Star Wars Kessel Run Challenge Recap

After completing the Dark Side Challenge in Disney World by finishing the half marathon and 10K in two days, I wrapped up my weekend with my mama with some time in Hollywood Studios. The Great Movie Ride, The Voyage of the Little Mermaid… we had a blast:

We even stumbled upon the Star Wars show happening right in front of the Chinese Theater almost as soon as we got there:

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I don’t think I need to tell you that’s me going “OOOOOOOHHHHH” and “YEEEAH!” in the background of both videos.

If you thought I was having a crisis of joy during the races just from all the Intergalactic Love, you should have seen me when this happened:

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Hint: I cried. Like a big dumb baby. And my mother loved every second of it.

As if my day couldn’t get any better, we headed over to Star Wars Launch Bay to meet some characters, and they did not disappoint. Once again, I was a total idiot around Kylo Ren (I swear I should make flipbooks of these photos just so you can watch me get dumber around him):

But me and Chewy had a MOMENT with a capital M when I showed him my Millennium Falcon medal:

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And I went 2 for 2 on getting lost in Wookiee hugs:

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Mmm. Smells like Kashyyyk. And a little bit like sweaty Disney cast member.

After noodling around for a bit and having a drink at the Prime Time Cafe while we waited for our dinner reservations, we had the time of our lives at the buffet – where we shared our meal with Mickey, Minnie, and the rest of the gang! Commence happy tears breakdown #272 of the weekend.

Seriously, when Mickey hugged my mom, I burst into tears. I’m an emotional person, OK?!

After dinner we headed over to the theater where the Star Wars fireworks show was scheduled for 9PM, and man oh man. I wish I could describe what it’s like, but videos and photos and words don’t do it justice. It was incredible.

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After the show, we called it a day in the parks and got ready to head back home the next day, exhausted and happy and already planning our next trip back.

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All in all, running both Disney Star Wars races was a dream come true, when I didn’t even know I had this dream in the first place. When I “joined” the Star Wars fandom and discovered these races, they were a “wouldn’t it be nice” thing to add to my bucket list. But after talking it through with my husband and working out the financials – and a lot of hard work and sacrifice to get there! – my brand new dream was a reality. And it only took about 8,000 miles flown to run 19.3 twice in 2 different states and earn 8 beautiful medals that each represent their own accomplishment.

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There were plenty of pros and cons on each coast, and while I go into them in detail in their own recaps, I can say this:

  1. Disneyland was smaller but had a lot more on-course support from local cosplayers so the run felt much easier, plus the milder weather made it a breeze.
  2. The races in Walt Disney World were less in the park and more on the street (and HOT AS HELL) but they offered characters before and after the races to help you make the most of your experience.
  3. Both race weekends were excellently executed in terms of logistics. RunDisney races are NOT cheap by any means, but Disney quality and organization is second to none. There’s a reason they’re one of the most well-known brands in the world.

All in all, if you’re a Star Wars fan and have the chance to do even one of these races, I can’t recommend them highly enough. They take a lot of work and time (and yes, money), but it all comes down to creating experiences that matter, and Disney races allow you to do exactly that.

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Star Wars Dark Side Challenge Recap: Half Marathon

With the 10K complete (and another day of Florida fun under our belts), mama and I got back to the hotel on Saturday night and found this fun voicemail on our room phone:

Gotta love that Disney touch 🙂

The next morning we woke up nice and early – 2:30am again! – and after putting on Flat Vader, I headed out for the Dark Side Half Marathon and the completion of the Kessel Run Challenge and Disney’s Coast to Coast Challenge!

The same bus ride as the day before took us to the same Start location, but instead of doing any character photos, I hung out near the stage area and watched the pre-race show (and almost got picked for the trivia contest but chickened out)! The best part was getting to see The Last Jedi trailer on the big screen with everyone, and admiring the insane costumes some people were running in.

That’s a Millennium Falcon in Mickey ears, a SUPER REALISTIC Krennic (hubba hubba), a Dark Helmet, and yes… a George Lucas (I stole the pic from Disney’s website, it’s too perfect). 

