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!

Not My First Rodeo (er, Full Marathon)

Fact: I will be running my first marathon at the 2017 TCS NYC Marathon this November.

Fact: I will start training officially for this marathon sometime in May or June of this year.

Also fact: This is NOT the first time I’ve started training for a full marathon.

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I know. Shocker.

But it’s true: I signed up for the Atlantic City Marathon back in 2014 and had to drop down to the half after injuring myself during training and basically losing my mental toughness as a result of said injury.

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I’m not proud of this; in fact I don’t talk about it a lot because I’m still kind of upset by it. I’d be lying if I say that redemption isn’t like 80% of why I’m ready to attack NYC later this year.

But I’m writing about it today because it’s real. If we’re all honest with ourselves, I bet you’ve experienced something similar in your life. I want to share my story so you realize you’re not the only person to set a big scary goal and not achieve it. And just because you don’t achieve it on the first try doesn’t mean it will never happen.

[just imagine a fun “never say never” gif that DOESN’T involve Justin Bieber, because I didn’t realize that’s like his phrase now]

While scrolling through my archives, I found this post about training for my first full marathon, and at first I was upset – seeing my old posts about marathon training bum me out. They remind me that I set up a huge scary goal for myself and I failed at the goal. Runners knee in both knees, calf strains, failed long runs and a few illnesses along the way all caused me to postpone my goal and that hurt. I can still remember crying on the phone with my friend as I told her I couldn’t do it. But I ALSO remember the relief I felt in finally saying it out loud: I wasn’t going to run the marathon.

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And while I didn’t run 26.2 miles, I gained a LOT of knowledge about myself (which I went into in greater detail in this post). Long story short, I discovered that I should want to run the marathon for myself, not for other people. And in getting there, I learned how to listen to my body, how my anxiety affects my training, how to manage that anxiety, and so much more.

I wasn’t ready to cross that finish line in 2014 for a number of reasons, both physical and mental. But the training I DID accomplish, and the lessons I learned as a result, taught me how to prepare on all fronts.

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And now I’m ready: ready to train, ready to fight, ready to push myself, ready to be scared. But above all, I’m really ready to cross that finish line and accomplish a goal it’s taken me nearly 4 years to accomplish.

How about you: what have you learned in setting big scary goals for yourself? Have you ever had to defer your dream? Let’s talk!

Running in Costume

Before I signed up for the Rebel Challenge, I never considered running in a costume. And if we go even further back on that logic train, before Disney owned Star Wars, I never thought I’d do a Disney race, but that’s another post.

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But when I started researching Disney races – especially the Star Wars themed races – I realized a costume would be pretty much mandatory. Also, if I was being completely honest, I wanted to dress up in Star Wars costumes! How fun would it be to run a race surrounded by other people dressed up in the characters I loved? But how was I going to pull it off? I’ve never run in costume before, let alone TWO races in two days!

Here’s how I pulled it all together for 19.3 miles of costumed fun:

Rey

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I knew I wanted to run as Rey because this was a Light Side themed race and frankly, I love the character. Plus, I can really pull off a 3-bun hairstyle:

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Halloween at the office. I promise there were other folks dressed up.

For the actual costume, I flip flopped between searching for actual performance gear creating my own costume, but after doing that once for my real Rey cosplay outfit, I learned that I’m way too picky and could easily waste loads of time and money and still have it be turn out “meh”.

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So I opted for the actual Rey Halloween costume. I read recaps of other girls running in it and they reported that it worked just fine, and figured for a 10K I could tough it out.

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The funniest part of this whole thing was having to “test-run” in the costume the day before we left for CA. I wasn’t crazy enough to wing it and run in the costume for the first time on race morning, so I brought it into work and waited for everyone to leave before changing in the locker room and sneaking into the office gym for a quick mile. No one saw me (expect for the 15K+ people I shared it with on IG), and it’s a good thing I tested it: the top was WAY too short and I needed to add a tank underneath it, which worked perfectly!

