#MyFavoriteAltra: The Altra Torin 4

It’s no secret that I’m an Altra girl: I’m a Sponsored Altra Red Team Member. But even if I weren’t, I’d still shout about their shoes from the rooftops. Their Footshape toe box means my toes aren’t squished into that painful V that happens when I run in other brands, and the Balanced Cushioning means that there’s no drop from the heel to the toe. I had lots of problems with numbness and tingling in my toes in other brands, but it completely disappeared once I started running in Altras.

Since discovering them back in 2016, I’ve run in a lot of different models:

Lone Peak: These were my first pair of trail shoes – if you can believe it! I’d never found a pair of trail kicks that worked for me and wasn’t too bulky, but these are my go-to’s not just for the trail but when I’m on rocks or ice, too.

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Torins: Way back when I first got into them, I got myself a pair of NYC Marathon Torins and have used them sparingly – only because they’re so COOL looking. I mainly wore them on weekends and sometimes on runs only because I didn’t want to junk them up. Silly, I know, but they actually got a lot of good wear at my last job where I could wear sneakers every day. It was nice having that comfort every day and knowing that I wasn’t putting more miles on my running shoes:

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Paradigm: When it came to running, though, the Paradigm was my first and favorite Altra. I’ve run in almost every model and color way of the Paradigms. I even ran NYC 2017 in them, and that’s the only pair of them that I won’t ever toss. They’re still caked in mushed-up, dried Poland Spring cups from running over them for 26.2 rainy miles.

Escalante: More recently, I switched to the Escalante and liked that they felt so much lighter and grippier. I’ve logged a lot of racing miles in them and still swap them into the rotation when I just WANNA GO FAST (shameless Ricky Bobby reference).

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But the drop from the super cushioned Paradigm to the almost racing-flat-like (for me) Escalante was a bit much, and I found myself feeling like Goldilocks for a bit. The Escalantes had gotten me more comfortable with less cushion, but I still needed something more padded for consistent training. And my old faithful Paradigms now seemed to be TOO thick for my everyday, shorter runs, and I missed the feeling of the road under my feet.

Enter the Torin 4 – aka #MyFavoriteAltra:

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I honestly don’t know why I hadn’t tried the Torin sooner, to be honest with you. Most of the folks I know who jumped into the brand at my recommendation tended to gravitate towards it, and it seemed to be a solid workhorse shoe.

So when they were in stock in my size, I picked up the pair you see here, and I fell in love. Again, I’m a Red Team Member, which means I do get them for a discount, but like I said before – I would be taking out ads in the paper and telling every runner about these babies even if I weren’t an ambassador for the brand.

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If the Escalantes weren’t cushioned enough, and the Paradigms were too cushioned, these Torins are (Goldilocks voice) juuuust right. They cradle my foot and give my toes enough room to breathe so I don’t get smushed, cramped toes after longer runs, and they’re light enough that I don’t feel like I’m plodding as my mileage starts to build.

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Right out of the box, these shoes were comfortable. First run, 4 miles, no pain at all. They didn’t require breaking in like other shoes have, and run after run they keep springing back like they just came out of the box.

They also offer a Plush version of the Torin that I’ve heard good things about. But while I haven’t tried them out personally, I don’t even know if I need to. They could be another good option just under the thicker/slightly heavier Paradigm, but so far I have yet to have a bad run in the Torins, and as we runners often say, why mess with a good thing?

Do you have a favorite Altra? Share in the comments!

 

Race Recap: 2019 FRNY/NYRR Pride Run

Just like we’ve done in years past, my good friend Kevin and I hopped on the 5:37AM train into midtown for the FRNY/NYRR Pride Run 5 Miler and let me say before I go any further: I was SO unprepared.

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Not unprepared in terms of forgetting sneakers or gels… I mean I had been in physical therapy since May for an Achilles issue and nerve problems that make my leg give out on me, and I’d only run about 4 miles in the lead up to this race.

