Monday, January 31, 2011

Advantages of Running North of the 42nd Parallel - from guest blogger Sara

The below is a guest post from a very dear friend of mine, Sara at Skartshop (check out her blog, it's great!) I usually see Sara when I'm visiting her in Sunny CA - we've run together and she's awesome. Enjoy!


I live in Southern California but on a recent visit back up North to my hometown of Toronto I decided to balance all of the holiday food intake with an invigorating run around the old neighborhood.   The time of day: 4:30pm.  The approximate temperature: 30 degrees Fahrenheit (+some sort of windshield factor) It was F***#@n’ COLD.  While running, to keep my brain from frostbite, I composed a list of positive reasons to running in these conditions.

In no particular order – 10 advantages to running North of the 42nd Parallel.

1. No sweat and Instant Make up – I got home, had a healthy glow  but wasn’t all sticky gross like I usually am after a run in Los Angeles.  Plus my cheeks stayed a healthy rosy color for hours.
2. Cool Running Clothes –  I want to wear short shorts when I run but I’m not that body confident so instead I suffer and sweat in California in my long pants.  In the cold you have to cover up and they make so many cute outfits to help you do so.   I love layers : )
3. Plyometrics – Additional training in every run just by hurdling piles of leaves, balancing over icy patches and dodging around puddles.
4. Calorie Burning - They say you burn more calories in the cold because your body is working hard to stay warm.  I must have burned A lot of extra calories because did I mention it was F***#@n’ COLD!
5. Faster Time – It might have been the fastest 3 miles I’ve ever ran.  There is no dawdling when the temperature is below freezing.
6. Easy Hydration – Snow, rain – you just stick out your tongue and get a little water.
7. Fresh Air – Something about the cold just makes it feel fresher and cleaner.
8. Always something new to see – In LA the run is the same no matter if you go in June or December.  But in Toronto the scenery is constantly changing.  Flowers in the summer, bare trees in the winter.  It feels like a new route each season.
9. Twilight – There is something magical about the sky in the evening up North.  It turns a gorgeous cerulean color and the world seems to get a little quieter.  It lasts for about half an hour, the perfect time to get a 3 mile run in.
10. Hardcore -Of course the real advantage is knowing that no matter what you are way more hardcore than the softies in California!


Thank you so much Sara - you rock and you are hardcore.  For the record - I am a NJ softie. I've been running on a treadmill all winter. I've got no love for icy snow-covered paths, layers or easier hydration when it's F***#@n’ COLD!  :)



Friday, January 28, 2011

For better or worse - I am a runner

I feel 100% better than I did a few days ago and want to thank you guys for taking the time to help me get thru the rough patches.

I always question whether I should write about the crappy moments here because, so many people tell me they look to this blog for inspiration and who gets inspired by hearing someone moan about stuff?  

I ultimately decide to share it because I feel like it's an important part of the journey. 

It's the part of the journey that if I don't talk about, A) it could hold me back and I desperately need to release. B) you guys give excellent support/feedback and advice and C) talking about it could possibly make someone else not feel alone when things don't go perfect or when they feel like they are failing.

And thru reflecting on the rough patch and taking to heart what a lot of you guys said I've come up with a big epiphany. I have changed. Big time. In every way.

When I was training for the half, it was cute. "The big girl trudging along trying to prove the impossible. Good for her." But in that process, a different person emerged. One who has more confidence, who embraces fitness, good health, sets AND achieves big dreams.  Many people will like this new Jen, some won't and some will need some time to get used to her.

A year ago when I started, I was a plus size girl who (on paper) was a better time -I'd slug down the shot with you, split the pizza, give you my time. Now, the shots are fewer ("Sorry, long run day tomorrow!") "Pizza? Is it my birthday? How about a little whole wheat pasta?" and "my time? What time?" And while I don't think anyone would say, "please go back to a size 16" - I'm a different person to get used to. I remember when I quit smoking, I had the same feeling where my smoking buddies were "kinda" happy for me but could sense they missed their smoking buddy.

And here's the good news about change.  I used to quit. I used to believe that a bad day/ or a bad week of feeling like I was failing would mean I WAS a failure. I would throw in the towel, say things like, "you see? Why bother?" A bad day like the other day would have me tailspin out of control and reaching for a Chinese menu faster than you could say egg foo yung.  

