A Reflection on What Worked: 2013 Edition

A (belated) annual recap is in order. I really like looking back on years’ past and I think I deserve it to myself to recap 2013. This is more for me than for anyone reading so you really shouldn’t feel obligated to read 🙂 (Because, let’s be serious–enough annual recaps are floating around out there!) 

2011 was the year of firsts.

2012 was the year of: “Ok, I did all that last year. What can I possibly tackle in 2012?”.

2013 was more like a rollercoaster. A lot of good things happened and a lot of unexpectedly sad and frustrating things happened.

BUT, there are accomplishments to celebrate and setbacks to learn from so that 2014 is the best year of running and racing yet.

In 2013, I…

improved my 5k time by 33 seconds.

improved my half marathon time by 2 min, 30 seconds.

improved my marathon time by 3 minutes, 10 seconds.

ran 1,622 total miles (annual personal distance record).

ran a monthly mileage high of 202 miles in March.

ran an average of 31 miles per week and 135 miles per month.

successfully trained through a Chicago winter and raced my first Boston Marathon.

ran my first relay– Hood to Coast with Nuun!

2013 Races

raced 6 times, with PRs in the 5k, 10k, half, and full.

bonked…hard. Ya live and ya learn, ya know?

trained hard for a fall marathon that didn’t happen. It can’t all be sunshine and rainbows.

was reminded that the ‘little things’ make a big difference (and that acupuncture and ART are my friends!).

and placed in my age group a few times! (it appears my fears of placing in this competitive age group were a bit dramatic):

  • Wacky 10k: 2nd place overall female, 1st age group
  • Chicago Women’s 5k: 2nd place age group
  • Bastille Day 5k: 2nd place age group


So, there ya have it. All in all, it was a year of accomplishment with a few setbacks. What doesn’t kill ya makes you stronger. I’m looking forward to a fun year of racing and running in 2014!

– J

A “Moment” Journal

Motivational Running Thoughts

Last night after dinner, I sat down to think. After my last 5k I lost a bit of my motivational mojo. But on Tuesday, I had a bit of a breakthrough. I ran mile repeats faster than I did last cycle in conditions that were far from ideal. 73 degrees and 93% humidity at 6 AM is no joke. It was the first workout in awhile that I can remember positive thoughts. Thoughts like “I can do this. Only  a little bit more. Just keep the legs moving”, rather than “man, am I done yet?! This feels harder than it should. I can’t wait to be finished.”

Those thoughts bring about two drastically different results.

I write in a journal from time to time. I realized last year that my journal was turning into a place of complaint and anxiety, as opposed to one of motivation and happiness. Now, whenever I feel like I need to take stock of the good things in life, I write down a “moment”. My journal is now a collection of “moments”. They can be as small as that moment in the early morning when it’s just me, my thoughts, and a cup of coffee. Enjoying a new book or a lazy Sunday afternoon are small moments I try to remember. Or the moments can be as big as a new addition to the family, an exciting breakthrough at work, or a kickass race time.

Last night’s journal entry was like a personal pep talk–all of the reasons why I am motivated to keep going and keep pushing.

Do you keep a journal, for running thoughts or otherwise? Do you think it helps with your “mental game”?

{If you haven’t thought about the difference between “in spite of” and “because of”, Hillary has some words of wisdom for you: “That’s some bullshit”.}

The Mental Game

Losing the Mental Game

Lately I’ve been feeling like my running is more of a mental than physical game. After last weekend’s 5k, I was pretty disappointed. There are two kinds of thoughts that I’ve been going back and forth on in the past week or so.

The first: “Come on, Jenny. Give yourself a break! It was hot and humid and a tough day to all-out race a 5k. You almost PR’d and you’re still so early in this training cycle!”.

The second: “No excuses. You weren’t mentally prepared. You weren’t even nervous or excited about the possibility of running a PR.”

To be fair, both of these thoughts are legitimate, but running and all of the emotions that go along with it aren never black and white. I’m too stubborn to accept the first thought (so stubborn, I suppose, that I feel like I can conquer anything weather throws at me.) And I’m too scared to accept the second thought as true because this is the one that I have control over.