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I had to add a little of my own sass, though.

The store-bought costume came with almost everything I needed except for the goggles (that I turned into a headband) which I bought separately from a Halloween store on clearance for like $4. To top it all off, I safety-pinned a little stuffed BB-8 to my race belt – he turned out to be the crowning achievement, as it was the first thing people commented on when they saw me bounce past with him on my hip!

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The result was great: I ran comfortably for the 1+ hours I was on the course, and the character photos I got worked perfectly with the costume too! Bonus: the arm warmers *actually worked* in the chilly corral before we started – who knew a Halloween costume could be functional running gear too?

BB-8

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My BB-8-inspired costume was less “costume” and more running gear with a theme. With 13.1 miles to run, I wasn’t about to stray too far from what I  normally run long in: wicking tank, Nike pro shorts and compression socks.

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That said, it was easy enough to create this outfit thanks to Etsy and some creative thinking (and sales on bright orange running shoes, thanks Altra!):

The final outcome was the perfect mix of running and costume: comfortable, functional, and super cute.

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I didn’t chafe, I got tons of compliments, I felt good, and I’ll admit: I liked the way the swishy little sparkly skirt made me feel! I’m definitely looking at ways to add a skirt to my Dark Side Challenge races, that’s for sure.

Ready to Run?

All in all, running in these costumes was SO fun. If you’re on the fence about doing a costume run, I highly recommend it. The key is to find a theme that you’re into and roll with it. In my case, it was all worth it to hear people – especially kids! – on the sidelines yelling out as I passed, “Go, Rey!!” or “Keep rolling, BB-8!!” Even though it was just a costume, it gave me that extra boost I needed to pick up my shoulders, run stronger and smile.

And when it comes down to it, isn’t that what this running thing is all about? 🙂

What do you think: have you ever run in a costume? Do you have any tips I didn’t mention here? Share in the comments!

I’m an Altra Ambassador!

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook, this technically isn’t *news*, but I had to share here because it’s that exciting: I’ve been named a 2017 Altra Ambassador!

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I’ve been a fan of Altra since I discovered them last year before the Runner’s World Half & Festival. In the weeks leading up to race weekend, I experienced a nasty plantar fasciitis flare up combined with a Morton’s neuroma that made the last 7 miles of the Rock n Roll Brooklyn Half marathon 7 miles of excruciating pain. But within 10 minutes of switching to Altra’s, the numbness and pain was relieved – and I haven’t looked back since.

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I wrote a love story (er, product review) about the Paradigms if you want more technical info on these shoes, but suffice it to say I’m a total convert. Case in point: I lived in them during my Star Wars Rebel Challenge weekend. I raced in a different pair of Paradigms both days, then switched into the super-cute Tokalas for walking around the park and non-running fun:

It’s a huge honor to be in this group – these folks are super dedicated, thrill-seeking, ultra running athletes to their very cores, and just seeing what they’ve done with Altra inspires me to be the best I can be every day.

If you have any questions about what makes Altra so special, feel free to ask – I’m always happy to share the love!

My 2017 Racing Schedule

2017 is shaping up to be pretty awesome, I’ll have you know! I know it was semi-official because I had run the 9 races and volunteered at 1 to earn my guaranteed entry through the NYRR’s 9+1 Program, but now that the applications have opened and I’ve paid the entry fees and received my confirmation email, I can officially say it:

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I’m running the 2017 NYC Marathon!

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I’m quite excited. Also terrified. But more excited than terrified. At least right now I am. Ask me again when I’ve got to run 16-18-20 milers in the dead of summer.

Things are going well post-Rebel Challenge. During my first workout back, the Wednesday after the half, a one mile run was easy-peasy. But when I jumped back on the treadmill after a bathroom break my knee was NOT having it. I took to the bike for another 7 miles instead, tried another mile after that, and still had pain. So I rested it for another 3 days and tried again Sunday. I already made peace with taking all the recovery time I need, and it paid off because Sunday’s run was de-licious.

