doing the next day! But the next day was just as great as the rest of the weekend – stay tuned for the final day recap, coming soon!

One More Tri 2016 Recap

I’ll admit: I had no intentions of participating in the One More Tri triathlon this year. After a pretty miserable experience last year (almost entirely of my OWN doing, mind you), I wrote off the sport of triathlon as a fun distraction from my usual running and that was that. But when Jeanene Leppert, the Special Events Director of Special Olympics New Jersey, reached out to tell me about the positive changes they’d made to the race and invited me to this year’s event, how could I say no?

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There’s Jeanene: one of the sweetest, most hard working women I know!

To keep things low-key, I registered for the Super Sprint distance; knowing I’d be smack in the middle of half marathon training, I didn’t want to push too hard and this .1 mile swim, 6 mile bike, and 1.5 mile run was just the right effort. It worked out even better because I ran a solid 11+ miles the day before, my longest run since May, and I was tired!

On Sunday morning I packed up the bike and headed down to Asbury with Mike, arriving with plenty of time to check in, get my packet (and a BIG hug from Jeanene!), set up in transition, and go wait in the car while the temps rose from a chilly 49 degrees!!

Once the sun came up it got warmer, and we made our way to the boardwalk for race announcements, the national anthem and the reciting of the Special Olympics motto: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” And that’s when I was reminded why I was SO happy to do this event again: being able to compete alongside Special Olympics athletes is a true honor. No matter how rough the water is, how strong the winds are, and how hard it is to keep running on tired legs, the fact that I get to take on all these challenges with these inspirational folks by my side is one that I will never not be moved by.

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As we marched to the beach for our swim start, we were informed that the swim portion had been shortened for everyone due to the rocky surf. Seeing the crazy waves the day before during my long run I figured as much, and we all clustered on the sand to keep warm after shedding our layers. It wasn’t long before our wave – the last wave, of course! – was next, and I laughed with some of my fellow Super Sprinters as we calmed each other’s nerves and passed the time. One woman had us roaring about how we should just “go to Waffle House – we’ve got the shirts already!”

After just a few more minutes, our gun went off and we ran into the water (which was almost 20 degrees warmer than the air!) and quickly discovered that the “swim” turned out to be a “fight for 35M through the waves and walk to the lifeguard who keeps getting knocked over”.

It was BRUTAL! I’ve never felt the surge pull me back so strongly – once one wave crashed over us, the current pulled my legs from under me and I had to fight to stay upright. After a few minutes of walking through the waves – and laughing and screaming – we made it to about 5 feet from the lifeguard. While the goal was to go around him, it was like running into a brick wall when each new wave pounded us! I laughed the whole time, and finally when a wave pushed me out, I grabbed onto the lifeguard’s shoulder to keep from getting swept out, rounded him and promptly got swept right up onto the shoulders of the guy in front of me, who got pushed into the girl in front of him, and so on! After apologizing and laughing, (“Thanks for the ride!”), the water calmed down enough for us to make a break for the shore again, and I ran. It was TOUGH. My legs burned from running against the strong current & jumping over waves, but I finally made it out.

The run back from the water to T1 was long – I’d estimate about a quarter of a mile or so, mostly on sand – but when the course is lined with volunteers and spectators cheering you on it’s hard NOT to feel awesome. Once I got into transition I rinsed my feet off, tossed my sneakers on & ran out with my bike. The volunteers were super organized, pointing me in the right direction with clear instructions and lots of encouragement, and I jumped on the bike in no time, speeding off for one loop of 6 miles.

There was a headwind for the first 3 miles out, but the course was clearly marked and filled with volunteers pointing us in the right direction (and police blocking traffic for us, thanks guys!). As I turned back at mile 3 and took a gel, I couldn’t help but smile and notice the absence of blue bibs around me. There weren’t that many folks in the Super Sprint wave at the swim, I wonder if I could Age Group place?? That was enough to make me pick up my pace and push for a bike finish of 26:10.

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After Mike snapped me bringing my bike in, I tossed my helmet off and headed onto the boardwalk for the 1.5 mile run, going slowly. My legs were now pretty shredded from the ocean, sand, and bike, but as I made it to the boards I fell into a rhythm and kept pace at a surprisingly fast 10:30. I’m just always faster when I bike!