My friend Lizzie was running the half with her uncle, so we met up and headed over to the Corrals, where we chatted and waited for a final bathroom break, then went our separate ways. While waiting to start in Corral E, I managed to get some video of the fun psych up speech the Stormtroopers gave every morning about these races being a test for Captain Phasma to find the best soldiers and it gave me a little giggle.

Another fun thing I caught was the HUGE fireworks display they set off at the very start – Disney really pulls out all the stops for these things!

After corrals A-D and E1 went off, one of the coolest things happened: the corral was cut in half RIGHT in front of me and I was one of the folks that got to hold the start ribbon!!

Me and the folks around me were losing our minds – how cool was it to START our corral? It was an awesome experience to be the very first people to start, and gave me a taste of what the elites must feel (although they probably don’t selfie NEARLY as much when it happens to them):

When the gun went off and the fireworks shot off over our heads, I ran through some ash from the firework and laughed the whole first 100 yards – we felt like we were in the Olympics all by ourselves up there! I had to calm myself though: no sense in going out at an 8 minute mile when I still had 12.1 more to go.

The first 3-4 miles in the dark were on the highway and in back roads between parks, and almost immediately I noticed a difference from the 10K. They had more music on the course, screens playing the movies, and one section where they laid out a crazy laser light show along a stretch of about 100 yards between forest on either side, complete with big speakers playing music and background noises and Ewok battle cries to simulate the battle on Endor! I loved it, even if I did get blinded by a few rogue lasers.

By about Mile 5, the sun started coming up, but thankfully, it stayed behind the clouds. It was a true blessing:  with the sun hidden, it stayed relatively cool, even though the humidity was still around 90%, even at 7am.

In addition to a few character stops that I didn’t bother making, I got to see another fun piece of Disney magic around mile 6: a real live elephant! I didn’t get a picture, but apparently the Animal Kingdom park has an elephant care and rehab facility where they treat the animals, and one was hanging out watching us run! I know there’s some controversy around the fact that these guys are even there at all, but I had to laugh at how random it was to find an elephant on my half marathon course. Only in Disney.

After the Animal Kingdom we headed back out on the highway for mile 7 on, and my stomach was starting to get a little wonky. So I stopped at a medical tent for some Immodium (just keeping it real, folks), and headed back out for the final 5-6 miles feeling much better.

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The view of the rest of the crowd behind me from an overpass we ran under then over.

One of the last character stops I made was partially for the character and partially just so I could get a break from running in the humidity! Darth Maul was never really a *must have* for me, but I turned out to really enjoy this guy. The cast members managing his line led him off for a break right before I got to meet him, so I was “first” in line again. The one cast member thought the line deserved a photo, so she snapped one. And when she showed me, I HAD to have it. But as I was giving her my cell # to text it to me, Darth Maul came back and had to wait for me to finish chatting. He was not pleased. Either that or that’s just his face. Either way, it made for some funny photos:

After Darth Maul, we ran through Hollywood Studios and I managed to get a fun picture with my squad, along with some nice runfies and shots of the scenery:

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While I had gone easy for most of the first 10 miles, I ran the last 1-2 miles feeling strong.

It was the same route we ran the day before so we got to pass the Dolphin and Swan resorts before entering Epcot for the final stretch (and I got to see Hux again! What’s up, General Bitchface Weasley?!)

Bonus: as we went through the Boardwalk, I found Denny of the Diz Runs podcast spectating at mile 11 (he’s at the far right in a red shirt below)!! Seeing a friendly face and giving him a big ol’ sweaty hug was just the boost I needed to get me to the finish.

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As if Mother Nature knew we were almost done, the sun came out FULL force as we rounded the corner into Epcot.

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Having to run the final mile in full sun was brutal, but the view was nice and knowing we only had a mile left made me run stronger than ever.

After learning that the finish line was just on the other side of Spaceship Earth during the 10K, that big metal ball was a sight for sore eyes.

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Sore, sweaty, exhausted eyes.

I gunned it and made it through the finish with a big ol’ smile – I had completed the challenge!