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Per my therapist’s orders, this was going to be a fun run (no sh*t), and it was also going to be my first run in the heat, which made for a pretty miserable time once I hit mile 2.5-3. BUT ANYWAY…

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We arrived at the start area at around 7:30 or so and killed time by posing for photos and covering ourselves in sunscreen until our other running buddy, Stephen (aka Lady Champagne Bubbles), arrived.

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We ran into a few other friends doing the race while we made our way into the corrals and hung out waiting for the starting gun, and the sweat we’d broken into before even starting the run should have told me what I had to look forward to. I say again: I was not prepared.

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As we crossed the starting line, we took off at a pretty solid 12:00-ish/mile pace. Stephen cantered off ahead because he’s in MUCH better shape than me, but thankfully Kevin hung back and took it easy with me. Every quarter mile or so we’d catch up with Stephen who waited for us, but by about mile 2.5 I realized I had pretty much used up all I had in the tank.

It was a miserable feeling. I’d run these hills dozens of times before. In much worse conditions. Hell, I ran the goddamn 2017 NYC Marathon in rain for more than 6 hours!! I really should just listen to the universe and pack it in. Why should I bother when all I do is finish after all my friends and get injured anyway?

All those negative thoughts you get in the middle of a race? I had them.

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I mentioned my insecurities to Kevin at one point and he talked me through them – saint that he is – but while he helped my mental game, my physical game was just too far gone. My therapy had been focused on isolating the muscles that were causing me pain, working them gently and slowly strengthening them. The lack of running while focusing on those smaller, foundational things really sucked a lot of conditioning out of me.

Thankfully, I wasn’t SO far gone, and we made it to mile 4 relatively soon. Kevin made deals with me to get to the next light post, the next stop sign, the next tree. It worked, sort of. There was a lot of walking. But once we got to the final half mile or so, I realized I’d done it. Kevin asked if I was OK with he and Stephen taking off and finishing strong, and I said go for it. The only thing that makes a miserable race worse is knowing you held people back.

So off they went and I hunkered down for the final sweaty, breathless half mile. The nice thing about the Pride Run is that in the final mile, all of the local running clubs come out to cheer you on in the final mile or so. And because it’s Pride, the music is bumping, the energy is high, and the love is on full blast. All I had to do was shift to the side of the course and hold my hand out as I ran, and I was rewarded with high fives and screams and cheerleaders galore.

All that excitement was just what I needed to get down the last hill and over the finish line – and for Kevin to snap this hysterical picture of me thanking the running gods that the damn thing was DONE:

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Afterwards we all hung out for a bit eating the rainbow ice pops they handed out at the finish line and taking pics – of course I can’t let Stephen take a nice photo just one damn time – before heading home to recover in the air conditioning.

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As always it was a great race that I highly recommend, especially for first-timers. It’s high-energy and a wonderful way to support a fantastic cause that is dear to my heart.

I’m Still Here

Haaaaaaaaayyyyy…..

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Remember me?

It’s been a minute, I know!

Yes I haven’t posted since February. No I don’t have any good reason for my absence. Or at least nothing dramatic.

The short version: Life got busy.

Long version: The injury I was flirting with before the NJ Half turned scary in March. My leg started giving out on me in double digit runs in the weeks before the race. I got up to 10 or 11 miles in training but they were junk miles, and frankly, having my leg give out on me because of electric shock numbness? Figuring that out was more important than a medal. So rather than risk further injury, I dropped out and have seen two orthopedists and have been going to physical therapy for all these issues basically two times a week since May.

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My issues turned out to be a combination of Achilles tendinitis and a nerve problem that we still haven’t gotten to the bottom of, but I’m living with it and running with it. I still feel numbness and tingling when I turn my foot in a certain way or overextend it while walking. This is just something I have to get used to (according to both orthos). While I’m not running the distances or times I used to, I’m still running.

And I’m feeling much stronger now thanks to the work I’ve been doing with my physical therapist Dean at Twin Boro Physical Therapy. No, seriously, Dean is like, invited to my Christmas Eve party from here on out because he’s been so incredible for me. He’s a runner and gets the neuroses that come with that title. He went on vacation and I was despondent. We share Netflix recommendations and trade our favorite Bill Burr comedy bits while he works on me, and he’s learning how to ride a scooter now that he and his girlfriend have purchased one together.