Now, when those days/weeks happen - I write, I think, I whine but I don't give up.  Ultimately, I shake it off. I fall down and I get back up again, I have faith that the sun will come out tomorrow - and it does.  This is big stuff. I'm rolling with the punches, I'm learning to do the best I can (and on days where it allows, better than my best) and on days that are tough, even accepting less than my best.

I will have those days again and rest assured, I will share the good, the bad and the ugly - but isn't that what all journey's are about? 

If running & training for a marathon were easy - everyone would do it.  It's not supposed to be easy.  This is my dream and no one is allowed to take it from me. I will do my best to be a good wife/mom/employee/bizpartner/sister/friend/marathontrainer/blogger - this new person is just having some growing pains, figuring out how to let it all fall into place and how to put the new puzzle together.   It might take some time but I'll get there.



PS: Oh yeah. I ran today - 6.2 miles in 1:06 and a 10:35 pace - the first few miles I ran easy but really kicked up the last 3 - running mostly sub 10! WOW a look back at the first time I ever ran five miles in my life can be found here -  it's really cool to see the progress. That was last March - not only am I way faster but 5 miles is an "easier" run for me now a days… I love running.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Momma said there'd be days (weeks?) like this...

You should be warned. This isn't gonna be pretty. I'm in a seriously crappy mood.

Deep breath.

I am losing it. This winter is definitely kicking my ass.

I am having a very hard time getting my miles in for this marathon training. The snow, the icy roads, the short days, launching a business, being responsible for 8-10 blog a day/7 days a week for my little blogging job that pays the bills, being a mom to a special needs toddler and trying to be a decent wife is taking its toll.

I am starting to struggle.

I feel guilty that I'm not getting the miles in and I feel even guiltier when I do get the miles in. Here's a perfect example from this morning, I was going to run seven miles early to knock a few out (I'm still behind for the week as yesterday and Monday my son was home sick all day.) As I'm trying to get out, it starts snowing hard and my husband makes a snide comment about me, "being so busy, but having time to run… I guess you have your priorities…" UGH. I feel like I'm doing nothing right. I can't be mad at him because he does sacrifice for my running via not so clean of a house or backed-up laundry. Things do drop. Don't take his comment the wrong way, he's not alone, I get that vibe from most of my friends and family that my running (especially since it's so much for a marathon) is an unnecessary luxury that's just cutting out my time from doing "important things…" I can't even figure out how to make the argument that this is something that's important to me. No one really gets it, "can't you run a few miles here and there to stay in shape? Why do have to run for 2 or 3 hours?" And it's hard to have a good enough reason for non-runners who have expectations of you.  And what if they are right?

So now, I feel like I can't win. If I run, I'm a selfish jerk. If I don't run, I'm failing myself and something I really want to do. It's making me feel crappy all around.

For the record, I only got 3 miles in this morning because the snow was coming down fast and the roads were getting bad… My car is a crapmobile in these conditions and I didn't want to risk getting stuck and yes, the guilt of my full plate probably pushed me off the treadmill a little faster too.

I'm hoping that as the snow melts away and the days get longer, maybe things will even out. Maybe I'll be able to run at a time that doesn't interfere with anyone else. Right now, I can't get out before 7:30 because of my son.

If it counts for anything, I did manage a 12 mile long run this past Sunday… on the TREADMILL! I was hell bent to do it.  According to NIKE+ it was my fastest 10K time too. That was a nice little boost.

I have 14 this weekend to squeeze in - I'm hoping it's not slippery out so I can take it out to the streets… (12 on the tread did kind of suck). I'm also hoping that the selfish 3 hours I'll need to take won't piss anyone off too much.

San Diego Bling
By the way, here is a little motivation for me to hang on to the dream- a sneak peek at the San Diego RNR medal…

I'm sorry for the whine - there's not really many people I can "talk" to about this.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

When you feel more like running away than actually running...

I like this quote
Back to life, back to reality... back to freezing temps and snow.

I have returned to Jersey and hopefully back to being on track.

And, I have good news and I have bad news.

