Thursday Thoughts

So now that I’m properly caffeinated this morning – and I’ve had some time to unload the past 2 months of photos from my phone – I realize that it’s high time I update here! But because I’ve had a LITTLE too much coffee and not enough sleep, here’s a photo-heavy update on what I’ve been up to and what I’m looking forward to (in no particular order):

I ran another race in the city! 

IMG_3351.JPG

Back in July I ran an (uneventful, hence no recap yet) average 4 miler with NYRR at the Boomer’s Cystic Fibrosis Run to Breathe. This was smack in the middle of my “off” period between spring racing and pre-fall training, so I purposely went out just to run, take in the sights of Central Park in the summer, and earn another race in my 9+1 for the 2017 NYC Marathon. Speaking of:

nyrr.JPG

I’m only one race away! On October 30th I’m taking on the Marathon Kickoff 5M to earn my final credit for entry into the marathon! My first full, my first NYC… it’s getting real.

Training for the Rock n Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon has ramped up.

With my next half now less than a month away, I’ve been killing it on the mileage front – and my paces just keep getting better too. All of my long runs have been under 12:00/mile and I’m even gunning for a 5K PR at one of my two races this coming weekend.

But it’s taken a lot of work. As a result, my weekday nights are filled with post-work crosstraining and treadmill runs (because it has been HOT in NJ this summer), meaning I’m not getting home until late most nights. And on the weekend when I’m running long, I spend one full day prepping for, doing, and recovering from my long runs.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m SO lucky that my husband supports me in all this ridiculousness and cooks and takes care of the house while I’m out running, because otherwise we would be eating a lot of dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets and pasta. I mean, we ARE eating that a lot, but if not for him, we’d be eating it ALL the time. Plus the lawn would be a jungle. Thanks, babe.

I got a new bike!

IMG_3514.JPG

After struggling through two sprint triathlons last summer on my beat up old mountain bike, I finally caved and got myself a new, speedier bike. I noticed an IMMEDIATE difference – I’m so much faster and lighter, it takes virtually no effort to get going once I get on the bike. In my first tri on it, I shaved nearly 15 minutes off my time from last year to this year. And while I’m not 100% ready to make the jump from two legs to two wheels (I’m still Jess RUNS Happy, after all), this new toy has been an invaluable part of my training and fitness plans this summer.

I hung out with the Brooks team in NYC.

IMG_6009.JPG

A few weeks ago I had the chance to participate in a fun little video shoot with the Brooks folks in NYC. While I can’t spill the beans about it just yet, I promise you guys are going to love what’s in store.

While this is just a quick peek (I still owe you guys a recap of my triathlon!), there’s how my summer has gone in a nutshell. How about you? Tell me everything!

Back to Training and Lumo Run Review

I officially kicked off training for the Rock n Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon (my fall goal race) earlier this month, and I’m following roughly the same plan I used for the NJ Half Marathon where I set my current half PR. The addition of a few more 9+ mile runs during that training cycle (5 or 6 vs my usual 3 or 4) made a huge difference and helped me clinch that 15 minute PR, so I’m hoping to see similar results this time. Well, maybe not another 15 minute PR, but you know what I mean 😉 With 6 weeks to race day I’m already up to 9 mile long runs, and my pace is still pretty on par with where I was back in May, so yay for that.

IMG_5616

 

Training began uneventfully with 3-4 mile runs twice during the week and a long run on the weekend, and I was super stoked to try out a new training tool: Lumo Run.

IMG_5529

A little sensor you clip onto the back of your waistband, Lumo Run isn’t just a tracker; it’s a tiny trainer that observes five key metrics during your run to help you improve your running form through real time audio feedback via an app on your phone.

lumo

Full disclosure: the folks at Lumo Run sent me this sensor to test it out in exchange for my honest opinion, but I will say that I was interested in a tool like this even before they reached out to me. I don’t have the luxury of being able to work with a personal running coach, so this little tool is the next best thing.

To start, it had me run a 10 minute calibration run to see what my form and mechanics looked like, so I went out for a 5K with a friend on a hot sticky night after work.

IMG_5546

During the first 10 minutes we covered .87 miles while the pleasant trainer voice (Australian?) coached me to keep my posture straight and told me I was doing great. Once the calibration run was done, however, the real work began. And this woman made us WORK.

The first thing she suggested I work on is cadence, meaning the number of times my foot strikes the ground in a minute. My steps per minute were around 156 during my calibration run, so Lumo had me work on getting up to 163 SPM. To help us stay on track I played a song with a beat of about 168 BMP and the Lumo Run trainer immediately saw that we were hitting our goal. A happy little chime sounded, with the voice explaining that I’d hear the chime when I was successful. In addition to checking my cadence, the trainer also offered reminders to keep my posture straight, and announced my pace and time at the half mile and mile marks. You can change the settings on how often you hear feedback, which is a nice feature.

Once the song ended, we almost immediately slowed down without realizing it and were treated to a sad trombone “womp womp” and the instructor telling us that we weren’t meeting our cadence goal. After 2 miles of chugging along at this new rhythm, we were shredded – but ultimately we hit our goal. To help me improve my cadence after the run, it offered some post-run exercises, complete with explanations and videos too. Very helpful.

IMG_5908

One of the exercises to help me work on “Bounce”

After that run, I wanted to run again to keep improving. So I took it out a few days later and quickly learned just how hard this thing was going to make me work.

IMG_5901

Hello, little Lumo Run!