But I digress.

OH I also took the European vacation of a lifetime with my husband to Jersey and the UK.

It has been a long time and a lot of other stuff has happened, all of which I promise I’ll write about soon. But I just figured now that we have a new, more powerful wireless router that reaches into my back office and makes it easier for me to write, I may as well send out a quick carrier pigeon here to let ya’ll know that I’m not dead.

I may have had to reset my wordpress password because it’s been that damn long, but I’M BACK BABY!

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Just Do It. No, Really.

After a few weeks of pretty solid base building after the New Year, I started officially training for April’s NJ Half Marathon – and, drumroll please – I’ve stuck 100% to the plan so far!

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la la la la, la la la la, training time!

I’m feeling myself. I no longer have to make that horrible noise when I get up out of a squat (you know the sound, we’ve all made it) and I can comfortably run about 4-5 miles without any lingering pain. I’m not about to crank it up to 10 just yet, but I’m getting there.

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YAY ME

Looking back on the last few failed attempts at a – and I hate this word – *comeback*, I keep searching for reasons why this time is different. There are a few, mainly the fact that I’m not injured or coming back from an injury, and I’m mentally in a better place than I was the last 2-3x I signed up for a race and didn’t even make it to the starting line in the past year.

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I’m also feeling about 1,000% sassier thanks to a great job and having other fulfilling hobbies outside of running

But while I was getting dressed in the gym locker room the other night after a full, draining day of work, the last piece of the puzzle finally came to me: I’m shutting up about it and getting it done.

Or, to paraphrase the most popular sports company slogan in history: I’m just doing it.

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Fact: the post-work runs are hard because I have to get through a whole day of work before I can do them. [And before you say “run in the morning!”, just know I’ve tried it time and time again and it just ain’t happening. I’m 35 years old and if I haven’t learned to love losing an hour of sleep to get a workout in yet, I’m not going to. Go bark up someone else’s tree about how *magical* it is to wake up before the sun and let me sleep while you get your sweat on. I’ll have the coffee ready for you when you’re done, I promise.]

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I’ll even be SMILING by then because I GOT MY FULL 8 HOURS OF SLEEP

Fact: The weekend runs are tough because I have nothing really lighting a fire under me to go and just get it over with every morning.

In the past, I’ve skipped weekday runs because I’m tired after work and convince myself on the drive home to treat myself to a rest day. Or I spend a half hour in the gym locker room on a Saturday morning scrolling through Twitter or Instagram looking at other people’s workouts when I could have been done and on the way home already, just because I can’t psych myself up to get out there.

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*thinking* I wonder if they give medals for procrastination…. 

This time, I’ve made a point as soon as those “maybe I should just skip it” thoughts creep into my head to simply… stop. Stop that thinking, consider the workout non-negotiable, shut up and JUST DO IT.

If it’s quiet in the locker room, I resist the urge to sit on the bench before I change and scroll through Twitter for another 10 minutes. I just put one foot in front of the other and change and get up those stairs and on a treadmill and JUST DO IT.

When I wake up on a Saturday morning and lazily make my coffee and plop down at my desk and start scrolling through Twitter, I allow myself 15 minutes before I make myself stand up from the desk, shut up and JUST DO IT.

Yes it’s a pain in the ass to schlep 14 pounds of gear from the house to the car to the gym locker room, to change into cold running clothes while surrounded by a dozen screaming tweens who just got out of swim practice, and to get onto the treadmill. Yes, it’s easier to lay in bed, and it’s more tempting to skip a run and read a book or catch up on Netflix.

But once I run, man does it feel good.

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like, “the hills are alive” good

Yes, it’s good to talk about running with other runners online. It’s good to read blog posts with titles like “how do you get motivated?” and “top tips for getting started with running again”. But more often than not – and this is going to sound harsh but I mean it in the most encouraging way possible – it really is as simple as shutting the hell up and JUST DOING IT. Get up off the hiney, put the sneakers on, get the keys and GO.