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After getting a cold towel and my medal (and a bottle of water that I was instructed to have OPEN as I passed through the finisher’s chute, thanks to a bunch of attentive medical volunteers), I was directed to the challenge tents where I picked up the bling that made me want to do this whole thing: my Dark Side Challenge medal, Kessel Run Challenge medal and Coast to Coast Challenge medal.

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I won’t lie: I cried when the volunteer put the last medal around my neck. She hugged me and said “Oh, bless you! Congratulations!” and I couldn’t pull it together. These medals were more than just pieces of metal; they were the culmination of a LOT of hard work, travel, and time, and they were finally mine. A fun side effect of all that bling: the music they made when we walked around the finish area:

After a quick stop at the medical tent to ice my sore calf (no big deal, just tenderness), I hung out and waited for one last picture with Kylo Ren (again with my awkwardness), and called it a day.

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Stay tuned for the final recap where I head into the parks and round up both Disney experiences in one last post!

Star Wars Dark Side Challenge Recap: 10K

After a relaxing pre-race day in Florida, my alarm went off at 2:35 and I poured myself into my snazzy homemade Captain Phasma outfit for the Star Wars Dark Side 10K! PS – a HUGE thank you to Tiffanie (aka Star_Wars_Runnah) who made my skirt and tank BY HAND to thank me for donating to her NYC Marathon March of Dimes fundraising efforts! She’s one of the only other runners out there who loves Star Wars as much as I do, and I pretty much fell in big-puffy-hearts-on-your-Trapper-Keeper-LUV with her after meeting her in Disneyland during the Light Side Challenge. Go give her a follow on IG.

If there was one good thing about getting to Florida a few days early, it was being able to acclimate myself to the heat and humidity. Seriously, it was brutal. Like, in the 90’s with 86%+ humidity every day we were there. But arriving a few days early gave me a chance to get used to it and hydrate extra, which paid off in the end.

So I hopped on the easy-peasy lemon-squeezy bus to the start area right outside my hotel and before I knew it, we were at the Magic Kingdom parking lot start staging area!

I SPY A MATT THE RADAR TECHNICIAN!

The coolest thing I discovered about the WDW races (when compared to the Disneyland races in Anaheim) is that they set up character photo ops at the start and finish areas to guarantee that you get a pic with whoever your little heart desires without having to worry about missing them on the course (or being swept from the course if you waste too much time waiting)! They had Phasma, Kylo Ren, Darth Vader, Jabba, Boba Fett, and BB8! So what’s a girl who arrived way early to the start to do? Go make some friends in low places:

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I almost stole Salacious Crumb but the running from the cops would have added extra miles to my legs before 19.3, which seemed kind of pointless.

After heading into Corral C and waiting for what felt like a LOT longer than I waited during the Light Side Challenge (probably because I was alone this time), we were finally at the starting line!

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Once the gun went off just after 5:30AM, we took off in the dark through the Magic Kingdom parking lot and out the gate that folks drive through, which was fun:

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The one downside to the WDW races (compared to Disneyland) is the time spent off Disney property. The run down the highway to get to the first park was a loooooong one. Especially when it’s dark and about 90% humidity and you’ve got a cape that doesn’t breathe (but absorbs your sweat quite nicely) flapping round your ass the whole time.

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They DO kill it on the pro photos though, especially in the parks!

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This is a funny shot I had to share: apparently, social media is now a part of my very DNA, as evidenced by this pro shot after I stopped to snap some on-course pics:

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Pathetic. Hysterical, but pathetic.

And while I kept an eye out for the character stops at each mile, no one really jumped out at me as a must have. Darth Maul and R2-D2 were there I think, but I was just kind of hot and wanted the whole thing to be over with, really. The last 3 or so miles as the sun came up were quite lovely, though!

And for all the miles of non-character filled highway we had to run, I will say that Disney made up for it BY PUTTING HUX ON THE MILE 5 MARKER.  YOU GUYS, HUX. GENERAL BITCHFACE HIMSELF. I died.

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He’s one of my favorite characters in the new trilogy. He continually looks like he’s watching someone NOT use a coaster on his new Ikea coffee table, and it’s killing him. I love his sassy ginger resting bitch face and cannot wait to see him return in Episode VIII.