At the beginning of the run, the trainer announced my new goal was now 172 SPM. But, I turned on some music with a faster beat and set out from my house up the crazy hills of my neighborhood. And there was my first mistake. Up a small hill: Womp-womp. Flat: Ding ding! Yay! Up another larger hill: Womp-womp. Dammit! Finally after a mile of struggling to avoid the sad trombone of failure, I stopped at a red light and discovered the one minor thing I don’t like about Lumo (and can’t figure out if it’s a setting I haven’t discovered or what): even though I “paused” my run on the app, it automatically ended my run after about a minute of waiting! It was frustrating: now that the run was “over”, it marked me as not meeting my goal even though I wanted to keep working towards it, and even if I restarted, my distance and other stats would restart at 0. Overall not a dealbreaker, but kind of irritating.

Because I was now obsessed with nailing a full workout at 172 SPM the whole time, I had to take it out for another run last night – and while it was a struggle, I did it!

Even though I stacked the deck by running on an almost entirely flat course, it was still hard as anything to maintain that cadence without hearing the womp womp. A few times I even cursed out loud at the sound because I was so sure I’d been nailing the goal but wasn’t!

In short, Lumo Run is a ridiculously good motivator. I’ve only run with it a handful of times and worked on ONE metric with it, so I’ve still got a ways to go. But with a tool that’s so clear and immediate with its feedback, for the first time I’m actually looking forward to putting in the work because I know it’ll pay off. It’s like having a tiny trainer in my ear at every step, and the results are right there in my run.

And in addition to having this really cool tool, Lumo is also currently hosting the #ThisIsMyCoach Instagram contest: simply submit a photo or video of your coach using the hashtag #ThisIsMyCoach explaining why they are an inspiration, and you could win a grand prize VIP trip for two to the Kona Ironman Championships! For more info, visit their site and be sure to enter by 5pm PST on September 1 for your chance to win. 

Have you ever used a training tool like this before? What do you think? What’s your current cadence (and if it’s over 172, HOW??)

Peek a Boo!

Hey, strangers! I bet you thought I disappeared, didn’t you? Well, I’m still here, just a little busy, you know how life goes.

IMG_2500.JPG

Here’s a picture of a scenic lake to denote the ambiguity of life. Or because I thought it was pretty.

How have you been? The summer has been moving along quite quickly over here, with lots of exciting updates and races and training to talk about – so let’s jump right in, list style!

I’ve (re)started using My Fitness Pal

About a month ago, I had a wake-up call when I saw a photo someone had snapped of me after a BBQ. I could say it was a bad angle and I had just eaten my weight in delicious goodies (and had a few bloat-inducing beers), but it was proof of  what I’d been denying for weeks: I’d been slowly gaining the weight I lost at the beginning of the year. Even though I was working out like crazy and getting faster with each run, but my tighter clothes and the scale clearly indicated that something needed to change.

About 4 years ago I used My Fitness Pal to keep track of my food and exercise and found some success with it. But after 6 months I convinced myself that I didn’t need it any longer. “I’m a smart person, I know how many calories are in everything, no app needed!” Well that lasted for a while, but clearly things change (and so did I)!  At the suggestion of a friend, I fired up the app once more, started logging my food and exercise… and I was shocked at how grossly inaccurate I was at counting calories all this time!

IMG_2960

But I was grateful for the wake up call and kept at it, logging my meals, snacks, and workouts every day for about a month now, losing just about 5 lbs as of last week. I’m feeling stronger, things are fitting more easily, I’m not as bloated, and in general I’m glad to be back in the My Fitness Pal swing of things. Have you ever used it? What are your thoughts?

I booked my final NYRR 9+1 race!

That’s right, the 2017 TCS NYC Marathon is in my sights, and I’m not letting up.

Capture

I’m volunteering at a long run next month, registered for their weekday evening Fun Run, and decided to have the Marathon Kickoff 5 Miler be my final NYRR race of the year to earn my 9+1 for entry into the 2017 marathon!

Speaking of NYRR…

… I ran two Road Runner races in the last three weeks! I’ll have more pics and full recaps soon, but I finished both the FRNY Pride Run and the Run to Breathe, remembering halfway through each race why running in the middle of summer is a friggin nightmare.

We tried our hands (arms?) at kayaking – and survived!

My brother and sister-in-law like to go kayaking and because it’s something to do outside that looked like a pretty good workout, I wanted to get a piece of that action. So they took  us to one of their favorite spots and wouldn’t you know, we freakin loved it!

DCIM146GOPRO

DCIM146GOPRO

DCIM146GOPRO

It was a REAL workout – and not just for the upper body, either! I was shocked to find different parts of my body aching even 48 hours after – like my butt and hamstrings, from holding myself upright in the kayak! I never would have thought it could be so total body, but it was, and I loved it. Thanks for introducing us to a new adventure, Mere!

I completed ONE of my outfits for the Star Wars Rebel Challenge!

This one I’m really excited about, you guys. ICYMI, I got into the Rebel Challenge in Disneyland next January, which means I’m running a 10K on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday, and both races are STAR WARS THEMED! I don’t think I have to elaborate on why this is pretty much the 2nd or 3rd coolest adventure I’ve ever embarked upon, next to marriage and maybe interning for the NJ Devils back in college.