Between all the yucky weather here in Jersey and being away for business for a week - my training is getting all out of whack. I'm a play by the rules gal, so being off course is tricky for me.

So, the bad news, I've been "off" the last week or so. I've not done my "official" long runs in two weeks (two weeks ago because it snowed and I did 6 miles in lieu of 10, and this past Sunday where I did 7 miles in lieu of 14... eeks.)

This past Sunday's long run was just too tough to squeeze the whole thing in. I made a choice to go out on Saturday night and have fun with friends, rendering me a nice little hangover for Sunday morning. I am happy that I got 7 miles in at least. The other piece to my decision in not doing the full 14, is, it's over 3 hours of running for me and would not only cut out half the morning but it would leave me pretty beat for the rest of the day. I was away in Cali with a friend and we had a full day planned - I didn't want to screw up someone else's time because I would want to nap and ice down all afternoon.

To boot, I also ran less than I was prescribed for the entire week. Bleh.

I guess that's the bad news. I am feeling behind in training and fighting feelings of failure and incompleteness.  These feelings are making me feel a little down and unmotivated - they are trying to eat away at my confidence and have me questioning my decision on marathon training - which ultimately makes me question the whole marathon decision from the get go.

Which has always been my problem.  The extremes. I'm a 100% or nothing. I've always been black or white. On or off. I've come a long way in navigating this issue in my diet - I no longer feel like it's gotta be a plain salad or a cheeseburger deluxe - I can find a happy medium, a balance. It's a lot of the reason why I've finally found some success in weight loss. I can roll with the food punches a little easier now.

Now I just have to do the same with running and even training.

The irony - I'm not that far behind in training (in fact I started training early to give myself wiggle room in case of injury/illness/or life). I'm not as "off" as I feel in the grand scheme of things. It's my own internal criticisms I have to face down and get past.

So, the good news - I am fighting those feelings and trying to work thru them rather than surrender. I realize that no one is perfect and my success lies in working thru tough times and accepting that sometimes things will be a little off. Life happens. One or even two crappy weeks of half training doesn't mean I give up.

And despite the obstacles, I did do something this week. I could've blown off Sunday all together but I didn't - I did seven miles which is seven more than I would've done at one time in my life. My first instinct was to actually not do anything. Paralyzed by the thought of not being able to do the full 14, I really was going to skip the whole thing until I thought it out. 7 is better than nothing - in fact just one mile would've been better than nothing...

A few other days where I had meetings and could only do a few miles (like Monday I could only squeeze in 2 instead of the 3) is also good news. Again, I didn't just give up, I found a way to do something. I am pleased that I'm hanging in there and still finding a way to run some miles even if it's not as many as "I should". I'm working thru the "all or nothing" mentality that has paralyzed me in the past.

Now lets not kid ourselves, it's a slippery slope of making excuses and patting yourself on the back for "at least doing something," it's going to be a struggle for me - to keep balance, keep on course and remain in the game.

I guess I can take only take it one day at a time. Today I did four miles - I would've liked to do more but I have a crap load of stuff to do and I had to sacrifice a few miles. Maybe tomorrow I'll run more. I gotta get a 12 mile long run in tomorrow or Saturday, despite another storm and freezing temps coming... it may have to be long run on a treadmill or outside or a combo of both.

Either way, I'm learning how to not throw in the towel so quickly. Not to assume an imperfect week means that I'm not "good enough" - it just means I might have to work harder somewhere else.


PS: make sure to check out this super giveaway at Racing It Off for a pair of "golite" running pants. They look awesome: GIVE AWAY

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Skinny Jeans - a goal weight before and after

Hello there -

Sorry for the lapse in blogs this week- I'm in glorious, sunny, warm, snow, coat and cold weather free California... My 3 mile run yesterday was fantastic and as I ran past palm trees in a short sleeve tee and as the sun warmed my face, I felt like I died and went to running heaven.

Ahhh.  If not for a husband and a son I adore and miss, I might have made the decision to never go home but I probably will return to Jersey on Wednesday. I think.

Anyway, I wrote a blog about getting to my goal weight last week and Christine aptly reminded me that most people do like a little before and after action for such things.  I'm pretty much the worst picture taker ever - which is unfortunate because coupled with my crappy memory - I forget a whole lot of things. Lucky for me, I have a few friends and family members that are pretty good, so I can piece together things here and there.

