NYC Marathon 2017 vs. 2022: What I’m Doing Differently

When I learned that I’d be running the 2022 NYC Marathon for Arts in the Armed Forces, I had to do a lot of soul searching to figure out the best path to success this time around. The last (and first) time I ran it in 2017, I finished the race in the dark at a finish time of six hours and berated myself for months – maybe even years – on what I considered a less than stellar performance. I should have done better, I told myself. I did all the mileage, why did I crumble so badly around mile 22?

If I’m honest with myself now, I just did the bare minimum. I checked the mileage off the schedule and moved on, and told myself as long as I saw the number on my watch, I was golden and I’d have a great race. Five years later, I recognize that my negative experience was the result of setting unrealistic expectations and not taking my training seriously enough.

This time around, I’m doing three things differently to ensure I perform to the best of my ability.

Number one: MORE OUTDOOR RUNNING.

In 2017, I relied way too much on the treadmill and paid dearly for it once I hit the pavement of the 5 boroughs. So this time around, I made a deal with myself that I’m allowed to run on the treadmill twice per week, max (safety/weather permitting). Long runs HAVE to be outside, too. So far, I notice a difference in my treadmill versus road running, mainly that the treadmill allows me to be faster and THINK that I should expect to see those paces on the road too. Nay nay. The conditions are MUCH different, and I have to consistently remind myself of that. But it’s making me stronger with every mile I log, and that’s what matters.

Speaking of stronger, I also completely neglected strength training in 2017. That’s why this year, I’m incorporating regular strength workouts (like the YouTube videos found in that link) into my weekly schedule, particularly early on (like right now). I’m particularly focusing on single-leg strength to address the imbalances between my two sides. My left leg is still weaker than my right as a result of my ACL reconstruction back in 2013, and that has led to some niggling issues that have sidelined me and made running difficult since then, like the piriformis syndrome I dealt with before the 2017 marathon.

(flashbacks to spending weeks in the chiropractor’s office in the summer of 2017)

Another part of that strength training involves tightening up my running form. In short, I discovered that I’ve been running with poor form for essentially the entire time I’ve been running. I always wondered why certain areas of my body would get tired so easily and early in a run, and why certain parts were almost never sore or didn’t feel engaged. With strength training and focusing on my form for the past 3 weeks, I have noticed a HUGE difference in how I’m able to run without feeling tired for many more miles than I used to. Simple tweaks like engaging my hips and core, stopping my arms from swinging across my chest, and keeping my knees farther apart have all added up in a big way. I’m so excited.

Lastly, I realize that with the stakes as high as they are this time around, I am going to need some professional help. So I signed up for coaching through Perform Running, a personalized running program that matches you with a coach based on your needs. While I’ve only just started, I am excited to see what I can accomplish with a coach helping to create a training plan and guiding me through strength training. It’s reassuring to know that I’ll have someone who knows the biology behind all these things and can help reel me in and push me when appropriate.

And this isn’t a sponsored post or anything (I’m paying full price for my subscription), but if you’re interested in checking them out, use code JSKARZYNSKI for 80% off your first month (which gives me 20% off too)!

All in all I’m really looking forward to seeing where I’ll be in a month or two of consistent changes and hard work. It’s been great to fall back into a training rhythm like I did back in 2017. I’m sure it’s going to get even harder as I go, but I’m ready.

Holy Crap, I’m Really Running a Marathon

So…

… you said you’d never run another marathon and now you’re running one for Adam Driver’s nonprofit in 5 months.

I can’t say this is coming from completely out of the blue, though it might seem that way to an outsider.

The truth is, since I finally managed to get a handle on my mental health in the last year, I’ve been toying with the idea of a big scary goal. I found myself after work was done for the day with a few hours to kill and I’d focus on a few things here and there: writing, laundry, chores, home improvements, etc. But after all that I still had that itch at the back of my brain that told me to push harder and dig deeper to do something that would have a real impact.

So I put my name in the lottery for the NYC Marathon. And I didn’t get in. But my disappointment on drawing day when I didn’t get that acceptance email told me all I needed to know: I was ready to run.

I’ve been a supporter of Arts in the Armed Forces since 2016, when I discovered them through Star Wars press that focused on Adam Driver and his wife’s philanthropic work together in creating a nonprofit that brings contemporary theater to the military community to foster discussion and connection.