A lot of thought went into this costume, too: because it’s a themed Disney race, I knew I HAD to go in costume. It’s all a part of the fun! But because this is my first challenge-style race with back to back mileage, I didn’t want to get too crazy with stuff I normally wouldn’t run in, especially for the half marathon. Which made it pretty easy to decide on who I’m going to run those 13.1 miles as:

IMG_3277

BB-8!

Because he’s fast and sarcastic and round (kind of like me), BB-8 was a natural choice.

giphy.gif

As for the 10K the day before, well – I’ve got some ideas for that costume, but I need to find AND test some gear out to see how feasible it would be to run in. I’m about 90% sold, because it’s a shorter distance and I can do anything for 6+ miles, especially since I plan on taking it easy and stopping for lots of pics during this race (so I won’t need to stop as much during the half). Stay tuned!

That about does it for me – I’ve got some other posts and recaps coming up this week too, but in the meantime, how’s it going by you? What have you been up to during these dog days of summer? Tell me!

NJ Half Marathon Recap: A 15 Minute PR!

Spoiler Alert: I ran the NJ Half Marathon on Sunday, and I PR’d by 15 minutes!!It was honestly the best half I’ve ever run, even in pouring rain and chilly temperatures. Let’s jump right in!

The weekend of the race was crazy busy: my dad’s birthday Friday, my friend Tina’s bridal shower Saturday, and race day Sunday. To keep myself sane, I took off on Friday and headed down to the expo to get my bib (and Tina’s bib too, she was racing despite having her shower the day before!).

IMG_6616

I’m used to expos being insanity, but at 2PM on a Friday, it was perfect. The process was a little disjointed: walk to a table for your bib, then another table for shirts, and another table for pre-paid parking tickets. But because it was so empty I can’t really complain, I didn’t wait more than 5 minutes at each area, and was able to relax, meet the pace team, and talk shop with other runners with no pressure.

IMG_6620

The following day I went to Tina’s shower, came home, cooked myself my new pre-race go-to dinner of grilled chicken and pasta in light tomato sauce. After laying out my outfit & relaxing with some coloring and a Melissa McCarthy movie, I headed to bed at 9PM.

IMG_6683

My eyes opened up at 3:27 entirely on their own before my 3:30 alarm, and I was ready to go. One cup of coffee, one banana, and two pieces of bread with a bit of peanut butter later, we headed out at 4:45. The race morning weather reports didn’t look promising: much like the Atlantic City April Fool’s 11K, the forecast called for rain, the only question being how much. After picking up Tina and heading to the start at Monmouth Racetrack, I was grateful we had a warm building to hang out in (even if they closed all bathrooms but one, leaving a HUGE line). There we met up with Meredith who had decided to race as well, and the runner girls hung out while the guys hung back and caught up on their own 🙂

IMG_6690

We waited on line for the bathroom to kill time, but by the time we got to the door a half hour later we had to go again! This worked out great though – we got out at 7:20, leaving us just enough time to head out into the cold mist and into the corrals where I almost let my nerves get the best of me. I had talked up this race to anyone who would listen to me, and I set a big goal for myself by publicly aiming for a new PR. The cold and the rain made me start to doubt myself, even with all the extra training I’d done.

IMG_6748

You are looking into the eyes of a woman who wants to run.” Run back to the car where it’s warm and dry and she doesn’t have to run 13 miles.

It’s funny how karma works though, because right before getting behind the gate and being left along with my frayed nerves, my local running friend Tracy spotted me and gave me the best good luck hug ever! She was such a trooper coming out in the pouring rain to cheer us on – it meant a lot to see her, especially just when I was getting so nervous!

Back in Corral J (as usual, near the end), I spotted pacers for a 12:45 half marathon and a 12:24 full marathon. Initially I’d planned on going with the 12:45 pacer for the first 10 miles and saving myself for a final 5K kick, but having never run with a pacer before I was afraid that if I lost them at a water stop or fuel break, I’d never catch back up. So I decided at the last minute instead to run by feel at around 12:00-12:30 just like I’d done in training, and if I had to pick up the 12:45 pacer towards the end, they’d be there.

After a quick selfie, a good luck hug and kiss from Mike, and 17 minutes of waiting while the faster corrals took off, Corral J hit the start and we were off! The mist turned into a light rain as we rounded the parking lot and went up a slight hill to enter the little towns we’d be running most of the course through.

IMG_6703

Miles 1-4ish felt good – a little warm, a little fast at 11:24-11:45, but good. At mile 3 I actually told myself, “Too fast!” after checking my watch. I’d done one 10 miler at 11:39 per mile ONCE, but could I pull it off again on race day? I got my answer at mile 5 when I felt my watch beep and thought it was only mile 4.

For the majority of the race I took in the crowds of runners around me and got all the high fives I could from the spectators. Seriously – every other house had some kind of race action going on. My friend Dan (above)  was cheering on his girlfriend Michelle and gave me the strongest high five EVER at around mile 5.5! Other folks brought out their lawn furniture and umbrellas to sit and cheer, while others set up tables filled with water bottles or orange slices.

Even though they had official aid stations every 1.5 miles or so (which I grabbed water from without stopping every time), my rain-proof layer had me overheating and I felt paste-mouth creeping up after my mile 5 gel. As if on cue, we passed a house who had left a case of 36 water bottles on their front lawn. The best! I grabbed a bottle and it became my good luck charm until mile 12.