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I felt a slight bit of pain in the first mile, but not as strong as I had Wednesday. I pushed through, focused on my form, and by mile 2.5 I was feeling unstoppable. I was able to negative split and even finished the final .5 at a 9:50/mile pace (!!!) without the knee pain when I was done. After a generous stretching and rolling session and more rest for the remainder of the day, I’m still pain free today. Safe to say my speed is back, my confidence is back, and I’m ready to take on what the rest of the year has in store for me!

Speaking of which…

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I also upgraded my Dark Side Half Marathon registration in Florida to the entire Dark Side Challenge! So once again, I’ll be taking on 19.3 miles, this time through Disney World! Also, Mike is tapping out and my mom will be accompanying me on this adventure instead, so we’ll even get a little girls’ weekend action in there as well. I can’t wait!

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Pictured: my mom and I and two new friends we’ll make in Disney, I guess.

With that news, though, comes a bit of a bummer as well: I’ve officially deferred my New Jersey Half Marathon entry from 2017 to 2018. The NJ Half is the Sunday after the Dark Side Challenge, and knowing now how my body recovers from 19.3 miles of racing + all the extra time walking in the parks, I’m not about to race back to back weekends and wreck my knees right before jumping into training for NYC. Some folks might be able to bounce back faster and are better conditioned to take on the challenge of racing back to back weekends, but I know my limits. So see ya in 2018, NJ Half – and hello, two runDisney Challenges in one year!

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Fun Fact: Doing both Star Wars Half Marathons in both parks in one year earns me this gorgeous bling: the Kessel Run Challenge Medal! How stinking fun is that?! I already know what my half costume is going to be, but I get to be a little more fun with the 10K… what to do, what to do…? ::insert evil laugh here::

How is your spring shaping up? Have you ever had to defer a race? 

Star Wars Rebel Challenge Recap – Day 4

If you missed any of my recaps from this weekend, catch them here:

When we last left off, I’d just finished the Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon and earned my Rebel Challenge medal! After a quick shower and slipping into some Pro Compression recovery socks post-half, we decided to hit up Disneyland for our last full day in California – and MAN was it fun!

We’re not huge Disney fans, but when you walk through those gates and smack-dab into a parade of characters and marching band led by Mickey effing Mouse himself? You feel the love.

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The plan was to make a beeline for Star Wars Launch Bay because that was where Chewy and Vader were – I wanted at least to get photos with them before we did anything else.

I didn’t know what to expect – remember, I’m a total Disney newbie, only been to WDW like twice in my entire life, and not in about 17 years – but when we walked into the Launch Bay, I went into total Star Wars overload.

It wasn’t just a place to hang out and take pics with the characters, it was like a little museum! I also didn’t realize that Boba Fett would be there and walked in on him leaving for a break. A cast member with a tiny Minnie Mouse voice informed me that “Mr. Fett has an important meeting so unfortunately he has no time for photographs now, but Lord Vader is on the ship now and accepting visitors. We have also received reports of a Wookiee being onboard, but if you find him, please report him to us immediately.” I die.

So we found the spot to wait for Vader before being invited into his inner chamber for a photo op. I put all of my medals on for the picture, but that may not have been the best idea.

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Despite my best efforts to flatter our Dark Lord by complimenting his cape as I was introduced, I immediately had my personal space invaded and was accused of being “guilty by association”. I won’t lie – I really flinched, it was scary!

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not pictured: the fact that I may have peed myself a bit

Mike stepped in when he sensed the danger and saved me in time for a group photo (that I still look terrified in, lol):

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Once they took the picture I all but ran out of there, then discovered that Mike had some words with Vader after I left. He claims he was telling Vader that he was “on his side”, but the photos show a different story:

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Listen here, bucket head. I’m the Emperor now. You work for me. Got it? No back talk. Get out of my sight.