I’ve gotten harsh with myself MANY times in the interest of getting my miles in. If you’re lacking motivation or find it hard to get up and moving, I invite you to do the same. It gets easier the more you do it. Once you stop thinking about it, you’ll have so much more time to just do it.

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And I promise you’ll rock it when you do. Nicolas Cage in Con-Air style.

New Year, New Outlook

Good lord, will this website even still let me log in? I am a terribly inconsistent blogger and for that I am sorry. BUT – it’s 2019 and we made it to Day 21!

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When we last left off, I was getting my running mojo back in a pretty big way. And I’m pleased as punch to report that it’s still going strong. I’m running consistently 3-4x a week (even if I’m not sharing every one of those runs on social media) and have worked my way back into the high-mid-11:00/mile pace range, which is huge for me considering I took nearly all of 2018 off from consistent running due to injury & mental health issues.

I even ran a 10K in Central Park on one of the rainiest, most miserable days I’ve had the privilege to live through in recent memory – and I didn’t die!

A few things have kept me sane and focused on the running:

  • Not sharing every run on social media. This is a big one for me. I’ve talked here before about the pressure of sharing my running journey on Instagram. And once I realized the chicken/egg analysis paralysis I was putting myself through by stressing about IG and just ran for me, boy howdy did I start to enjoy it again.
  • Weight loss is back on the table. Taking a year off from working out in general – and not adjusting my eating habits – has led to a mildly significant weight gain (for me). By focusing on what I’m eating, I’m finding my running improves, which makes me want to eat healthier to keep that good feeling going. It’s a fun cycle that feeds itself, and I’m enjoying that I can control it – it’s good to feel in control when other parts of your life are anything but normal.
  • 2019 is The Year of No. Other folks might aim to say “yes” more, but I’ve learned that when I say “no” – to people, places and things that exhaust me (physically OR emotionally) – I am a stronger person in all arenas of my life; as a wife, a writer, a runner, everything. So I’m making it a priority to end the mental clutter before it even begins. By limiting my time on social media. By not agreeing to do things because it’s “the nice thing to do”. By recognizing that I don’t owe anything to anyone outside of my immediate family and friends – and even then, within reason, and after I’ve served myself first.

Aside from that, I don’t have much else to update you with aside from the fact that I’m still here and running, except for the fact that I’m still planning on running the NJ Half Marathon in April [insert fingers crossed emoji here]. I don’t see anything huge preventing me from this race as long as I stay consistent with my training.

Once I get into a solid training plan you can probably expect to hear some more from me here so stay tuned – and in the meantime, stay warm and keep running happy!

 

Race Recap: Philadelphia Children’s Hospital Parkway Run

Back in September, I ran the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital (CHOP) Parkway Run as a representative of CURE Magazine (my 9-5) and had one of the best races in more than a year.

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The day started early – and I mean EARLY – because the race was in Philly, which is a solid hour and change from my place. I’ve also never driven in Philly and frankly, was terrified of the idea of trying to find a parking lot in a major city I was unfamiliar with at 7am. I was very lucky though, because my coworker Kristie (who was going to run the race with me but had to drop out due to injury) is a Philly girl and offered to drive from her house, which was on my way.

Full disclosure: Kristie was super nice and even offered to have me sleep over the night before the race to save me that extra hour, but Adam Driver was hosting SNL that Saturday. And if you know me at all, you know your homegirl here needed to be in her own living room with exactly one (1) pre-race glass of wine to take in the spectacle. And I did. The fact that I stayed up past 1am the night before a 4am wakeup call is an issue we’ll address later.

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So yeah, after driving an hour in the dark and arriving at Kristie’s, she drove us into the city and found us the perfect parking lot, and we found the start of the race relatively easily using my tried and true Comic Con logic: just follow the people in neon and spandex.

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It was shaping up to be an absolutely perfect weather day, and I said a silent thank you prayer to the running gods. After running the NYC Marathon in a cold drizzle for 6+ hours, I will take every crisp, clear morning as the blessing it is.