It was on the boardwalk that I realized just how good my chances were to place – I saw only a few other blue bibs around me, and none were in my age group. The volunteers on the run course were phenomenal – SO many more this year than last year, and their enthusiasm was contagious. Once I got to the turnaround ahead of the full distance folks and headed back for the finish, I picked up the pace and couldn’t stop smiling over what a completely different, positive experience I had this year compared to last year!. When I spotted the folks at the finish line I broke into a sprint and crossed in 15:23 (a 10:15/mile pace!) and a total time of 51:41.

And of course I burst into happy tears when the little 5 or 6 year old Special Olympics rep placed my medal around my neck and gave me a high five, because that’s what I do.

After finding Mike and celebrating with him on a great finish, we wandered to the food tent where they had a CRAZY spread of amazing food – sandwiches, muffins, kale salads, Girl Scout cookies, donuts, recovery shakes, iced tea… you name it, you got it!

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::Liz Lemon voice:: I want to go to there…

After eating and sitting for a bit, we hung around for the awards and cheered on as the winners were announced in all divisions. It was so fun seeing everyone get recognition for their hard work. But the biggest shock of all came when they announced the Top Three Super Sprint Female Winners – and I placed THIRD OVERALL!

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Seriously, you could have knocked me over with a feather. Standing nearby helping organize medals and presenters, Jeanene screamed and grabbed me for a huge hug when she heard my name, and I went up to the podium for my first ever Overall medal!

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I was so stoked – sure, it’s really a numbers game when the field of participants is that small, but I still came in 11th overall in the Super Sprint, and 2nd in my AG too! I’ll take it!

Needless to say, this race is now a Must-Do for me every year. The Super Sprint distance the perfect way to challenge myself while not interfering with my half marathon training, and I can definitely see myself doing this one again next year – maybe I’ll see you too? 😉

Jersey Girl Triathlon 2016 Recap

Since it’s been almost two damn months I figured I might as well get you a recap of the Jersey Girl Triathlon! When I did this event last year as my first ever triathlon, it was a great experience. The training and group meetings ahead of time were extremely helpful, the folks who manage the whole thing were great, and it was a perfect first time event. This time around, things were slightly different but in a variety of ways. Let’s jump right in.

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I signed up for this race with my running buddy and coworker Alex, who had just started dipping her toes into the triathlon world earlier in the summer and loved it. So we woke up bright and early and met as the sun was coming up over the Atlantic on a sticky, humid morning.

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When we got to transition we had a good laugh: I warned her as I set up my area that I’d brought my good luck towel, a Star Wars printed number featuring my Space Boyfriend, Kylo Ren. “I swear, I’m not a 9 year old boy,” I said as I laid it out. She simply smiled as she unfurled her towel and said, “That’s nothing.”

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So apparently we are BOTH children at heart, and that’s why we get along so well.

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Also I had a small BB8 towel to wash my feet off after the swim. #sorrynotsorry

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After milling around and getting marked up, we headed down to the beach with Mike and got into our wave start area. I learned from last year not to assign myself in the LAST wave, as that would set me up for a lot of disappointment later on in the race. Being last in meant being last out and as a solid back of the packer when it comes to triathlons, I need all the help I can get. So we signed up for Buddy Heat 1 and both got into 11 (out of 14 or 15 I think).

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We watched as the earlier age group waves started and got out of the water and noticed that the water was QUITE choppy. I hadn’t done an open water swim since last summer (bad triathlete) and while I wasn’t nervous per se, those waves definitely gave me pause. After about a half hour we got ready to hit the water, and the same woman from last year was at the start, giving us all a pep talk and boosting our confidence. “You guys are going to rock this so hard! You’ve already done all the hard work, this is just the icing on the cake, and then you earn your ice cream or your beer or your pizza, or ALL THREE!” She was the best – I remember her calming my nerves last year!

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Finally the gun went off and into the water we went – and it was much warmer than I thought it’d be! But it was also MUCH CHOPPIER than I expected too, which made for very tough swimming right from the start. It also made my motion sickness act up pretty much 2 minutes into the swim, which lingered with me for the rest of the swim and most of the bike. Every time I ducked down to swim and glanced ahead underwater, the rocking of the water combined with the totally blank view ahead of me didn’t mesh and my stomach would lurch. At about the halfway point in the swim I gave myself a short break and floated for a bit, then accidentally swallowed some water too. A big gulp of saltwater + an upset tummy = no bueno, let me tell you. Finally I turned the last corner and headed back to shore, where Mike snapped me getting out of the water before I ran up the beach to T1.