As soon as we left Vader’s area, I spotted the line for Chewy – FINALLY I was going to get my Chewy hug! I’ve waited forever. After the 15 minute line, I could barely contain my excitement, and by the time we were greeted by the Wookiee himself, I couldn’t help it – I burst into tears. Like full on, had to wipe them away tears. But to his credit, Chewy took one look at me and gathered me up in his arms for the BEST HUG EVER. I’ll never forget the feeling of him patting my back like I was some small child, like “There, there, tiny hairless Wookiee. It’s OK.”

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No, really – if you zoom in you can see the tears in my eyes:

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After my hug we got a group shot – when Mike came into the photo Chewy gave him a big hug too and that pic cracks me up just as much: look how happy I am that Mike got a hug too!

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It looks like Mike just accepted Chewy’s offer to be his best man.

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I was not ready to say goodbye, but we had to. The cutest part came when we turned to leave and Chewy reached out to play with my medals – he went right for the spinning BB-8 on the 10K medal and spun it. Mike tried to give him a high five but he didn’t quite get it, to which his handlers offered, “He’s new to earth, he’s working on it.” My heart. It bursts.

After that, I had to take a moment to collect myself, and realized just how hungry I was. Oh yeah, I had run 19.3 miles in the past 36 hours, maybe I should get something to eat! So off to the Galactic Grill we went, where I treated myself to a post-Rebel-Challenge victory lap of a Cheese-3PO Burger (I die), a Dark Side Lemonade (omg), and a Darth by Chocolate parfait for dessert (COME ON).

While we ate, the Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple show happened to start right behind us, so I wandered over and caught some of it just in time for you know who to show up:

My favorite part of that video is hearing the grown-ass man standing next to me shout “OH YEAH!!” when Kylo Ren comes out of the fog. Never gets old.

After the show I returned for my dessert – worth every Imperial calorie.

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At that point we’d only touched a part of the park, so we made quick work of the lines at Pirates of the Caribbean, It’s a Small World, and the Enchanted Tiki Room.

It was fun seeing the original attractions that I’d only ever heard about before – and the lines weren’t TOO long so that was a nice bonus. Throughout the day I kept checking the lines for Hyperspace Mountain because that was the ONLY other ride I wanted to hit before we called it a day, and unfortunately my legs were starting to feel the effects of all the running and standing. Finally before we were about to call it a day, the line opened up again (it had been closed on and off all day) so we jumped on it and waited for nearly 2 hours.

Now, neither Mike nor I knew what to expect going into this ride. Mike especially. I knew it was a coaster, but forgot just how long it’s been since I felt speed like that. Needless to say, I screamed pretty much the whole time, between laughing and shouting out “It’s a TRAP!” when Ackbar does during the ride. By the time they took our photo on the final drop, there was virtually nothing left of us but shocked skeletons clinging to the handles of the coaster cart. No, for real:

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WE WERE NOT PREPARED FOR HYPERSPACE MOUNTAIN.

After that, we called it a night at the park and hobbled our way to dinner at Catal in Downtown Disney for a final meal (and glass of wine).

We couldn’t have timed it better, either: the nightly park fireworks went off just as our meals arrived so we were able to watch them from the comfort of our table!

The walk back to the buses was a painful one – my legs had basically called it a weekend and decided to stop working, but we made it back to the hotel and crashed before leaving the next day.

Overall, it was an incredible weekend that lived up to all of my expectations and then some. I never thought things would go as well as they did. And I was so impressed with the whole experience that I got home and immediately upgraded my race plans in April: instead of just doing the half in April, I’m now doing the whole Dark Side Challenge instead, and earning another set of 3 medals for those races in addition to the Kessel Run medal for doing both Star Wars Halves in one year!

I can’t wait to see what the experience is like in Disney World, and look forward to the training and fun that goes along with prepping for more Star Wars races too!