477299_229015828_XLarge

I’m glad I got a picture with my lucky bottle 🙂

At the halfway point, I still felt good but had a brief flash of anxiety: “I have to repeat what I’ve already done? There’s no way I’m going to feel this good much longer. Impossible.” And again – as if on cue – we passed a stretch of spectators who’d set up posters with inspirational quotes. One from the Matrix was just what I needed to see at that stretch:

“What are you waiting for? You’re faster than this. Don’t think you are, know you are.” – Morpheus

As I passed that sign I read it out loud to myself. I repeated it twice: You’re faster than this, Jess. Don’t think it. KNOW IT. And just like that, my legs felt fresher and I attacked the second half of the race with renewed energy… just as the skies opened up and it began to POUR!

Seriously, those last 7 miles were in basically a downpour. But we motored on! I grabbed an orange slice at one house, thanking the woman and her daughter who were standing in the pouring rain cutting oranges and cheering us on. At what I thought was mile 8 I told myself “5 more miles, not bad!” – then I brushed the rain off my watch and realized it said Mile 9, and I laughed again: I seriously didn’t notice another mile go by!

477299_229256358_XLarge (1)

No one deserves to be this happy at mile 12 of a half marathon in the rain.

I took my second gel, and for the next 3 miles we wound through downtown Long Branch past some shops and headed for the boardwalk. At this point I was deliriously happy. No, really: at mile 11 Shake, Senora came on my iPod and I started singing and run-dancing, getting some WEIRD looks from the folks I passed. #sorrynotsorry I’m feeling better than you, sir!

By the time we got to the boardwalk at mile 12 I was practically bursting – my watch’s average pace of 11:45 meant I was well on my way to beat 2:50. With about a half mile to go, Formation came on my iPod and I floored it. I felt like I’d just started Mile 1, weaving around people left and right, the finish line in sight.

477299_229410068_XLarge

PRs aren’t pretty.

I passed Mere, Damian, and Mike all standing at the sideline in the pouring rain, screaming my name, and waved with a deranged smile as I glanced at my watch just before the finish: I was going to cross at 2:35!

477299_229557876_XLarge

And that’s exactly what I did, throwing my arms up in the air and completely breaking down in tears. Final Time: 2:35:13, avg. pace of 11:51/mile.

477299_229695819_XLarge (2).jpg

The best part: I ran the second half FASTER than the first!

IMG_6706.PNG

According to my Garmin the course was long, so my watch time is much better too. But either way, I ran a 15 minute PR in the pouring rain, and I felt like a million bucks.

IMG_6699

I met up with everyone past the finish line, crying my eyes out, and had the best hugs and celebration I can ever remember having!

After some thought, I think this race felt so easy for a handful of reasons:

  1. It was a new (to me) course so I was seeing everything for the first time, which took my mind off the fact that I was running 13 miles in the pouring rain.
  2. It was a bigger race AND I was running 1:00+ faster per mile so I was surrounded by more people, making me feel less isolated than I usually do at the back of the pack.
  3. I created an entirely new running playlist with music I hadn’t run with before.
  4. Lastly – and most importantly – I put in a LOT of hard work! I didn’t take any time off after my last half and kept up my endurance with shorter distance races throughout the winter (the Joe K 10K in January, the Gridiron 4 Miler in February). Because I was already running 6+ miles when my “official” training started, I was able to work up to double digit runs faster and run more of them too. 5 long runs of 2+ hours (instead of the usual 2) massively improved my confidence in being able to cover the distance without bonking.

I won’t lie: four days later I’m still flying high on this one. And it didn’t stop on race day: I came in to work Monday to find a tiny little PR cake that my friend had customized with my shiny new finish time in icing!

IMG_6746

It’s safe to say this is my new favorite race, and barring any conflicts I will definitely be running this one again next year (hopefully in better conditions)! To everyone who cheered me on virtually here or even out on the course, THANK YOU! Your support has been a huge motivation for me, and I can’t thank you all enough. Even though most of us have never met in real life, knowing that you’re out there rooting for me fuels me to push harder in my training and leave it all on the pavement, and this race was no exception. Cheers to an amazing race – and all the great things I have yet to accomplish thanks to running!

So Many Miles

I started to write a recap of the past 3 weeks of training and realized that “I ran, I biked, I ran, I lifted, I ran, I ate” would get pretty boring pretty fast. Let’s just sum it all up by saying that I ran SO MANY MILES and I’m super ready for this weekend’s race. Good?

If you want the long version, here are some highlights via lessons I’ve learned in the past few weeks of training – and a peek at my goals for this weekend’s race!

IMG_6153.JPG

My shorter runs keep getting faster and faster – and I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop! It sounds strange, but even though I’m nailing 4-5 miles 2x a week at 11:30/mile or less (even 10:xx’s!), I still expect to see my pace suddenly drop back down to 13:30’s, like this is some freak random spurt of speed that I’ll lose after eating one too many Trader Joe’s mini peanut butter cups.

IMG_5927.JPG

But I suppose the extra strength training, lower weight, and cross training are all working together and paying off just like they say they should!

Even when I twisted my knee a week or so ago (while making coffee, go freakin figure), I managed to baby it on my off day, bike a LOT to keep it moving on cross training day, and still pulled a great long run out of thin air that weekend.