I know that I did a before and after blog a month ago, so maybe this is redundant - but the "after" wasn't goal weight, it wasn't full length and I was wearing running attire... So, I figure all is fair, even if I did blow my before and after load, prematurely.

Now, I want you to know how much I love you because I really hate this before picture - it's not just because I was really overweight but I don't think it's a particularly good photo. But, you get the gist of the "before" and I guess that's the point.  And if I was a better picture taker, I'd have more of a selection.

I am the plus sized gal on the right
I'm here in LA with the girl on the left, she's a celebrity fashion stylist (and my bff) and finally helped me get out of sweat pants last night and into some real clothes. I haven't really shopped for anything new yet, because money is tight, and when I have a few bucks - I'm usually putting it towards running crap.  So I'm wearing her skinny jeans in this photo - (The word "skinny" has never been a part of my clothing vocabulary - ever.) and the blouse - is a favorite shirt of mine that I actually have worn since the size 20 days... It still works somehow.

wow. eat less + exercise. What a concept.
So there you have it.

Tomorrow I'm going to try to make my way to the beach for a little running and enjoy the rest of the sunny days... maybe I'll even treat myself to my own pair of skinny jeans.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Seven Random Facts about me...

A big thanks to Julie at The Hot Legs Runner who nominated me for the Versatile Blogger & Stylish Blogger award.

I'm to provide 7 Random facts about me so here goes nothing:

1.  I have an identical twin sister and we made baby commercials when we were kids: A pampers commercial and a Downy fabric softner commercial.  The "twiniest" thing that's happened to us, is we both wound up pregnant with our first children at the same time and gave birth 2 weeks to the day apart.

Jen & Cheryl twins and BFF's

Twin and I - double baby shower

2.  One of my other fav things to do is play poker. I'm pretty obsessed and have secret (or not so secret) dreams of playing at the World Series of Poker someday... (PS- I played in the Women's Event at the WSOP a few years ago, but didn't do so great.)

3.  I'm also passionate about creative writing and have written over 10 original screenplays. I've had moderate success with that and though I haven't had one of my originals produced yet, a short I co-wrote went to the Cannes Film Festival and I've been hired to write.

4.  I met my husband 20 years ago when I was 18 when I was a sales girl at Chess King.

5.  I spent more than 15 years working for Talk Show host, Montel Williams (I was his personal assistant, an associate producer and eventually VP of his development company...) since the time we parted ways, I have been in the process of co-launching a television / film company for the last 2 years called Media Meld Studios.

I wasn't just an employee - I once was a guest for a fitness challenge show
Jen - trainer Wini and Montel

6.  My favorite thing to do is to get dressed up and go dancing - which I don't get to do often enough, I'm a sucker for classic disco and old school 80's but will "bust a move" to anything...

twin, music producer Nile Rogers & me

7.  I am one of those crazy coupon people and save on average between $35 - $80 a week on my groceries.

So now I have to tag 15 bloggers I follow to do the same - the rules - link back to me, write your post and then tag 15 fellow bloggers...

I tag:
Jason at:
Leslie at:
Adam at:
Jeff at:
Erin at:
Molly at:
Sara at:
Christine at:
Sara at:
Kelly at:
Emz at:
Kate at:
Ulla at:
Michelle at:
Caroline at:


Saturday, January 8, 2011

GOAL! What I found as I lost 89 pounds and other stuff

I made my Weight Watcher goal today.  

Holy cow! I made my goal! Cue confetti and balloons!

I have been trying to lose weight for the better part of the last eleven years. 3 years, 3 months ago I made a commitment to myself not to give up until I got there. I did pretty good the first year - I lost close to 50 pounds - the second year, I kind of floundered around and "only" lost 7... (though I earned everyone of those 7 so I hate to say say only...) and then last February I found running and since running I guess I'm down another 32 tough pounds - the running literally helped me to cross this weight loss finish line.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. This thing was no sprint. It was a marathon. And though I've crossed my "finish line" in this marathon - it's no time to hang up the sneakers. In fact, it's just time to buy a new pair because I've got way more races to run.