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They also had some non-Disney sanctioned folks (aka the 501st legion!) IN the parks, which was cool!

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Another fun part about the Dark Side race (and dressing up as a Dark Side character): is getting to play a BAD GUY! I had SO much fun sassing the Stormtroopers – and they got into it too, saluting me and giving Phasma the respect she deserves (yaaasss QUEEEEN).

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Right before we finished, the last character stop that I made was for Chewy, because how can you NOT stop for Chewy?

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Here’s another fun pro pic. Of course I had to do airplane arms because I’m a child and can’t think of anything better to do in front of a race photographer:

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Here you can also see how poorly my $4 silver gloves handled the Florida heat and humidity. They served their purpose.

Finally I entered Epcot, the final half mile in view of Spaceship Earth, and crossed the finish line with smiles and thanking the lord this running sauna was over with.

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The medal was so cool: a badass Stormtrooper with a red ribbon that matched my pedicure of all things!

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While I was glad the race was over, I was even more excited: now I got to wait for more character photo ops that I didn’t get before the race or on the course!!

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Although I cannot, for the life of me, seem to NOT be awkward around Kylo Ren. I turn into teenage me, acting all weird around the hot guy and forgetting how to form sentences or look at the camera for a photo.

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We did get to do the Force choke thing. heheh. Which was fun.

Finally, I jumped in line for a photo with my namesake and LOVED it. I wanted to hug her like Mickey Mouse, but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have liked that.

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Fun Fact: Alex, who I met at the Disneyland races, also went for the Kessel Run Challenge and ran these races too. He snapped a pic with Phasma and posted this to Twitter:

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Thank you for making me giggle-snort, Alex!!

Once I had my fill of character photos I headed back to the hotel on the bus and showered for a day of fun with mama and friends at Disney Springs.

I also made it to the WeRunSocial meetup as well, where I got to hang out with folks I’ve only ever seen online – so fun to make “real world” friends!

Overall we kept it low-key (to spare my legs before 13.1 the next day) and had a great time before heading back early for another 8PM bedtime and 2:30 wakeup!

Star Wars Dark Side Challenge Recap: Expo & Pre-Race Fun

Oye I promise I haven’t fallen off a cliff – I’ve just been super busy with a new exciting role at work and other life-related fun. But now that I have some time, I’m going to start my recaps for the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge! Let’s kick it off with the expo and pre-race fun!

For this race-cation, my husband opted to stay home and let the girls off the leash for a weekend – that’s right, Mama and I took on Florida in a big way. The flight was excellent (any day that starts with a mimosa that’s 95% champers is a good day) and we landed, picked up our rental car, and arrived at the All Star Movies Resort ready to take on the world.

Our first order of business was to get to the Expo to pick up my bib and ALL THE MERCH. After dumping our luggage and grabbing a snack, we hopped on a bus to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex where everything was located, and found it to be super easy to navigate. We even made friends with a gentleman and his tween son on the bus – dad Paul was completing the Kessel Run Challenge like me and his son Avery was taking on his first Disney race. We had a good time talking Star Wars and racing while my mom shook her head, saying “you people are all insane but it’s great!”

Speaking of insane, the Expo was B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

After picking up my bib, getting my photo snapped for the Dark Side Challenge, and earning some bracelets that noted my Coast to Coast and Kessel Run medal status for the end of the half, we stopped at the merch tents at the bib pickup building and the expo building (they were about 100 feet apart). After snagging a few things at the expo, I stopped by the Altra booth to say hey to my people there, and hightailed it out of the building. I was going on 14+ hours of nonstop action and needed a break.

Seriously, I posed with EVERY SIGN THEY HAD. I couldn’t help it. I was on Star Wars overload!

When we got back to the hotel at about 7pm, we were wiped out, but we still had to explore the hotel – and lo and behold, we discovered that they were playing a movie in the outdoor Movie Room by the pool!

The crisis of joy continued as I got to watch The Force Awakens while tooling around on social media and planning my race strategy for the 10k/half marathon to come in just a little more than 24 hours!

After the movie, we wandered to the pool for a bit, grabbed some dinner, split a Celebration Cupcake (because: CUPCAKE), and called it a night.