Speaking of long runs, I’ve done more long runs (8+ miles) this training cycle than ever before, and it’s showing. With runs no shorter than 8 miles every weekend for the past 8 weekends (except for 2 races), and 4 solid double-digit runs including a 12 miler last weekend, I’m feeling as strong as I’ve ever felt the week before a race. Hungry, tired, mildly anxious, but strong. I managed to keep my paces under 12:00/mile for all single digit runs, and most of my double digits – this weekend during my 12 miler I treated the run like race day and didn’t stop my watch for water or fuel, just to get a more accurate idea of my finish time. And I was still pretty psyched at what I found:

IMG_6477.JPG

My goal for the NJ Half Marathon this weekend is to run at least a 2:49:59. At the pace above, I’d finish in 2:43. I definitely pushed HARD in the last training mile to run it at about 11:30 – too hard to keep up for another 1.1 miles – but knowing that, I’m confident I’ll be able to maintain that 12-12:15 pace for another mile come race day and still rip out that strong finish. I only hope my body (and the weather) cooperates!

IMG_6393.JPG

And on a fun semi-related side note: I was so honored to spend all day last Monday in NYC on a photo shoot for Brooks Running’s international social media campaigns! It was a true once in a lifetime experience – along with a team of other runners, we ran (and walked) almost 8 miles between Manhattan and Brooklyn and had a blast the whole time. I can’t even describe what it was like at the first set up between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, running along the water with the sun coming up and sparkling off the waves and the city bustling around us… so many times we looked at each other in disbelief and asked ourselves, “How cool is this??” I can’t wait to see how the pictures turn out and will definitely keep you guys posted as I get more info on when/where they’ll be showing up 🙂

That’s about it for me – How have things been by you guys? How’s your training going?

Springtime Update!

Oye. I can’t apologize enough for the break in blogging I’ve taken recently – I have good reason though! Work has been gearing up in anticipation of a big product launch and a lot of events that I’m managing, and I also came down with a nasty stomach bug that knocked me out for pretty much the last 4 days. BUT – I have been running, and happy, and all the things that you keep coming here to read about, so let’s recap the past two weeks with a LOT of pictures!

After my hooky day in the city, I had a pretty OK long run that weekend. It was definitely not the great 10 miler I had the week before, but I know exactly why that was the case: I had no water. 
IMG_4664.JPG

The time on the watch up there is a lie, because I stopped the watch each time I took a break to heave for breath and work the paste out of my mouth, which was about 4 times after mile 5, when I ran out of agua and the temps soared past 65.

IMG_4976.JPG

But, the weather was nice and I was able to finally wear my new Skirt Sports Happy Girl skirt in Psyched – a print that while sufficiently loud for my tastes, matches nearly everything I own!

IMG_4969.JPG

Want some Skirt gear of your own? Use code JRH20 at the new SkirtSports.com and get 20% off your order!

After that learning experience, I took on the next week of training with a little less intensity than I wanted. My first run of the week was banging, thanks to Mr. Kenny Loggins here (any Archer fans out there get why I was so stoked when this was the first song of my run??)
IMG_4988.PNG

But after that I did some biking on Wednesday to cross train, and Thursday was lost due to it being St. Patrick’s Day. I DO celebrate other high holy days aside from Christmas, you know.

IMG_5057

So does Sammy “I’ll Allow This” Gamgee

I also was super stoked to get my shipment from Swanson Health Products:

IMG_4389

Full disclosure – these folks reached out to offer me a gift card to order whatever I wanted in exchange for a shout out here, but after one order I can honestly say they’re freakin’ awesome!

IMG_5181

This chocolate bar I ordered from them: EVEN MORE awesome.

I’d never heard of them before, but once I took a look at their website I was sold. They’ve got everything you could possibly want: vitamins, snacks, cooking stuff, juices, you name it they’ve got it. And the prices are really more affordable than I expected too. I’m a big fan of the brown rice pasta pictured up there, and of course that amazing chocolate bar (the wrapper of which I had to fish out of the garbage for a picture because I ate it so fast). The Tart Cherry vitamins were also a great find – I’ve been meaning to try them out and thanks to their deal of the day I was able to get two bottles for the price of one! Give them a visit and let them know I sent you 😉

That weekend – yes, after skipping my second run of the week, bad runner – I took on 9 miles. And it was not very good.

IMG_5121

This is another case where the numbers lie – I carried a bottle of water with me and managed to get my hydration situation under control, but the last 4 miles were allll aboard the struggle bus thanks to skipping my second run. I just felt out of shape. You know what I mean. I managed to push through a much slower second half than first half while having flashbacks of horrible race experiences where I burned out too early and vowed to take on the next week with renewed intensity – but not after a pretty awesome weekend filled with hockey, BB-8, and Starbucks (Cherry Blossom Frappuccino, I love you)!

My first run that week was better – my usual 4 miles at a bit slower than I wanted, but still solid pacing. I swam on Wednesday for the first time in a while and remembered just how awesome swimming really is (thanks for coming with me, Kevin!), and then took on another 3 miles on Friday to break in my new Brooks Transcend 3’s.

IMG_5364

Saturday night I went out to a bachelorette party at Pinot’s Palette, where you can bring wine and snacks and paint a masterpiece – which was a stinkin blast!

IMG_5413

I did take it easy on the wine and snacks though, because I had a long run early the next morning before Easter festivities:

IMG_5447

And while the pacing on this looks slower compared to other long runs, I’m actually extremely proud of myself: the first 5 miles were excruciatingly slow thanks to a 2 am bedtime, and yes, SOME wine, at a total of 1:02. I told myself those whole 5 miles as I saw my pace hover around 12:15 that this run was about endurance, not pace. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. But after my gel at mile 5.5? I ran those last 5 miles in 56 minutes, baby! My final mile was even in the 10’s, I almost screamed. It was TOUGH, and took a lot of focus especially in that final mile or two when I just wanted to walk, but I did it and proved to myself that I could come back from a sucky start.