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This was my first run in Philly, and I must say – it was quite lovely. Granted, I saw approximately 2.5 miles of the entire city on the run, but what I did see what delightful. It’s making me consider other Philly races, tbh.

With a good hour or so before the start, Kristie and I entertained ourselves with dancing to the – admittedly EXCELLENT – DJ (seriously, it was like a wedding DJ with all the awesome dance-along songs) and filming some BTS social footage for the magazine.

Clearly the lack of sleep had not yet taken its toll on me at this point, because I was a dancing fool.

We also took advantage of the sparse crowds and got some awesome pictures with the Rocky statue right outside the Art Museum.

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Once we were done messing around, I handed off my backpack to Kristie at the last minute and jumped into the corrals right at Eakins Oval, and after a quick National Anthem, we were off.

The course had us go down the Ben Franklin Parkway (hence the “Parkway Run“) to Logan Circle and back, past the museum and down the Parkway for another mile and back.

I went into this race with some high hopes – after a mildly disappointing finish at the Seaside Semper Five a few weeks back, I wanted to run the race I knew I could. I also knew that as part of a team (and with a reputation as a runner in my office), leaving it all on the pavement was pretty much my only option. So I raced smart and started slow down to the circle and back, with a nice breeze and a solid crowd of runners the entire time. Once we passed the museum at a little more than a mile, I was grateful for the slight downhill we had for the next mile along the parkway – because the sun was starting to come out and it was hot on my back.

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The view was beautiful – there was a cool waterfall to our right and the rest of the parkway to our left. I didn’t walk once the entire time, and ran smart with a steady pace. The only water station at the turnaround at just past mile 2 was a blessing, and I held onto my cup for a few meters because I knew there weren’t any more stops from there.

After the turnaround, just as I expected, the sun was now directly in our faces and the heat was starting to build – but not like full-on summer running. This just made me want to run slightly faster, so I switched to my Power Running playlist and took on the final mile with determination.

The teeny tiny incline the whole way made my calves burn, and I knew from running down it at the start that there was a SOLID hill just before the finish line, so I wasn’t shocked when we came to it. I did slow my pace just to make it to the top, and then motored through the final 100m to the finish at a respectable 36:25 (12:03 pace).

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Of course my Garmin said I did much better, but I still managed a 1:30 improvement over the Semper Five two weeks prior, and for not racing in more than a year, I’ll take it.

The best part is that the runners and their friends raised more than ONE MILLION DOLLARS for pediatric cancer research, which is AMAZING. I learned later that there were more than 10,000 participants at this run, too – making it probably the biggest 5K I’ve ever done!

The only downside was having to drive home for more than an hour and change by myself on my pitiful 3 hours of sleep while keeping myself awake with blasting music and open windows. But I regret nothing.

All in all this was a great race that I’m looking forward to next year!

Race Recap: 2018 Seaside Semper Five

I’ve done the Seaside Semper Five 5K basically every year since it started – yes, including the year a bomb went off on the course. So I never miss it. Even this back in September of this year, when I had basically done zero running up til that point, save for a handful of miles every week and a solid 20 mile week the week before the race.

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As usual, this race calls for an early wakeup, so when race day rolled around on September 15th, Mike and I headed down to Seaside in the dark and got there just as the crowds were starting to form – and got to admire the local art:

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I enjoy this race for a number of reasons, many of them having to do with logistics. There is plenty of parking available (if you get there early enough) and a super clean bathroom in the bar/restaurant it starts in front of (again, if you get there early enough – the lines soon get out of hand just like any race). So since we were there from the get-go, I was able to sneak in to the bathrooms and get my bib before it got too cray-cray.

(Though I got a little cray-cray over the excitement of my first real “I’m going to race this thing” race in nearly 10 months!)

I met up with a bunch of folks before the start, including my friend from the Rebel Legion (and badass Marine) Sean and his beautiful girlfriend, some IG friends, my cousin Heather, and my friends Jess and Ed (Ed was running) and Liz and John (who were both running). You could say this was more of a social event than a race for me, and I liked it.