In 2019, AITAF announced that they’d become a charity partner with the NYC Marathon. I was unable to run that year because I was in a wedding the same day as the race, but my interest was PIQUED. Obviously, the marathons in 2020 and 2021 were out because of… *gestures hysterically around at the state of things* … but when I clicked onto their website and found the application this year, I bookmarked it and did the soul searching I needed to do before finally submitting myself for consideration.

I knew very well that it still wasn’t a sure thing, so I held my breath until the day I opened my email and found those beautiful words: “We’re delighted to extend an official invitation because you have been selected to join our marathon team!

The white hot elation I felt while reading the email quickly turned into searing cold fear when I realized: that means I have to RUN a MARATHON. And be PERCEIVED as I do so!

This isn’t just me running for myself anymore; this is for a cause that I care deeply about! The stakes are admittedly higher this time around, but that’s what makes it the perfect opportunity for me to see just what I can accomplish with a singular focus on a big scary goal and plenty of time to prepare.

It’s been three weeks since my acceptance email, and I’ve spent that entire time building a base and incorporating strength training back into my routine. I went from running maybe 3 times a week to 4 runs per week on a consistent schedule that includes strength and cross training. I’m even more serious about rest and recovery, and have incorporated stretching, light yoga and even salt baths into each week. It feels SO GOOD to have something to focus on and work towards, and I’m only just getting started.

I’m researching coaches and plan on bringing on some help in that department a little later in the game, and have also started fundraising, they key component to my membership on #Team AITAF. I’m already almost 1/3 of the way to my goal of $3,000 and love seeing that number climb! If you are feeling generous and want to help AITAF foster resiliency and boost morale in military communities through free artistic experiences, you can donate to my fundraising efforts here – and I will be eternally grateful.

But even if you choose not to donate, I hope that you’ll follow along here (as well as on Instagram) as I work my way back up to 26.2 for a cause that means a lot to me – if history has taught me anything, I know it’ll at least be an entertaining ride!

I’m Running the 2022 NYC Marathon for Arts in the Armed Forces!

I’ve got some BIG race news: I’m running the 2022 NYC Marathon for Adam Driver’s nonprofit, Arts in the Armed Forces!

Theater has shown me that it’s possible to turn feelings into words, and to turn those words into a language that people from all different walks of life can share. AITAF‘s mission of helping members of the military community do the same is something I care deeply about.

As a longtime AITAF donor and runner, getting to run the NYC Marathon again – this time for AITAF – is a once in a lifetime opportunity to support a cause that means so much to me by doing what I love. I can’t wait to take on 26.2 with my teammates in November!

It is an honor and a privilege to run the 2022 NYC Marathon for AITAF, but now I need your help to reach my fundraising goal! Please consider giving to this incredible cause and supporting me on my journey. Even $5 can help bring free artistic experiences to military communities, encourages an exchange of ideas across ranks and between service members and artists, and fosters resiliency, boosts morale, and builds community.

I look forward to sharing my journey to 26.2 with you all here – and I’m also now searching for a running coach with a focus on strength training and beginner runners! 😉

Eyes on the Prize

If we’re being honest, we can all scroll back on this blog and on my Instagram page and see that after the 2017 NYC Marathon, things took a turn for me, and running took a backseat. Depression, being laid off, injury after injury – hell, I even tried telling myself that I don’t even like running anyway. But thanks to the pandemic (stay with me), I started working on my mental health and built a stable foundation that I now find myself ready to build upon even further…

… by setting a GOAL.

I’ve gotten back into running on and off over the last few years, but each time, that *something extra* was missing to keep me on track. I’d stick to a routine for a few weeks at a time; to look slightly better for an event, or to get my form back in order for a shorter race. But I never clicked back into the long-term “I am a runner”, feel-weird-if-I-don’t-workout mode that I lived through for basically all of 2009-2017.

Part of me thinks it’s because my goals weren’t big enough – I could brush off really getting into training for a 5K because those are still relatively easy for me, and I even bowed out of a half marathon at one point because I didn’t have the strength training base to build my mileage quick enough post-injury. But what it really comes down to is the fact that I didn’t set any goals because I was doing all of that work with a layer of anxiety on top of it all. Which is kind of miserable.