I vowed to look at training not as *just* training but as a way to build my confidence in long distances, and with each long run this cycle I’m learning something new and loving it. Nevermind the fact that I woke up late Sunday/early Monday with the stomach flu to end all stomach flu’s. Seriously, I was curled up on the bathroom floor at one point, crying and begging Jesus to take my pain away. He must have been super surprised to hear from me then, of all times.

BUT the plus side – if there is one – is the 4 days I had to take off to recover gave me time to heal from blisters, calf pain, and general soreness. I’m ready to rock a few miles tonight as a shakeout before Saturday’s 11K down in Atlantic City for the April Fool’s Race Series for sure! This race is about fun – coming off a bad illness like this I know I lost a lot of strength (I broke a sweat taking the stairs at work today), so I’m not going to push myself. It’s not worth it with my goal race coming up in May.

So that about does it for me, kids! How’s your training going? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Playing Hooky

Last week was one of those weeks that had me screaming for mercy by Tuesday.

giphy (1).gif

Seriously, my run Tuesday night wasn’t about training; it was running off the crazy. Thank god my Spring Moves app gave me a nice boost by randomly playing a Pumpkins song at the start. I’m really digging this app – not only is it music I like, it’s also timed to match the pace of my running (even angry running like this)! Check it out for free for a month by texting JESSRUNSHAPPY to 41411 🙂

So long story short, I ended up doing some unexpected speedwork: I burned out with a super-angry 9:50 first mile and fizzled out with a killer headache by the 5K mark. But thanks to the angry mile, that final pace? #killinit! After that, Wednesday turned out to be a beautiful new day. No, for real: it was like 75 degrees out.

giphy.gif

Actual footage of me on Wednesday.

When I learned that Thursday would be more of the same, I focused REALLY hard on Wednesday to take care of everything at work, and played hooky Thursday! Well not really – I had some family stuff I needed to take care of in the morning anyway. So I asked my boss, checked with my coworkers to not leave anyone in the lurch, and submitted the day off to HR, and I was OFF. Destination: Manhattan!

I had been itching to run in Central Park on my own since I started racing there last year, but I honestly didn’t think I had it in me. How was I going to carry all my stuff with me? What if I got too hot or too cold? Where would I run?

I finally realized that the only thing keeping me from this adventure was ME. So I took care of my business Thursday morning, loaded up my running pack with a clean change of clothes, ran the mile from our house to the train station, and got into Manhattan around noon. My goal was to do 4 miles around the park loosely following the path I’d run in recent races, so after a quick subway ride to 81st street I got out at the museum and took off across Central Park to the East side where I found my landmark: 1040 Fifth Avenue.

IMG_4513

When I see those terraces I just feel peace. Don’t know why, but I’ll take it.

It was a beautiful day: a little warm and muggy at 70-ish degrees, but overcast so not too hot. There were tons of people everywhere, laying on blankets in the grass, running, biking, taking pictures, juggling, singing, so it felt like a party everywhere I went. I even ran through a CBS shoot of Limitless, so keep an eye out on future episodes for me wandering through the shot in my little blue backpack.

I stayed more or less on the main path but went off on little side paths that seemed interesting, like up on the Reservoir Running path, or around the statue of the King of Poland on horseback. Rocking along to my music and taking in the sights – this is what running is all about. Going into the city was easy, I thought, why didn’t I do this sooner??

IMG_4606

After about 40 minutes or so I’d hit 3 miles (with all the stopping for pics and what not), and my knees were screaming. A quick check of my health app showed that I’d done more than 8 miles already with all the extra walking – no wonder I was tired! I also hadn’t eaten or drank anything, so I stopped at a little pretzel cart for water, took a gel, and decided to call my run at 3 miles.

IMG_4630

Well, my body had other plans. Once I got out of the park and saw the straight shot of Central Park West ahead of me, I thought, “Let’s try for 3.5.” Within minutes, 3.5 miles turned into almost 4, and I was COASTING at an even faster pace with nothing in my way to stop me. Turns out that little fueling stop was just what I needed, because I finally made it back downtown to Columbus Circle at 4 miles UNDER 11:00/mile!

IMG_4609

I was so psyched! The last mile just blinked by, and that pace? As I hobbled down the subway steps at 59th street to get back to Penn Station, while my knees were killing me, I still felt invincible.

After inhaling a turkey sandwich and picking up a brownie to split with the Mister later that night, I smiled to myself the whole train ride home. It just goes to show; sometimes you need to switch things up and go for it, even if “it” seems impossible. I’ve learned the anxiety I feel about something is almost always scarier and more paralyzing than the actual thing itself, whether it’s a big race or a solo adventure in Manhattan. Once I’m in the thick of things I almost always say to myself, “THIS is what you were afraid of?”

How about you – have you gone out of your comfort zone lately? What happened? Tell me all about it!

Best. Weekend. EVER.

After a solid week of training last week, I took my rest day Friday pretty seriously:

IMG_4145

And drank WAY too much Merlot with some of my favorite ladies in the world. I regret NOTHING.

Once I washed the chlorine out of my hair on Saturday, I aimed for “active recovery” which meant movement but nothing too strenuous: perfect for a day wandering around NYC with hubby!