By the time the opening ceremonies started, I was hungry, so I took a gel. I have to admit – treating this as a real race had my nerves a little jangly, so I had to kind of rely on muscle memory to remember how to prep. I’ve run a few little fun runs since the NYC Marathon last year, but not for time. So wanting to do this right had me a little rattled.

But all those nerves were for nothing, because it was a beautiful morning by the water, and the race turned out to be great.

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I mean look at this picture Liz took from the roof of the bar we started at! *chef’s kiss*

At the sound of the gun we took off going north on the boardwalk on the newly modified course that was started last year. Previously this run was just a straight 1.5 mile shot south on the road then back 1.5 on the boards, but last year they switched it up to take us like half a mile north then out into the city. It’s a fine switch – still fast and flat – and honestly a little more fun because the winding streets give us a little more to look at and give people in those houses we pass a chance to cheer us on.

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The whole 1.5 out to the turnaround point was great – I had been working on not walking in the weeks prior to the race, and raced for the first time in my Altra Escalantes, which, if you haven’t tried, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND. They are so choice. Full review to come.

Anywho, I was feeling good through the turnaround, and loved the fact that I got to cheer on the folks behind me when I turned around. All the Marines in this race also make for some serious motivation – there are folks that run this race with prosthetic legs, crutches, the whole nine yards. It’s seriously awe inspiring and makes you realize what some people have given up for our ability to do stuff like run races and write blogs about them. Thank you, veterans and active duty military, for all you do for us!

The sun was starting to get hot once we turned back around and got through mile 2 before getting back on the boards, so I finally took my first walk break for the 2nd water stop. And that’s where I kind of fell apart.

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Well, I didn’t FALL APART like full-on meltdown mode, but I basically said “Oh hey I can walk, I forgot about that option!” and kind of jogged it in through most of the final mile. I wanted to find the right power song, then I had to stop to sip some more water, then I wanted to take a picture, and before I knew it I’d blown the lead I’d given myself by not staying strong – and proving to myself that this running thing is nearly 100% mental.

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Either way, when the finish was in sight I kicked it back up into high gear and crossed with a relatively solid time of 37:53, for a 12:22/mile pace…. Aaaaaand a face for the record books, because I was laughing at my friends for waiting past the finish line and getting the most unflattering finish line photo ever:

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After the race we got to enjoy the boardwalk and the beach for a bit, before heading over to Jess & Ed’s family’s place down the road to clean up then grab some bangin’ post-race food.

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and a cupcake, because otherwise what’s the point?

Overall this year’s Seaside Semper Five was another success, and I can’t wait for next year’s race!

Marathon Training Movie Reviews – Part 2

In case you missed it, I kicked off a new series on the blog last week called The Jess Runs Happy Marathon Training Movie Reviews. In this series, I review the movies that I watched on the treadmill while I trained for the 2017 NYC Marathon, through the very specific and slightly skewed lens of a marathon runner; i.e. judging based on the number of miles each film helped me run and whether or not I cried while watching it.

Today I’m continuing the series with:

Ex Machina

As a Star Wars fan, this one was a no-brainer: it has General Hux AND Poe Dameron!

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sure, they look a little different, but space does weird things to a body…

In short: Bro-genius Nathan (Oscar Isaac) has invited schmoopy Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) to his underground laaaairrrr to perform the Turing Test on Alicia Vikander plays Ava, a slinky android. And, as is to be expected when you lock two supremely smart men in a labyrinth of underground halls filled with technology and *spoiler alert* evil robots, it takes a pretty hard left.

But not before we get treated to what is possibly the most mesmerizing, oddball, and perfect piece of dance in 21st century cinema:

I mean.

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Come on.

The absurdly deep V-neck. The drunken swagger. The use of the best Oliver Cheatham song ever. Move over, Citizen Kane. Poe mother*ckin Dameron is here and he’s gonna tear up the dancefloor.

Enough about the silly dance scene, you’re probably saying; how did it fare as a marathon training movie?