The next day was blissfully free of any plans, so we literally did nothing.

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No, for real, we really didn’t do anything but wake up when the hell we felt like it, ate breakfast, sat by the pool from about 7 hours, wandered around our hotel and made friends, and then went to bed again. It was GLORIOUS.

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The best part of our day was after dinner: in the hotel lobby, we stumbled upon a couple of women who were laughing their asses off at these screens hanging in the hall. See, we’d seen my name on one before, and wondered if it was just a coincidence. But these sassy ladies cracked the code: there were apparently sensors that read our Magic Bands (bracelets coded with our info that let us buy things all over Disney and get into our rooms), which then displayed our names on the screens. Krin and Julia realized that if they walked slowly past certain areas, it triggered their names to appear on the screens, which they demonstrated for us about a half dozen times, much to our mutual delight.

Seriously, we were laughing so hard I had to use the bathroom. It must have been the Disney Magic they pump through the air vents 😉 IMG_6994.JPG

After we got our cardio in by laughing with our new friends, we took a slow walk around the resort property and snapped some pictures – it really was a nice place, even if it was a more “budget-friendly” option it was still Disney, so the quality is everywhere!

After a glass of wine by the pool after dark, we headed back to the room for Flat Phasma and an early bedtime! That 2:35AM wake up wasn’t going to get any easier.

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Stay tuned for Part II: the 10K!

My First Podcast!

A while back, I started dipping my toe into the world of podcasts to pass the time during my long runs. They turned out to be quite entertaining, and kept my mind more engaged than just plugging into a music playlist and zoning out.

Then when I became an Altra ambassador, I was introduced to Denny, who runs a popular running podcast and blogs over at DizRuns.com – and wouldn’t you know it, he wanted to have me on his podcast!

So a few weeks ago we sat down (via Skype) for a chat and talked about all the things: running, mental health, Star Wars, the marathon distance, and more. I’m super stoked to share it with you today – head over and give it a listen, and be sure to tell him I sent you!

And if you’re a fan of podcasts, be sure to subscribe to Diz Runs Radio and never miss an episode.

Warm Weather Running Tips

Between spring arriving with a bang here in NJ and running in the overwhelming heat and humidity of Florida last week at the Dark Side Challenge (recaps coming soon!), I’ve had to adjust my running strategies pretty drastically in the past week or so.

And now that I’m prepping for the Newport 10K on May 6th, I realize that I’m probably not the only one who’s had to adapt quickly. So today I’m sharing some of my tips for warm weather running as we take on these first few weeks of pre-summer heat!

giphy.gif…also this is the perfect opportunity to finally use this gif of a shirtless Adam Driver in tiny shorts. so. win-win. you’re welcome.

Tip #1: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

And I mean during AND before! Seriously. Upping your water intake and starting your run already properly hydrated makes a HUGE difference. Leading up to your long run or race – or even your regular outdoor runs! – be sure to take in extra water and stay away from caffeine and alcohol as those have more of a diuretic effect. Then while you run, make sure to keep those levels topped off. I’m no doctor but the rule of thumb is to check your urine: if it’s clear, you’re overhydrated. If it looks like iced tea, get ye to the water fountain STAT. Straw-colored is the goal here.

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But while you’re doing this hydrating thing, also be aware of hyponatremia, which is a deadly condition that occurs when you drink TOO MUCH water and your blood sodium levels drop to dangerous lows and cause  So yeah. It goes both ways, this hydration game!

For actual REAL expert advice on hydration, check out this article on Active.com. They’ve even got a handy guide for you there!

Tip #2: SUNSCREEN

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My god, sunscreen. Please, people. Don’t forget the sunscreen. I know we wear those uneven shorts and racerback tan lines as badges of honor, but burnt skin is damaged skin. Besides, a sunburn makes it more painful to run than it already is. When it’s 85+ degrees out there, why make running any more painful than necessary?

Tip #3: Slow Down!

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I know: it seems very counter productive. I’m racing, you’re thinking. The faster I go, the faster it’ll be over and I can cool off! Yeah, no. When the temperatures soar, you need to adjust your pace accordingly and run by perceived exertion, not by the pace you think you *should* be hitting on your watch.