To be fair, I was miserable for a lot of other reasons, not the working out almost every day.

But recently, I jumped at the opportunity to do something I’ve been contemplating since 2018 or 2019, and I find myself in an interesting position of actually having that motivation to work towards a goal…

Every. Single. Day.

I can’t share what it is just yet – that’ll happen June 1st – but I promise that you won’t miss it because it’s all I’m going to be able to talk about for a good long time.

What I can say is that it has filled me with a motivation that I didn’t know I had. To never waste an opportunity to move my body. To make the healthy choice. To get it right. To be stronger every day, in every way. I haven’t felt a focus like this since I don’t know when. And I love it.

I’m so excited that I’m surprised you can’t hear me vibrating from here – but once you know why, I think you’ll be vibrating with me. So just hang in there, and tell me in the comments: have you ever had motivation smack you in the face like I have? How did you feel about it? Let me know!

The Top 5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Buying a House

A big reason why I haven’t been on this blog or social media much in the last year? We bought a house in December! And boy, did I learn a lot through the process. While I know this is a running blog, I thought I’d share our first-time home buying experience for others out there who might also be terrified, confused, and overwhelmed at the idea of jumping into home ownership (because we sure were, and honestly still are)! SO here are my top five things that they don’t tell you about buying your first house.

  1. It costs a LOT more than they say it will.

Those mortgage calculators online are ALL WRONG. I don’t care who you are or how much money you have, the total you’re going to end up paying each month is never going to be as low as those estimators will tell you. Because if you do a little research, those calculators are almost always sponsored or offered by mortgage providers or other entities that have a stake in getting you to apply for a mortgage with them. Of COURSE they’re going to want you to think you can afford that bigger loan! Don’t believe them. Figure out your monthly budget and go by that.

In the same vein, you’re going to have to pay for so much more than just the down payment. Inspections, septic tank sweeps, any work you may need to do before you can move in… it all adds up. Whatever those estimators say your down payment should be, err on the safe side and add $3,000 or more to that, and make sure you have it in CASH. You’re going to need about that much cash on hand to cover all of the miscellaneous costs that will come up during the process, while still having enough to cover closing.

Follow up on EVERYTHING.

If you’re Type A like me, buying a house is going to drive you insane. Because people are gonna people. They’ll make mistakes. They’ll forget things. For example, the person responsible for getting your home insurance set up will do things like write 2021 on the policy instead of 2022, thereby expiring your insurance one month in. Or your mortgage may get sold one week after you close and the new owners of your loan will send paperwork to your old address so you won’t get it until three weeks after the payment is due, falsely sending you into collections.

I wish I was kidding.

What I’m trying to say is this: double and triple check everything once it’s “done”. Because chances are, someone missed something or didn’t hit send or entered a wrong number, and it’s going to end up creating much more work down the line.

This brings me to my next tip:

You REALLY need to like and trust your real estate agent.

We love our agent, Aggie, like family. If I thought I was the one that stayed on top of things, she was on top of ME. She had been through this process so many times, so she’d seen it all. She was there to tell me to relax when something worried me, like the crack in the front door window, but also gently reminded us to be more serious about other things, like getting the anti-tipping bracket installed on the oven. It was the first thing the town inspector went for, yet we’d never heard about it in our lives!

Plus she was always the most stylish one in the room every time we got together and I love that.

Most importantly, she was the bulldog we needed when the seller started acting foolish, and she even kept me company when I would have been alone during a plumbing inspection. And it was a good thing too bc that plumber was cree-py with a capital C.

One thing a realtor can’t help you with, however, is the next thing on my list:

Take time to plan your move, and start earlier than planned (if you can).

Because the house we bought was only about a mile away from where we moved from, we originally thought we’d do most of the move ourselves in small batches over a few days/weeks, then hire movers to get our big items in.

We were so stupid.

Cars are only so big, and if you’re an average human, your stuff probably takes MUCH more than a few trips back and forth. Hell, lamps took up all of one trip entirely. On top of that, movers turned out to be out of our budget because closing costs were an extra $5K above what we’d planned for (see tip #1 above), so we had to go the U-Haul-and-friends route.