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As I made my way to my bike I decided I wasn’t going for time, I just wanted to not throw up or fall off the bike from being so dizzy. I drank some Cocogo and a full bottle of water to rinse out the salty grossness in my mouth while I washed my feet off and got into my sneakers, then hopped onto the bike and out I went.

Miles 1-3 clicked by super easy – it was my first time racing on my new bike and I couldn’t believe how much faster I was going! Every mile that beeped by on my watch made me laugh out loud with joy. After a gel at mile 4, my stomach started to settle so I cranked up my pace a bit and pushed through the turnaround, so excited to finally be saying “On your left!” and passing folks! Compared to last year’s bike portion where I had to literally STOP on the course to ask a volunteer if I had to turn, I was surrounded by other bikers and knew where to go the whole time.

Before I knew it we were at the bike finish and I was running my trusty steed back into transition, dropping off my helmet and tossing on a headband/sweatband (that I later discovered made me look like Axl Rose, which was fantastic), spinning my race belt around for my number to face forward, and taking off on the run.

Or should I say, the walk. It was HOT. Too hot. 90+ and full sun hot. Within a few feet my legs felt heavy and my hips just didn’t want to move; I must have pushed a little harder than I thought on the bike. Combined with the weather, I knew I was going to be in for a long 3 miles. So I just shlepped along and told myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Quite literally, that’s how I managed to finish: by moving forward and not stopping. I walked a lot, drank even more, and finally took off in the last mile, but I did it.

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Note the Axl Rose headband. Welcome to the jungle, baby.

I was even more psyched to realize as I neared the finish: they changed the race course this year so we didn’t have to pass the finish and loop back around! It’s the ultimate cruelty when you’re dying of heat stroke and have to run another 1/2 mile past the finish, turn, then go back. They must have gotten the memo, because once my watch said 2.8 and I could see the finish I knew I didn’t have much farther to go and I gunned it through the finish line for a sweet finish.

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Oh that stupid headband.

I met up with Mike and Alex, who had finished ahead of me, and we walked over to the nearby snack shop and had the most delicious smoothies I think I’ve ever had (or maybe that was the exhaustion and starvation talking), then we headed back to check our times – where we discovered that all chips above 700 DID NOT REGISTER. Meaning MY CHIP. I didn’t have a time. Any times.

I was livid, but I lucked out and ran into the race director, who told me about the old chips that he had used were apparently deactivated or somesuch. He reassured me that they’d come up with a way to track our times and that they had backups that would take a few days, but still. It turns out that their “backup” was us looking at the timestamps on our race pics and entering them for the race officials in a Google Doc the following week for them to calculate how long we spent in each portion (transitions not included) then come up with our official time. It wasn’t a perfect solution – my leg times also include my transition times so I don’t accurately know how much better I did in each portion of the race compared to last year – but at least I had an official FINAL time of 1:47:39 (and that time was better than last year by more than a full minute).

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Overall it was another great race and a fun way to challenge myself and keep my training interesting over the summer. I’d definitely recommend this event to anyone who’s looking for a first time triathlon with no pressure – heck, you might even see me out on the course next year again!

A Redemption Run & A New PR

After Saturday’s race going about as badly as a race can possibly go, I’m ashamed to say the rest of the day took a nosedive too, mostly because I stupidly spent the next 11 hours reading & watching the news about the developing story, overthinking everything instead of going about my business and getting out of my own head. By the time the news reports about the explosion in Manhattan broke, I was a basket case.

But I woke up Sunday ready to run and met up with my awesome coworkers in support of the Hannah Duffy Foundation. My co-worker and his wife lost their 14-year old daughter, Hannah Duffy, to brain cancer in 2013, and each year the Hustle 4 Hannah is held to raise funds for local scholarships, to give back to the community, and to support cancer research.