If I want to continue on a healthy path, this is just the beginning. This is a lifelong journey towards good health and wellbeing. 

In three years I've learned that perfectionism doesn't exist, that perseverance pays off and set backs are a part of life (as are the occasional martini and french fry.) There were weeks where my weight didn't budge, "perfect" weeks on paper where the scale went up and bumps in the road. The big key is flexibility, getting back up every time you fall and instead of beating yourself up over the stumbles, learning from them, embracing them - for without them - you cannot progress. When babies first start to walk, every attempt is applauded, every time they fall down, they learn something and eventually they walk.

I lost 89 pounds and found so much - confidence, joy, belief in myself, being comfortable in my skin... Ironically, most of these found things didin't come because I look better in my jeans. Ugh. As cliche as it is (and I guess it's cliche for a reason) it truly is in the journey. It was all those bumps in the roads - facing down the setbacks, sucking up the disappointments... not dropping out of the "race" at mile 3 because I was tired and how would I ever get thru another 23...

I got a little choked up at my meeting today - but I guess that's how it goes, I always get emotional when I cross finish lines... 

So that's my story of the day. I'm feeling pretty darn good about it too. I'm not even beating myself up for last night's "long run" that was supposed to be 10 miles... I did 6 but it was on a treadmill on a Friday night after a snowstorm and I'm giving myself bonus points for all of that. Bump in the road, flexibility and all that jazz...



PS: Julie - next post I will do the thing you tagged me in - thanks for that!! 

PSS: Yippe! Almost at 50 followers - thanks to all of you who've stuck with me or are now joining me on the journey. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Resolutions and Goals for 2011 + Pay it forward training log giveaway

I know, I know - I'm fashionably late with my list of goals and resolutions for the New Year. What can I say? I've been busy raising a toddler, training for a marathon and building an empire so I'm getting to this blog now.

So goal number one: no more procrastination! OOPS

Just kidding...
(well, I really wasn't procrastinating this post. I swear.)

OK back to the goal/resolution thing:

This year I will:

Reach and maintain my goal weight

Stop beating myself up when it comes to running - no more feeling "not good enough," "not worthy enough," "not fast enough..." There will always be someone faster, younger and thinner. Good for them. And there will always be someone slower, older and fatter. Good for me.

I will take more time to enjoy the journey - even the treadmill part

I will find a better balance. I love running, I need the training but I also have to figure a way to do my job properly, be a good wife, an attentive mom and a decent friend - I know that I let some balls drop over the past year because of my extreme focus on running. Passion is good but I have to do a better job at keeping my running addiction in check.

I will learn more about the actual "mechanics" of running. I don't know what Fartlek's are and "splits" aren't so clear either. There's lots of training terms that sound techy and make me want to take a nap but I should learn the runner-speak if this is the sport I'm committing to. Time to take the game up a notch.

I will "pass it forward" more in the new year - I've been blessed with so much support, love and friendship in this running world - I hope to give the same to others.

These are the big ones right now.

In the meantime - I won a cool 2011 training log from Sara's blog, Words to Run By a few weeks ago and the prize was for TWO training logs. So I figured, speaking of "passing it on" I would pass one of the training logs I won forward to one of my bloggy friends.

So if you'd like to be entered, just post below.

Mandatory: You must be a follower

Get one extra entry for each of the following:

Twitter about the giveaway and tell me about it

Facebook about the giveaway and tell me about it

Tell me how you want to pay it forward in 2011 and/or one of your goals for 2011



Monday, January 3, 2011

A tale and some tips from a formerly fat, "I'll never run" chick

So, if the mere thought of running initially gives you hives and you have a pretty good feeling that those in your life will chuckle at the idea of "Who you? Running? Nah... Come on..." then you've come to the right place.

I was in those shoes a year ago at this time. Running seemed so foreign and out of my league that I think I threw down the gauntlet and started telling people that I was going to take up running out of boredom and a need to cause a little stir of shock. Yes. It was actually shocking to my friends, family and most of all me - to say I was going to run and not just run - I was to run a half marathon. I might as well have said I was going to the moon. It was that unbelievable and farfetched.