IMG_4163

This was a selfishly-planned trip on my part: we went in to see the Star Wars and the Power of Costume exhibit in Times Square, which I’d been silently fangirling over it since I clicked “Buy Tickets” earlier in the week.

Silently-Fangirling.gif

Me, since last Monday.

IMG_4348

If I was this excited over cardboard, you did NOT want to see me when I rounded a corner and came face to face with the real Chewy.

And BOY was I not disappointed:

GUYS I MET YODA. THE REAL YODA.

Okay. I’m better.

NO WAIT I’M NOT, I ALSO SELFIED WITH BB8:

IMG_4181

I may also be crying just a little bit in this picture.

Alright, I’m all good now.

After a few hours wandering around and snapping pictures, I had my fill of riding the emotional rollercoaster of seeing Carbonite Han, Amidala’s crazy get ups, Rey’s scavenger gear, and all the rest of it. To ease back into reality, we went for a nice early dinner at a British pub, complete with a Shirley Temple because I’m a big girl and I can order my own big girl drinks.

DCIM105GOPROGOPR7231.

Once we finished dinner we did a little shopping (and I may or may not have dragged Mike into the Disney store where I purchased Star Wars gear, #sorrynotsorry) and we made it back to Penn Station just in time for the 6PM train. I was a little worried that I’d burnt out my legs before the 9 miles I had scheduled for Sunday, but evidently those worries were all for nothing.

IMG_4362

Spoiler Alert: I nailed my best 10 mile run EVER.

I set out down in Asbury and ran right into Jenny who was just about to finish her 8 miles (what up, girl!!). I struggled through the first mile because I had overdressed: I had to peel off my extra arm warmers after half a mile and ran them back to my car so I didn’t have to hold them for 2 hours. It was kind of a mess.

But even with the stutter start I kept an eye on my pace and managed to stay under 12:00/mile the whole first half. I told myself I’d spin around at mile 5, around Spring Lake. It was nice to charge down the boards at a decent pace like that, and once I fell into a rhythm by mile 3 I felt pretty unstoppable. The St. Patty’s Day parade was happening in Belmar so it was fun seeing all the folks (and pups!) in their green gear – I even spied a few bagpipers!

IMG_4361

And the seashell mantras are back again too, hooray! Love spotting these random beauties along the route.

I was particularly impressed with my consistent pacing: between 11:20-11:55 basically the whole time! My only stop was at Mile 5 when I took my gel and finished the last of my water. I paused my watch and gave myself one full minute to stretch, but when I started up again I was hit directly in the face with a wall of freezing wind. GREAT, I thought, there goes my pace!

My too-warm (now super sweaty) shirt was COLD. For a half mile or so I thought I might be ruined, but after glancing at my pace and seeing a pretty effortless 11:55, I changed my mind. By Mile 6 I had warmed back up, the wind calmed, and my pace was still around 11:45. At Mile 7 I took inventory: everything felt surprisingly great, despite having run 7 miles at one of my best paces yet! Suddenly I thought: wouldn’t it be great to do 10 miles? I know the schedule says 9, but imagine the ego boost you’d get nailing a double digit run so early in your training! Let’s see how we feel at mile 8.

Well, as you can see by the Garmin shot up there I stuck it out for 10, and ended up NAILING my first double digit training run since October. My legs were ready to call it quits at around Mile 9, but I wasn’t experiencing the real pain and tightness in my hips, knees, and calves that I’d felt in previous training runs. So I pushed through that final mile on pure adrenaline really, and celebrated with some “boardwalk running” pics.

IMG_4384

It was so great – I stretched a little on the boardwalk and practically floated back to the car (well, hobbled, but you get the idea), then headed home for a quick lunch before heading over to a friend’s to meet her new baby and spend some quality time with her family.

By the time I got home at 7pm, I was ready for BED in a big way. This was one of my busiest but most fulfilling weekends yet, but I loved every second of it. How about you – how did your weekend go? Tell me all about it!

Gimme a Beat

I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but here in NJ, it’s finally staying lighter later and that makes me one happy runner!

giphy (1)

I swear I’m part plant for how much I love the sun.

Tuesday night I decided to make the most of this new brighter evening time and went for a run after work. It was chilly but manageable, but overall, it was a super 4 miles, mainly because I had the right running tunes.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you probably know that music plays a huge part in my life, especially in my running. New music gets me motivated for training runs when I’m burnt out. A perfectly paced song keeps my legs turning over at the right speed and prevents me from slowing down when I’m in the middle of a brutal long run. And at the end of a tough race, I rely on music to send a fresh surge of adrenaline through my veins and carry me over the finish strong. In short: music is my LIFE. So when the folks at Spring Moves shot me an email, I was intrigued.

SPRING_APP_ICON_Rounded.png

Spring Moves is an iOS app that tracks your running cadence by Steps Per Minute, and plays music to match your pace. I was skeptical at first – would it eat up my battery (nope), would I be able to skip songs (yep), would it be crappy music I’d never heard before (nope)? Besides, I’d tried to make my own BPM mixes before and found that the pacing was never consistent enough, and I’d burn out trying to keep pace with music that was too fast. All that skepticism went away after a few runs with Spring, I’m pretty sure I’ve found my magic bullet.

IMG_4084

Not to mention some fancy Spring headphones!

To start, you select as many genres of music and artists you like. To be sure I’d get a good mix, I went crazy and picked metal, alternative, rap, remixes, and electronic. With more than 25,000 songs in their database, I wasn’t disappointed! Since I started using the app I’ve covered about an hour’s worth of music and only skipped a handful of songs. It’s all stuff that I enjoy but wouldn’t have considered running to because I wasn’t sure of the pacing. But once I got going and the beat kept me moving? Look out!