Which we will never do again.

You can only ask so much of friends, and do so much with the U-Haul truck while you have it. We started at 9am with 4 people, and by the time I had to return the truck at about 4pm, we still hadn’t even touched our closets or spare bedroom. But we were determined to get it all done so we pushed through, so we packed, loaded up and drove boxes back and forth between the two houses for the next SEVEN HOURS. We packed up the final load, with the turtle and the cat in their respective boxes, along with our TV carefully laid across our mattress pad, and closed the door on the old house for the last time just after midnight the next day… and still had to set up at least the mattress before we could crash for the night.

0/10 stars. Would not recommend.

But that leads me to my last and final tip:

Wait a while to decorate and renovate.

I am the worst at waiting, especially when it comes to decorating and unpacking. I wanted everything to be perfect as soon as we moved in, but unfortunately, perfect costs MONEY. And once we signed those closing papers, we suddenly didn’t have much of it. We needed some time to build our cushion back up. At first I hated the idea, but it actually worked out: living in the space for a month or so before getting everything “set up” and “finished” gave us a chance to actually see if we really did want to keep the living room laid out like that (we did) or if we really did need those god-forsaken overhead kitchen cabinets that I kept hitting my head on (we didn’t).

Living without everything in perfect harmony around me was a tough adjustment – I’m the type that straightens the pillows on the living room couches before going to bed – but it ended up being worth it. We found the right arrangement and also didn’t waste any more time or money redoing things because we got it wrong the first time.

I’m sure there are about a million other things I could go on about if I think hard enough, but these are the things that stand out.

What about you: do you have any first-time home buyer tips? What about the process shocked you? Share in the comments!

My Favorite Amazon Running Gear

One of the great things about running is that it doesn’t take a lot of THINGS, right? You just usually need a good pair of sneakers and some comfy clothes and you’re set. But of course because we live in a capitalist society (/s) there is no end to the gEaR you can buy to make running easier and more fun.

In the last year I’ve tried to cut back on the amount of stuff that I own in general (thanks, Marie Kondo!), but I’ve discovered a few basic running must-haves that I’ve ordered (and reordered) from Amazon that I’d love to share with you guys in the hopes that you might find a new favorite or two of your own.

Note: As an Amazon Associate, I make a small commission for any purchases made via the links on this page. I only share these things because I use them and can personally vouch for them – but if you really like them and want to buy them too, I’d really appreciate it if you do so through these links and support what I do here in a teeny tiny way!

The number one item on this list has to be my emotional support water bottle.

It comes with me everywhere. I prefer Nalgene because they’re virtually indestructible, affordable, can hold a huge amount of water, and come in a crazy variety of colors. I also have a sticker obsession which these bottles show off nicely. The only downside to the wide mouth on this one is that during a run it can get a little messy, but they also come in a narrow mouth version too.

The next item on the list is an 8-pack of socks that has basically made me love running again.

I spent a LOT of money on socks in my running heyday. So much money, in fact, that I used those socks for FAR longer than I probably should have. I wanted to get that cost per wear down, but ended up wearing them into flat scratchy pancakes that weren’t so much socks as they were… steel wool. I didn’t want to spend that kind of money again, but also didn’t want blisters on my heels anymore, so I caved and bought these incredibly high-rated Saucony socks (seriously, 76,000+ ratings??) and let me just say: I should have bought them YEARS ago. If your sock drawer is in need of an overhaul, don’t waste money on crazy expensive name brands that are like $15 per pair. Just bookmark this listing and thank me later.

When it comes to running clothes, I haven’t bought much new gear in a while; most of my stuff has held up pretty well since I’ve taken such a long hiatus. But running indoors on the treadmill, I want to air out my legs, but CANNOT run in regular shorts. I have thicker thighs that rub together like many other humans’ do, and I thought the raw, red chafing that happens after even a quarter mile was unavoidable – until I discovered these super-soft bike shorts with an 8″ inseam.

To be honest, I originally got them for lounging around and working from home, but they turned out to be amazing for running too, and so now I have a few pairs and practically live in them.

And race in them too.

Next, I started using Run Gum pretty much when it came out in like 2011 or 2012, and while I haven’t used it as regularly as I used to, it is great to have on hand as a kickstart to a run. The caffeine boost is just enough to get my engine going, and it doesn’t give me the jitters or make me have to use the bathroom like a cup of coffee definitely would.