Distance: Right off the bat, this one gets an A+. With a runtime of 1 hour 50 minutes, I started this one at the beginning of a post-work 8-miler and expected to lose interest or call it at the 60 minute mark when I had to restart the treadmill. But I was so absolutely enthralled by this movie that I not only blew through it, but managed to finish my run just as it ended, all in one night, with only a few walk breaks. Near perfect.

Sob Factor: No tears. But in this case, I’m going to say that means it gets an A.

Inspiration Meter: There’s no real action to speak of, but Alicia Vikander and the rest of the androids are f*cking flawless, and both the male leads each had their own specific appeal. A+ for eye candy alone, #sorrynotsorry.

Overall Score: Let me set the scene for you so you can understand why this movie is getting the rating it is:

It’s near 8:30PM on a Tuesday. It’s dark out, you’re just finishing a 95 minute run in your office gym and there’s no one in the parking lot. You’re entirely alone. The building is very modern, lots of automatic lights and glass and marble – much like the set in the film about murderous robots you just watched. You leave the gym exhausted and sweaty, and walk into the empty hallway to get to the other side of the building where your car is parked. As the gym door closes behind you, a motion-activated light on the far side of the building flicks on, too far to have picked you up. “Hello?” you call. No answer. Slightly spooked, you take a slightly different route down a parallel hallway. You feel your pace quicken slightly as your heart starts to pound. Just as you’re about to get to the exit, a shadow on your left jumps out at you and you scream – before you realize that it’s your own god damn shadow, the god damn glass door is just half open, god dammit. You REALLY shouldn’t be watching scary movies alone.

A+. Have watched again. And again and again.

Impostor Syndrome

If job searching after working for one company for five years is like jumping back into the dating pool, starting a new job is like the first day of school, but on steroids. And much like a new school year, I looked forward to starting my new job back in March because it meant a fresh start. But more than that; I had the chance to adopt a new persona.

You see, for five years at my last job, I was known as the runner. But after the NYC Marathon, I wasn’t running. So I didn’t feel like a runner anymore. I had a serious case of Impostor Syndrome.

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When meeting new people at my job, the subject of hobbies came up a lot as an ice breaking conversation topic. But I avoided talking about running at every turn, even though most of my new coworkers had already seen the blog – hell, it’s on my resume, and the fact that I’d created Jess Runs Happy from the ground up helped land me my current role as a Social Media Manager. Instead, I focused on other things – my cat, my husband, Star Wars.

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It wasn’t so bad: I got to make a lot of new friends with varied interests by *not* focusing on running. And don’t get me started on all the new friends I made by hosting a surprise May the Fourth party. But as it tends to do, time passed. My injuries healed. I started running regularly. I had the urge to chase big scary goals again.

While it’s only been about two months or so, I’ve run more in these 8 weeks than I had in the previous 8 months, and I feel like I’ve learned something with every mile – especially as I get stronger with every run.

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Last week I ran three times, and improved with each run. I even ran 4 miles for time,  just to see how much better I could do than the previous run. I blew my old time out of the water and posted a 4-mile time I haven’t seen since pre-NYC Marathon training a year ago.

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I’m getting nostalgic about marathon training. I’ve got blisters from new socks again. That old black toenail is acting up again. I’m eating more carbs and going to bed early on Saturday nights to run on Sunday mornings again.

I’m proud to say I’m a runner again. 

I don’t know what made my Impostor Syndrome go away. Maybe it’s all the happy mood chemicals flooding my brain thanks to regular running; maybe it’s a fluke and I’ll have another bad week or month or year. Whatever happens, I’m going to ride the wave as long as I can and I’m looking forward to it.

I’m cleaning out the running gear that doesn’t fit anymore. I’m packing my bags every other morning for my evening run and avoiding those late night snacks I’ve grown so used to. I’m signing up for races in the future so I have something to work towards. What matters is I’m feeling more and more like my old self, and that feels good.

 

Marathon Training Movie Reviews

So now that we’ve established that my marathon training nostalgia means that I’ve completely lost my marbles, come with me on a trip down training memory lane – with a twist.