IMG_4059

How can you be disappointed when they play Nirvana?

Over the course of my runs, I heard System of a Down, Ingrid Michaelson, Black Sabbath, Eminem, Gorillaz, and more. The songs were all originals, slightly tweaked to match my footstrikes at around 164 SPM. In turn, the tunes pushed me to keep turning my legs over even when I felt like slowing down going uphill or towards the end of my run. They even left the curse words IN, you guys! I know it’s not for everyone, but I LOVE when they leave the curses in – there’s nothing like hearing Kendrick Lamar really lay into a beat while I’m pushing up a tough hill – but if that isn’t your thing you can eve change the settings to exclude explicit songs.

IMG_4065

And they even cheered me on when I finished!

Because I was so impressed with the app, I signed on to be a Spring Influencer to share the love with you guys. Want to try Spring for free? Text JESSRUNSHAPPY to 41411 and get one free month of workout music tailored to your pace!

The best part is that it’s not just for runners, either – if your arms are moving, Spring will pick up your pace and play tunes to match you. That means you can even Spring when walking. On those days where you don’t really feel like getting out there, this is a great way to start putting one foot in front of the other and seeing where the music takes you.

IMG_4069

And it took ME to an awesome 11:23/mile pace even after a full day of work.

I can’t wait for my run tonight knowing that I get a fresh selection of new tunes to keep me going. Interested in Spring? Get a free trial here (or here if you’re on desktop) and let me know what you think!

 

Coming Along Nicely

Good morning and happy Tuesday, everyone! I’m convinced that this is going to be a great day because I walked into QuickCheck for my weekly coffee treat and found 5 of my new friends staring back at me from the cover of a 3 month old magazine that fell to the back of the magazine rack! I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy at 8AM in my life.

IMG_4054

The past week has been positive, if uneventful, with three more solid training runs in the books and a few days of cross training and strength training to boot. Let’s rewind.

I kicked off NJ Half Marathon Training Week 4 with 4 early morning miles and reminded myself of why I don’t usually run before work: I’m so much slower than I’m used to!

IMG_3935

Because I’m so reluctant to get out of bed any earlier than I have to, my pre-work runs suffer from a lack of prep time. Running in the morning on the weekends is usually my jam, but that’s only because I get a good hour or two to lazily wake up, enjoy my coffee and breakfast, digest, dress, warm up, and hit the pavement. When that alarm goes off at Zero Dark Thirty, it takes everything I’ve got not to drift back off into dreamland, so I’m out the door and on the treadmill roughly 25 minutes after my alarm goes off. Not the best way to get it done, but some Internet memes are based in truth:

morning-workout-300x300.jpg

Instead of letting my slower speed get me down, I used it to my advantage and aimed for negative splits, which I nailed! It was the confidence booster I needed to carry me through a cross & strength training day Wednesday, and into more cross training Thursday.

Finally, Friday morning rolled around and I hit the treadmill once more for a quick 3 miles to celebrate National Wear the Gibblers Day and the arrival of Fuller House on Netflix!

IMG_3950

For those of you not hip to the jive (that’s a thing, right?), The Gibblers are the crazy fun multicolored stripey Pro Compression socks that you may have seen on social media before, either on me or any of the other wacky runners in your feeds. Andrea Barber, who plays Kimmy Gibbler, is also an avid runner and Pro Compression fan – and these are her favorite socks.

So as the crazy, supportive, whack-job group of runners we are, it was only natural to create a holiday around our friend’s return to her role in Fuller House; hence, “National Wear the Gibblers Day” was born! I celebrated by laughing (and yes, crying) through the first episode on the treadmill before work, and loved every minute.

Saturday I relaxed a bit before long run Sunday, where I joined my friend Jenny down the shore to run with her as she trains for her first half marathon! It was supposed to be so gorgeous out – the impending spring has given me a ridiculous case of spring fever and I’m convinced it should be 60 degrees every day, but it’s not QUITE the case just yet.

IMG_3997

Those are 7 fingers for Jenny’s 7 miles, not raptor claws. OK maybe they’re raptor claws too.

We took off bright and early (and COLD, that wind was no joke) at Jenny’s pace for the first 3.5 miles. It was so nice to chat and laugh while logging the miles – it really is easier when you share the road with a friend. And we ALSO ran into speedy sis-in-law Mere as she took on her 15 miler, too! We stopped for hugs and a quick hello at around mile 3 (her mile 5), feeling like rockstars for being in the cool kids running club that day!

IMG_3991

Because my training plan called for 8 and Jenny’s called for 7, she turned at mile 3.5 and I kept going for a half a mile or so. Once I broke off on my own and cranked up my music it felt so great to charge down the boards and really breathe in that fresh air. At Mile 4, I spun back around and took off for another 2 miles, and passed Mere again, grabbing a high five and big cheers as she shot past at her Mile 10!

IMG_3987

See what I meant about the WIND??

Finally I caught up with Jenny with one mile to go and we ran it in for a total of 8 and 7 miles at a solid effort. After some chatting and stretching on a boardwalk bench, we went our separate ways, effectively wrapping up Week 4 of training for me!

IMG_4029

How about you: How’s your training going? Are you getting excited for the approaching spring? Did you watch Fuller House? Tell me everything!