Another must-have is something I wouldn’t have expected. The park that my husband and I love to run is a nice 4-mile loop with no stops. In the spring and fall, I was OK, but in the summer I learned that I have to run with some kind of hydration. But holding a water bottle and phone and also my key and possibly some pepper spray (because hi, 2022) gets obnoxious. This handheld water bottle and zipper pack turned out to be a godsend. It holds my keys and any other extras, along with my hydration AND my phone, all with a clear face that I can still access my phone controls through. Brilliant.

Now if it could just cool down the rest of my body while running in 90% humidity and 90 degrees…

Post-run, I rely on a few key players. Number one: this heating pad. Yes, I know it’s not technically a running tool, but approaching 40 and moving regularly means I need a bit more downtime between hard efforts, and this heating pad is SO good at easing those tight muscles. I don’t think I have to say anymore about that…

Lastly – and this isn’t a post-run tool as much as it is a self care tool – I love this electric foot file. I used to have one of those PedEgg graters that you rub back and forth over your heels and other rough spots, but after years of use, that thing got pretty dull. I had my a-ha moment during a home pedicure when I was using so much effort to grind away on my hideously scruffy heels that my Apple Watch thought I was exercising and counted the 15 minutes as “Strength Training”. Thanks, Steve Jobs.

Just in time for sandal season!

This electric file is practically magic because it buffs the rough spots away in just a few seconds, and I don’t even have to break a sweat when I use it. Win-win!

That’s it for my favorite running gear on Amazon, but is there anything that I missed? Something you’d like to see on a future list? Let me know in the comments!

Change What You Can, Manage What You Can’t

If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you most likely know that I am a big proponent of mental health awareness. Having struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my life, I’ve tried a lot of different treatments, including cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. Thankfully, despite a few wobbles of ~6 months here and there, my mental health has remained relatively stable since the early 2000’s when my anxiety manifested as severe OCD that left me holed up in my college dorm room for days at a time, bleeding from hands that I washed close to 100 times a day. Back then, Zoloft paired with a good therapist helped get me back on track, and I remained relatively stable until… a few months into 2020.

I don’t need to go into detail about that dumpster fire here; I have already recapped my struggle during the early stages of the pandemic and had nothing but good things to say about Effexor when I finally started it in April of 2021. And now that almost a year has passed, life on medication has just continues to get better, even if I don’t post about it here on the blog or on social media often.

The combination of Effexor and therapy finally allowed me the mental space to begin the monumental amount of work it would take to become the best version of myself.

In short, I was able to organize my thoughts in a clear and concise way that made me a better wife, friend, daughter, coworker, and advocate for myself. Our marriage improved. We celebrated 10 years married in August 2021!

I found and started a better job (all remote, better pay, and SUCH a better culture). I spent 3 months on paperwork and phone calls to roll over all 5 of my various retirement funds into one account. I started using a budgeting app to get our finances in order and paid off 90% of our credit card debt by September. And finally, most importantly, in October we were able to make an offer on our very own house – which we closed on December 1!

But while I was busy doing all this WORK, running and working out fell off my plate. I know that some people run or workout through their challenges, but I’m not them. After working 8-9 hours a day, I needed all of the energy I could spare to work on myself. And I never realized how many of my own needs I’d ignored until I finally had the mental space to explore them. I’d lived with anxiety and depression for so long that I didn’t realize what healthy felt like until I got there. I explicitly remember asking my doctor, “THIS is what you all feel like ALL THE TIME? Why did no one TELL me??”

There’s no end to the work I’m doing on my inner self, but as I find more of a balance, I’ve started working out and running again. The runs are short, the workouts hurt, but they’re happening and consistency is the name of the game now. I’m trying to move once a day in some way, even if that’s a 15 minute walk on the treadmill.

I signed up for a few races in the spring – and I even threw my name into the NYC Marathon Lottery! I find out if I get in on March 30th, and I still don’t know if I want to see that charge on my bank account or if I’ll be relieved when I don’t see it.