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Team Gort ready to hustle for Hannah! L-R: NYC Tri teammate Chris, Nico (co-worker visiting from Uruguay), me, Sathya, John (Hannah’s dad), Alex (who was at Seaside with me on Saturday), and Joe

By the time we lined up to start at 9AM it was already warm and humid, but the 6 of us were having a good time chatting and laughing. Alex and I had planned to run together on Saturday so she could pace me to a 5K PR, and at the start she asked me if I still wanted to go for the PR. I all but laughed in her face (sorry, Alex). There was NO way I was in the right mental space to gun for a PR…

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… she said a half hour before sprinting to a new PR.

ANYWAY… We took off at 9AM from the high school and wound our way through the neighborhood streets, almost immediately up the first hill at a pace of around 11:20. Alex and I stuck together and passed one or two of our teammates while a few took off ahead over the gently rolling hills through the first mile, at around 10:5x.

We were getting increasingly faster as we warmed up, and a little while later I glanced at my watch and called out our pace of 10:2x. When I asked Alex if we were going too fast, she responded, “Nope, you’re pacing me here.” That’s when I felt the pressure – she was supposed to be my pacer the day before, but now she wanted me to pace her?

I had a pace of 10:19 in my head as my PR, so when I saw we were at an average pace of 10:3x  and felt really good, I thought “wouldn’t it be funny if…?” We went down the next hill and Alex remarked that I was flying down it. Downhills are just easier for me, I said – and she admitted the uphills were easier for her. That’s when we figured out our plan of attack: I’d push our pace on the downs and she’d drag my ass kicking and screaming up the uphills. Unsurprisingly, it worked.

The sun was getting hotter and the humidity was scorching, but when mile 2 clicked by and our pace hovered around 10:20, I realized this PR was entirely possible. We didn’t talk for much of the last mile – there was a lot of cursing when I realized we were going WAYY too fast a few times (8:57? WHAT?), and even more cursing when I spotted the school ahead, meaning we were near the finish.

As we entered the parking lot at about mile 2.6 at a 9:5x per mile pace, I suggested we sprint when we got to the track for the final stretch. That’s when I spotted these guys:

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Yeah, those are horses, chilling behind a school. I had a bit of this going on:

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But when Alex told me to go ahead and sprint as we neared the entrance to the track, I said goodbye to the horsies and went for it. Coming around the final corner I dropped the hammer and spotted Mike in the bleachers, gave him a wave, found Chris cheering me in on the sidelines and gave him a high five as I passed, and crossed that finish line at 33:02.

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I was shredded – when I realized I’d gone down to a 10:01/mile pace and nailed a new PR, I felt like crying but had no liquid left after sweating buckets for 3 miles. So instead I grabbed a bottle of water, Chris found me, Alex finished a few seconds later, Joe found us and we all had to sit down on the football field for a break.

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and some Snapchatting, because yeah.

That’s also when I realized that the 10:19 I had in my head as my 5K PR was really my best 5M PR – my 5K was a 10:28 pace, meaning I’d blown BOTH records out of the water. Soon after, Mike came out to give me a big ol’ sweaty hug, we cheered Nico and Sathya on as they finished, and we snapped some more pictures.

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After we toasted each other with pretzels and apples and hung out for the kid’s races and a beautiful butterfly release in memory of Hannah. By that point I was an emotional wreck, but I had to get home and add on 7 miles to my day for my first long run in two weeks.

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I wasn’t in those 7 miles mentally until the final 2. I couldn’t focus on anything. My pace, my form, my breathing: while it wasn’t difficult, none of it felt right. My legs were tired from pushing in the 5k but it wasn’t impossible to keep going, just… boring. I even took a few walk breaks and told myself my pace was shot, psyching myself out. But when I added up my times I was shocked to see I still averaged at 11:28/mile.

It was the perfect way to end a crazy weekend. By bedtime Sunday night (at 8:45pm, I’m not ashamed to admit) I was exhausted, proud, and drained – and most importantly, my running mojo was restored. The past few weeks have been rough and training had to take a backseat, but now I’m back on my game and ready to rock the fall of 2016.

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.

NYC Triathlon Recap

Oh my goodness what a long strange month it’s been! Sorry for the lack of updates – its basically been non stop running, training, and racing every day for the last 4 weeks, but let’s take a look back and recap the fun, starting with July 24th, when two friends and I took on the NYC Triathlon in a relay team! Let’s see if I can cram two jam-packed days into one post. Ready? GO!