"Run a Marathon" always found its way onto my lifelong "to do" lists. I'm not sure why. As a former chain smokin', tequila swillin and fast food eatin' mess - I don't think I ever really believed I would run one - it just seemed something to add to the bucket list. But, one day, on a spur of the moment whim (or via demonic possession) I found a half marathon scheduled in May and signed up.  And then I panicked.

What had I just done? RUN 13 MILES? My ADD barely allows me to be comfortable in a car for 13 miles, what the heck was I thinking? It didn't matter what I was thinking - once in, I'm in. So I decided to take it one step at a time. Literally.

My first "training" consisted of running for one minute. And I use the word "running" loosely. I'm pretty sure that three legged turtles could WALK faster than my run but, none-the-less it was "run like" and not easy. I huffed and puffed but I continually found a way to put one foot in front of another. There wasn't always running, sometimes there was lots more walking/crawling/bitching and moaning than running but I stuck in there.

Slow but steadily, I began to see myself get better. Manage a minute longer, go a bit faster, struggle a little less and I began actually enjoying it. 

My 1st half with a nice fellow runner I met along the way
It's almost a year later and here I am - able to run 13 miles without walking - and training to run a full 26.2 in June - (for the record, I've walked during my previous two half's and there's no shame in that) and while my pace is still a little slow for my liking, I think I could take a three legged turtle. So what have I learned? 

1.  Goals + Accountability - The only thing that kept me motivated to do this was that I committed to a huge goal and started telling everyone about it. I started this blog, which made me not only checkin with myself everyday but I knew others were watching. It kept me responsible in those moments of wanting to back out. The race fee was over $100, people had faith in me, I felt a certain (real or imagined) obligation to keep plugging away in those early days.

2. Perseverance - You don't have to run fast, you don't have to run far, you just have to commit to yourself to never give up. My last half I practically crawled the last 3 miles - but I didn't give up. Don't you give up. Weather too bad outside to run? Do you have a friend with a treadmill you could hit up? Or a kitchen table to run around or an old Sweating To the Oldies workout DVD? While those alternative workouts might not quite match - making something happen instead of using it as an excuse to skip a train day, not only works to keep you physically on track but mentally makes you feel accomplished. You've gone from being a victim of things out of your hands to taking control and making it happen - that pays off in ways you can't even describe.

3. Follow a Program - I find I need structure. There are plenty of programs to get a newbie from the couch to the road, not only is it easier to 'lean on' a program to tell you what to do rather than guess - a good program will guide you along at a rate that's not too fast (as to cause injury) or too slow (to stunt your running growth.) There are many great programs out there that can get you going - drop me a note if you'd like suggestions.

4. Birds of a Feather - Most of my friends and family still don't fully get what I'm doing - by reaching out to other runners, mainly through running blogs - I've made some good friends, gotten some excellent tips and have found an amazing community of support, cheerleading and ass kickin' as needed. Without my new found running buds, I don't know how this journey would've panned out but it certainly wouldn't have been as rewarding.

5. You will LOVE it - I was never prepared for the transformation that happened to me. I started doing this for a little weight loss, maybe a little shock value but never did I expect to find a whole new life.  If you hang in there through some of the tough parts, on the other side you'll find that not only does runner's high exist you can expect: a healthier body, a sense of accomplishment, newfound belief in yourself, pride, passion, less depression and a list of a million other life changing things. As someone who has never seen herself as an athlete, this accomplishment has filled a void like nothing else could come close to. Setting small goals and continually crossing mental (and physical finish lines) becomes building blocks of personal growth that you'll never know if you don't try. Small victories - "Wow I ran for 2 straight minutes!" Or the first time you can run a mile - these small but HUGE moments add up to make you different than you were before. Each finish line is a gift, each mile is a lesson learned, each step is a path to this new person, a YOU, you never knew existed. 

So, if you've been sitting on the fence, feeling a little "possessed" to do something crazy and run - I'm going to tell you in the most cliched way I can think of... Just do it. You'll never have a run you regret. You might have to drag yourself out there, you might question your reasons for being out there during the run but after - you'll always feel better than you did before.


PS: New runners check out RunnersAddict site that invited me to write this New Year's special blog for more tips, motivation and advice from real runners everywhere.