All that’s to say – tentatively – that I’m back! I’m ready to share myself with you all again, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride as I see where it takes me. Either way, thank you for sticking around this long (can you believe I’ve been running this blog for EIGHT YEARS?) and cheers to many more happy miles!

Goal Setting

Real talk: I’ve only run a handful of races since the NYC Marathon in 2017.

Yes, I know running races isn’t the only thing that makes one a runner, but when I had previously been running at least 2 half marathons a year, along with countless 5K’s and 10K’s sprinkled throughout the year, every year since like 2012, that’s a big drop.

This was due to a number of factors: I lost my job a few months after the marathon and fell into a depression. A new job a few months after that left little mental time for training, but I still did a few shorter distance races here and there. Then I was sidelined by an injury and nerve issues in 2019 that lasted for nearly the whole year. And then we all know what 2020 brought.

2021 brought a lot of changes. I went unofficially gluten- and corn-free. I started limiting my alcohol intake. I went on a new anti-anxiety medication. I dropped about 15 lbs. I started seeing a few new doctors and had bloodwork done, which helped me uncover a few things that needed to change – and gave me some possible insight into some of those nerve issues I’d had previously.

Back in 2019, my mileage dropped and my running decreased because my legs used to twitch and even give out on me while running anything over 3-4 miles. It felt like little electrical shocks shooting through my calves and my feet, and sometimes even in my hands and arms. I had every test imaginable done: MRI’s, EKG’s, and even an EMG nerve test where they stuck a needle in my leg and moved it around to find and test different nerves. Basically the only test that I DIDN’T have done was bloodwork.

Fast-forward to now, when I started seeing these new doctors. After hearing about my history, one recommended I start taking a B12 supplement, and lo and behold: B12 deficiency can cause exactly the types of nerve issues I was having back in 2019. Obviously, I can’t go back in time and get bloodwork done to see if the two things were connected, and I haven’t run more than 4 miles or so anytime recently to see if the twitching will return, but I’m taking my daily vitamin and feeling cautiously hopeful about running longer distances very soon.

All that cautious optimism has me thinking about the future – which also involves looking back at my past. When I was running a half marathon every spring and every fall, I was almost always training for some race or another. It was a lot of work, but I had found a good balance between running and life, and felt stronger and more confident in general when I was running regularly.

also: I miss those thighs

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Maybe I’m blinded by the Effexor. Maybe I’ll try running and fail at mile 5 again.

But maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll get to mile 6, and then mile 7, and mile 8. And before I know it, I’ll be at mile 13. And maybe I’ll get that confidence back.

Either way, I’m finally excited for whatever happens.

Giveaway: Schitt’s Creek x Beekman 1802

It’s been a minute since my last giveaway, but I promise it will have been worth the wait because this one’s a good one…

I’m a huge Schitt’s Creek fan. If you follow me on Instagram, this is no surprise.

nothing but simply the best for this Wild Aloof Rebel

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been referred to as David in the group chat, and can’t help but quote Moira Rose every time I hold a wine glass.

It used to make me so sad that I couldn’t actually try the body milks and lip balms that David and Patrick argue about in Rose Apothecary…. that was, until my friends at Beekman 1802 answered my prayers, and asked me to try their Limited Edition Rose Apothecary Gift Set!

This gorgeous box is packed with Rose-y goodness, and features their Body Milk Lotion, Goat Milk Bar Soap, a Votive Candle, and a Tinted Lip Balm (to keep you from chapping and have you looking a little bit Alexis), all in Beekman 1802’s signature rose fragrance, scented with rich florals, green nuances, and soothing woody tones. And even better: they gave me an extra set to share with one of you!

ENTER FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN ON INSTAGRAM!

Already entered but want to make sure you get your Rose Apothecary fix? The Gift Set is unfortunately sold out online right now, BUT you can still grab the tinted lip balm as well as a tote of Rose Apothecary products in limited quantities. Restocks featuring some of their best-sellers will also be released in January and February, so there’s something to look forward to! Check them out at the Beekman 1802 x Rose Apothecary collection online.

Now for the fine print: Giveaway US residents only. Giveaway is open now through 9AM EST Friday 12/11 and is in no way affiliated with Instagram, Rose Apothecary, Schitt’s Creek or anyone else. Winner will be selected at random and contacted via DM on 12/11.

Good luck!