Tip #4: Minimal, Loose Fitting Clothing

This is a lesson I learned late in the game: the less you wear when you run in the heat, the more comfortable you’re going to be. I used to run in capris all the time because I was afraid I’d scare passersby with my jiggly thighs. Until I ran a 10 miler in like 80 degrees in capris and nearly finished the run pantsless. Now, I rock the shorts, jiggle be damned.

Recently, on a solo run in my stifling hot office gym, I discovered the joys of being a part of the Sports Bra Squad and let me tell you: while I was petrified of someone coming in and seeing me wobbling all over the place, I also felt COOL.

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When it comes to running in the heat, run in what YOU’RE comfortable in. Try running in a sports bra. I was shocked to see how much more comfortable I was, and nailed my run even harder because I felt so badass. Now I’m looking forward to giving it my all this summer!

Tip #5: Maybe Don’t Run?

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What kind of running blogger am I, suggesting you NOT run?! Well I’m going to keep it real: if it’s TOO hot? You shouldn’t be running. I’ve seen some sites say skip the outdoor runs at 89, 90, or 92 degrees and up. But ultimately, you need to listen to your body. If you set out and immediately feel like your lungs are on fire and your skin is going to melt off your bones, maybe today just isn’t your day. It might feel badass, but you could do some real damage (heat stroke, anyone?). So when it gets TOO hot, consider moving your run to a treadmill. It won’t ruin all of the training you’re doing, I promise.

Do you have any hot weather running tips that you swear by? Share in the comments – and I’ll see you at the Newport 10K next week!

Spring Racing Season

While my summer and fall racing schedule is pretty barren (for good reason), I also left my spring wide open to accommodate the Dark Side Challenge in April. After running the Rebel Challenge in Anaheim in January, I learned how much training and recovery time I need around a 19.3 mile race weekend and didn’t want to overload myself too much with NYC on the horizon.

But now that the spring is nearly here – and I’m feeling stronger than ever before – I’ve added a few races to my calendar that I’m excited to talk about now.

The NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10K – April 9

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Having run this one last year, I was looking forward to it but didn’t know when the timing would shake out. Last year it was in late May, but a schedule change this year means it falls in early April – conveniently on a day when I need to run 12 miles! So I’ll head in to run 6.2 on the race course then add another 6 miles with my medal to complete my long run. I’m looking forward to returning to racing in Central Park as I haven’t been since the Marathon Kickoff in October – bring on that hill training!

The Dark Side Challenge 10K and Half Marathon – April 22 & 23

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I’ll be posting more about the prep I’ve been doing for this weekend soon, but a Spring Racing Calendar list would be incomplete without it.

The Newport 10K – May 6

This one I’m super excited about: I’ve heard of this race before but it’s almost always around the same time as the Asbury Park and NJ Half Marathons, so I was never able to make it. But thanks to my newly cleared calendar, this year when race organizers reached out to see if I’d be interested in becoming an Official Blog Partner, I jumped at the opportunity. So now I’m stoked to be taking on the “fastest course in the Tri-State area” on Saturday, May 6th, along the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway!

Now, I don’t know how quickly I’ll recover from racing 19.3 miles 2 weeks earlier (in January it took me a good two weeks), but I may even gun for a new 10K PR here. Based on what they say about the course being fast and flat, it sounds like I’ve got a good shot at it, so fingers crossed!

Front Runners New York LGBT Pride Run 5M

After running this one last year not too long after the attack in Orlando, I vowed to add it to my “never miss” list. It was one of the most supportive, meaningful experiences I’ve had at a race, and I’ll never turn down the opportunity to show my Pride.

So far that about wraps it up for my upcoming races – how about you, what does your Spring Calendar look like? Have you ever run any of these races before? Sound off in the comments!

Running Like a Well-Oiled Machine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It was intense.

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

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

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

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

My First Aerial Yoga Class

Alternative title: how I learned to quit worrying and let go.