Announcements had been made earlier in the week that the run course was shortened from 10K to 8K due to the heat, and I could see why when we arrived in the city Saturday morning: it was like a blast furnace outside. After we got to the hotel and checked in, we found Alex & Chris and headed up to the expo for our pre-event briefing and packet pickup. The crowds were stifling – but if you cram 4,000+ people into any place you’re going to run into bottlenecks, I suppose. The layout forced us into very narrow walkways and I got stuck behind a thick crowd of people a few times. Plus the briefing and packet pickup was upstairs and expo/tshirt/swag bag pickup was downstairs. It all made for an uncomfortable expo experience, I won’t sugar coat it.

To get it over asap, we sat thru the briefing, got our hands stamped so we could get our packets (at the Pro & Relay check-in table, thanks for lumping us all in together!), asked a few questions of the helpful volunteers there, then walked downstairs to fight thru the expo crowd for our shirts and swag bags, then hoofed it across town to drop off Chris’ bike and check out the transition area.

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That turned out to be super helpful – just seeing the transition area and the in and out spots helped put our minds at ease. Plus we got a sneak peek at the sarcastic tags they used to mark off our areas:

After Chris left his baby on the rack, we ended the day with a quick Uber (my first Uber ride!! I felt so millennial! ) to meet back up with Mike at the Cock & Bull for dinner and drinks.

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4 people, 9 beverages. We take our pre-race hydration very seriously.

After parting ways (Chris and Alex stayed at a hotel much closer to the start), Mike and I sat outside for a bit to enjoy the sunset and people watch, then headed back to the hotel to relax and prep for the the next morning.

I have to take a moment to shout out the true MVP of the weekend (aside from my husband of course): that little backpack up there. It not only held everything I needed for a night in the city, but it also held Mike’s overnight stuff, ALL my race gear AND my expo swag bag so Mike only had to carry one bag while I raced. Brilliant, right? Round of applause for the little backpack that could.

OK, so after managing to get about 3.5 net hours of sleep, I woke up before the alarm at 3:45AM.

This was the most nerve-wracking part of the whole weekend. I miscalculated how long it would take me to get ready and the leisurely pre-race time I usually have ended up as a frantic 3-minute last check to pack up all my hotel stuff (because Mike was checking out while I ran) and throw my race gear and breakfast into my clear transition bag (and prayed Chris would have room in his bag to carry the stuff I couldn’t run with). After a quick picture to show off my race tats, I sprinted out of the room and made it onto the shuttle bus only to hit every red light.

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I arrived at Red Transition at 4:55 when the transition areas closed at 5:15AM – and I still had to go a half mile to Yellow Transition to meet Chris and Alex before Alex left for the mile long walk to the swim start! My heart was pounding by the time I jogged into our area and found them, and we snapped one quick pic before our swimming phenom took off for her start a mile up the Hudson.

Thankfully, it all turned out to be smooth sailing from there on out. As the sun came up, Chris and I BS’d for an hour before the Elite and Pro people started coming in from the swim to the bike. We all cheered and stood in amazement – these folks were incredible!

Shortly after, we started checking the event tracking site to see when Alex jumped into the water – once we refreshed the page and saw she’d been swimming for 3 minutes, Chris gave his now famous announcement: “Shit just got real, son!” and took off for his bike. To keep the already crowded bike rack area clear, I had to wait outside. But I got to hang out with Alex’s towel and be her personal sherpa which was fun.

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Chris climbed into his bike shoes, got his helmet on and gave the paparazzi a smile just as Alex made her way in WAY sooner than anticipated (20:03 for a 1.5KM swim, 1:12/100 yds!) and our first transition was underway!

They traded the timing chip, Chris took off on his bike, and Alex met me with a big hug – she crushed it! She was covered in Hudson grit (some people came out entirely covered in gray and black, it was quite gross), but she was psyched and happy with her time. After toweling off and talking for a few minutes, she wished me luck then headed back to their hotel to shower, check out, and meet us at the finish.

At that point it was just me – but it was one of my favorite parts  of the day. As an only child, I really value alone time. And even though I wasn’t really alone but surrounded by 150 other relay triathletes, the hour or so that I got before running was pure bliss.