I give you: The Jess Runs Happy Marathon Training Movie Reviews.

In this series, I’m going to examine the movies I watched on the treadmill, all through the lens of a runner and rate them based on very specific, marathon-training-based criteria:

  1. Distance: Pretty simply put, how many miles did I run while watching this movie?
  2. Sob Factor: Because marathon training had a knack for making me emotional, especially towards the end, how many times did it make me cry?
  3. Inspiration Meter: Not all movies are about running, but they can still light a fire under you. How engrossed did I get in the movie that I was inspired to run farther?

At the end of each review I’ll tally the total points to give it a total score that means absolutely nothing in the real world but will hopefully give you a little chuckle. Ready? Let’s kick it off with a film that stands out in my memory right off the bat:

Neon Demon

This film had been on my must-watch list for a while, mainly because it looked *cool*. Dakota Fanning stars as Jesse, an aspiring model in a strange, fever-dream version of LA that’s filled with fashion-world predators. The marketing made it look like a slick, visually striking murder-mystery-with-a-neo-noir twist – and it was, at least for the first hour that I watched during a sunny post-work 5 miler. Hell, it even had Keanu Reeves and a mountain lion!

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Basically, Jesse leaves Georgia for L.A., and meets up with makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone) and two models, Sarah and Gigi. The fashion world is obsessed with Jesse’s youthful innocence, and the film makes no bones about the literal consumption of uncorrupted, perfectly packaged beauty and youth. She’s innocent enough, and I genuinely felt frightened for her in some scenes, like when she’s left alone with a creep-tastic photographer, or when she hears a woman being attacked violently in the hotel room next to hers one night.

But just as I finished my first 5 miler with this film, she walks the catwalk in a show and literally goes through the looking glass, into the heart of darkness. When I picked it up the next week during another 5 miler, The Neon Demon took a HARD left into psychological, gory horror-ville.

And I. Was. Not. Prepared.

 

The second half of this movie is so violent and strange and disturbing that I legit went off my company’s WiFi and watched on LTE because I worried I’d be put on some kind of list for using company resources to watch it.

While Jesse turns into the exact opposite of the naive ingenue she was in the first half of the film, Sarah, Gigi and Ruby all turn on Jesse too. And their true, witchy natures come out to… I guess play? Because when I say they turned on her, I don’t mean in a Mean Girls, three-way-calling-while-secretly-listening-in-while-we-talk-trash kind of way. I’m talking about pushing her off a diving board into an abandoned pool and murdering her with knives, then bathing in her blood in some kind of occult ritual kind of way.

It would have been weird enough to end there – I haven’t even mentioned the necrophilism, the knife swallowing, or the blood rivers that Ruby apparently can control with her punani. But instead, it kept going, for a final scene where…. I’m going to be real with you, I nearly had to stop the treadmill to be sick. I was going to copy and paste the final paragraph of the Plot section from Wikipedia, but honestly I don’t want to have that kind of copy on my blog. So go read it there, and then come back. Just know that I’m not responsible for any nightmares you may have from visualizing it.

Back? OK. So yeah. I finished mile 5 just as the credits started rolling, and basically regretted ever wanting to watch this movie in the first place. The worst part was, I’d been recommending it to people after watching the first hour! I immediately took to IG to recant my statements about it being cool and vowed to watch a whole movie before recommending it to people.

But hey – it helped me run 10 miles and gave me a good story, yeah?

Distance: 10 miles over 2 nights, a solid 2 hours of nonstop running. And running in fear counts, so it gets an A+ there. Best I could hope for in a film while running.

Sob Factor: I did not cry. At all. I screamed a lot though. So let’s give it a C- here.

Inspiration Meter: I wouldn’t so much call it inspiration as I would call it… distraction. But again, because I was so focused on the film, I forgot I was running on more than one occasion. A+.

Overall Score: If you can handle gore and don’t mind going “What the actual f*ck?” about a dozen times in an hour, by all means, give this a go. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Solid B+.

Stay tuned for the next installments where I cover movies like Ex Machina, Zoolander 2, and Paterson!