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My friends Kevin and Jessica had taken aerial yoga before, and after hearing about their experiences, we planned a date at the Om Factory in the Fashion District of Manhattan:

We entered the class to find a room full of slings hanging from the ceiling and a few females who introduced themselves as sisters and co-instructors, Grace and Laura. They – along with basically ALL of the other students – are younger than me and my friends by… let’s say a lot… and could fit right into an episode of Girls without even trying.  This is not meant to be disparaging in any way. It’s just that their mannerisms and speech patterns and personalities were very millennial. And their class playlist consisted of Robyn, Temper Trap, and M83, which I really dug and am pretty sure I’ve actually heard in an episode of Girls.

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After Laura adjusted my sling to my height, we discussed how our party of one Kevin and two Jess’s would require the instructors to create nicknames for us to tell us apart (I proudly accepted Grace’s choice of “Jess Leia” after seeing my Star Wars race shirt on the way in), and we got started by sitting on our mats while Grace… led storytime? I don’t know how else to describe it.

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And again, this is in NO way meant to demean or insult, it’s just a fact that we sat there on our mats for 5-7 minutes while Grace told us about how she had just returned from Mardis Gras where her friend got so caught up in getting ALL THE BEADS that they didn’t have fun. She then talked about how her mother called in a panic after hearing about an accident at Mardis Gras that happened a mile or so from them, and that was a bummer. This was a fun story about Mardis Gras but also a… metaphor for yoga and life? Don’t get so caught up in getting all the beads and just enjoy the process? OK. I can do the deep breathing and stay centered, but I also paid 25 American dollars for a 60 minute class and feel like we kind of wasted 10 of them on storytime.

However, that is the ONLY negative thing I to say. Once we got to the yoga part of yoga class, these ladies were phenomenal. Encouraging, strong, incredibly funny and welcoming, Grace instructed verbally while Laura took a sling at the front of the class and demonstrated. Their sisterly dynamic added to it, also.

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We started off doing basic yoga poses to warm  up, using the fabric to do pull ups and squats and lunges, which I felt immediately. Having the fabric there to help me open up my hips and stretch the rest of my body felt incredible. Then we did downward dog while folded over the fabric, and floated by tucking our knees up and turning into eggs, engaging our cores to stay stable. My first time off the ground in yoga and I loved it!

Next we made the first really frightening move: standing ON the fabric. I was terrified, but had no time to panic: before my brain knew what was happening, everyone around me hoisted themselves up so I did too, and suddenly I was standing in the fabric, three feet above the ground, my head in the ceiling! It took lots of core and arm strength to stay balanced, but I focused and nailed it. I guess Grace’s story about just living in the moment really did have some value 😉

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The final part of our class was spent going upside down and sideways in a variety of ways. This was my favorite part, especially because, as Grace and Laura said, “We face the wall on these poses so we can be vain and see ourselves in the mirror when we go upside down.” They just get me, these girls.

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This was another case where I was scared at first, but after just letting go (in the metaphysical sense, of course, because physically holding the fabric was the only thing keeping me from cracking my skull open), I was upside down and able to fold and bend into some incredible positions I never thought possible. The only negative to all this: my over enthusiastic posing had me swaying more than my inner ear would have liked, and my motion sickness acted up pretty much instantly. I can’t win.

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After spending the last 15 minutes of class working on these poses, we then unfurled the fabric of our slings to create delicious cocoons where we lay in savasana and floated for a good few minutes. I would go back to class just to do this for an hour.

Finally when class was over properly, we were allowed 10 minutes of “play” time to practice whatever poses we wanted, take pictures, and clean up our spaces. We had fun taking pictures together and laughing about the poses I didn’t attempt because my body was so shredded (I’m looking at you, aerial split). This was also fun to see other people in the class totally whip out these incredible routines – I’m guessing they were all circus performers or ballerinas or both, because they were so talented that I found myself just watching a few times.

All in all it was an incredible experience; I enjoyed it a LOT more than I expected, and I can’t wait to go back. It was a super intense workout, too – 3 days later my abs and upper body are still sore, and I can see this being a great complement to my running and a way to cut loose and have fun while getting a workout in.

Have you ever tried aerial yoga? Is it something you’d like to try? Let’s hear it in the comments!

 

Product Review & Giveaway: The Stinger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!