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While I couldn’t race WITH my headphones, bringing them with me to transition for the wait turned out to be a great decision. Having my music helped me get in the zone and calm my nerves while waiting. I leafed through my magazine, ate my fuel (a Starbucks bagel and PB with a tiny bit of banana), hydrated, used the porta potty, and then returned to the steps for pre-race stretching. It also helped that this was my view for the whole hour:

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When my timer went off 75 minutes after Chris took off, I started to pack my things away and made one last bathroom stop. He had estimated his time to be around 1:45-2:00, but after seeing some other relay folks start to roll up, I didn’t want to chance not being ready for him in case he was early. It turns out I made the right decision there too: he crushed his time and came in at 1:38: 07 for an average of 15.2mph the whole 40KM!

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Chris, Crushing It (TM)

After he rolled in and racked his bike, he passed the chip along to me and I took off up the hill to 72nd street. After spending the whole morning in the shade by the water with a nice breeze, I was shocked to feel how hot it had gotten. Landing on the cookie sheet heat of 72nd street’s asphalt was a gut punch, but I felt good. Really good, actually, thanks to the unbelievable crowds of people lining the course. There were folks the entire mile from the transition to the entrance to Central Park with signs and cowbells, all cheering and clapping – one guy even yelled out my name after I passed and he saw it on the back of my singlet!

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This was my face the whole race, for real!

As I got to the entrance of the park, I spotted Alex yelling my  name, which gave me a nice boost. I cheered right back and gave her a fist pump then glanced at my watch as we entered the park. I was shocked to see I’d already run a mile – in 10:20! It felt like nothing!

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At the first water station I slowed to a walk and grabbed two cups – one to drink and one to dump over my head – and continued on my way. It was really cool being surrounded by FULL triathletes as I ran. Being passed by speedy people definitely had something to do with my great pace I’m sure. Mile 2 clicked by at 10:55 with the water stop, and I laughed, amazed at my speed.

Finally, around mile 3.5 I started to flag – there was now no relief from the sun and the hills were brutal. At the next to last water stop, volunteers were handing out baggies of ice and I grabbed one – what a brilliant idea! I alternated between running with the baggie at my neck and throat and wrists, and grabbed a few cubes out to chew on every few minutes too.

A little after mile 4, I was walking up a hill when a guy passed me: “Come on Jess, it’ll be over faster if you run,” he said as he whizzed by. Knowing my teammates and friends and family would be there at the finish, I glanced at my watch – just over 3/4 of a mile left. As good a time as any to drop the hammer, I figured. The crowds grew thicker and I could hear the roar at the finish line, so I downed the last cup of water I’d been carrying and took off.

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Note the serious face and airborne running form.

I pushed through the pain and focused on the people screaming on the sidelines.. My watched ticked to mile 5 and I groaned – the course was long, 8K was under 5! As we rounded the last few tight corners to get to the finish I went into a full out sprint and glanced at the crowds scanning for my people. Unfortunately, I was so overheated and focused on finishing that I didn’t see anyone. BUT that final extended kick managed to get me over the finish line at a freakin fantastic time: 56:29 for 5.22 miles (!) for an average of 10:50 per mile!!!

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I was so pumped – but also dehydrated and overheated. So I pounded some water, accepted an ice cold wet towel from a volunteer, grabbed the three medals our team earned, turned in my timing chip and headed for the Family Reunion area where I met up with Mike and my friend Lizzie (who had just finished TEN miles that morning for her training run!!)

Alex and Chris showed up shortly after with a crew of their friends, and we all hung out to bask in our post-race glow before heading out to celebratory brunch.

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Also, I will never forgive you for not putting the shirt on for the picture, Chris. Never. 

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2,000 words later, I’ll sum it up: this was a great event and we were super happy with our performances. Being fresh for each leg of the event makes a huge difference that I’m grateful for this time around: shortly after we finished they shortened the run to 1.2 miles and had people go right to the finish upon entering the park!

The logistics of it are huge and while the expo/packet pickup situation was a real stress-inducer, it was surprisingly well managed and all the volunteers were super helpful. I’d give it a solid A and would gladly do again as part of a relay team, possibly even on my own!