The truth is that there are things that I can do in the future to make sure that I’m mentally prepared for a race that is supposed to be uncomfortable.

When I started running regularly I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into or how addicting that feeling of crossing the finish line with a PR would be. Lemme tell ya, we all want to get back to that feeling as soon as humanly possible once it happens. And that’s probably why training and racing long distances is so tough. The payoff doesn’t come until months and months down the road. It’s really easy to get greedy.

I wanted that instantaneous hit of “I did it! I PR’d a race I wasn’t really that prepared for!” and I didn’t get it.

I don’t think I internalized my goal last weekend. My legs forgot what it felt like to run consistent 6:30s and I crossed the finish line feeling like they were going to fall off. I let myself get distracted enough to not care about the time on the clock. And that’s a sad thought.

It wasn’t my body that failed me, it was my brain. And that thought still hurts.

I’m planning on slotting another 5k into my training before Grand Rapids to see if redemption is possible. Even if I don’t PR the next one, my goal is to arrive at the start line with a “quiet confidence” that I can push myself for +/- 20 minutes because that’s what my head, my heart, and body are capable of.

Training, Lately:

I started consistently training again at the end of May, with a 21-week plan to the Grand Rapids Marathon from Coach. Between mid-April and early June, I was really lazy. I was all too happy to accept that and I’m so glad that I allowed myself the time off. I’ve never been the type of runner to jump into another training cycle immediately following a race. And like most people, the mental and physical rest was necessary after Boston.

I just finished up Week 5 of the 21-week cycle. Back to base-building and a slow progression to speed and stamina workouts:

Week 1: 30 miles

Happy to run 5 x per week again & surprised to find I hadn’t lost much fitness in sloth-mode!

Week 2: 33 miles

Highlights included consistent 400 m splits under 1:30 and two tempo miles faster than I expected

Week 3: 34 miles

11 miles through the “wilderness”

Week 4: 32 miles

Highlights included tough 800s into a massive headwind, beer run, and 5k race

Week 5: 34 miles 

First strength training class at my gym in months, some heat training, and a weekend of anniversary celebration

There’s no reason to be unhappy with my training so far this cycle. I remember when I used to dream of running the paces I run on a consistent basis now. I just have to be patient and work hard.

What do you do to get mentally prepared for a race? Have you ever “raced greedy” before?

– J



The Habit of ‘Reading Later’

Lately, I’ve been into long reads. I’ve been saving every link that sounds remotely interesting to Pocket and spending time each day reading articles that I normally wouldn’t. It’s no surprise that there’s so much interesting content out there. Instead of scrolling through links and thinking to myself, “well, that sounds interesting. I’ll read it later”, it’s refreshing to sit down & devour interesting reads each day. Here are some of my recent favorites (some running-related, some random):

15 Things to Keep Doing in Your 20s

Like most, I’m a bit overwhelmed by all of the things we’re “supposed to do” at a certain age. I think I’d change the title of this article to “15 Things to Keep Doing Until You Die”. Yep, that sounds about right.

Company Man by David Sedaris

I recently read Sedaris’ new novel and it was just as good as I expected it to be. (Perfect vacation read for anyone looking for one!) I used to sleepwalk when I was a kid so the story about his sister in this New Yorker article is especially entertaining.

Summer Reading: 2013’s Best New Running Books

I added several of these to my Goodreads ‘To Read’ bookshelf. Hoping to find the time to read them this summer.

What Life Was Like Before Smartphones

Simple and true. (Unplugging on vacation was quiet and heavenly.) Along the same lines, this NYTimes article discusses techies ditching their online time as well: Disruptions: Even the Tech Elites Leave Gadgets Behind.

Bret, Unbroken

If there’s one article you read from this post, this should be it. Runner’s World published it at the beginning of May, but it’s still got me thinking. Note: get the Kleenex ready!

This Is Water

Still sorting through thoughts on this speech by the late DFW. One of my favorite sections is:

And the world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the world of men and money and power hums along quite nicely on the fuel of fear and contempt and frustration and craving and the worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the “rat race” – the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.

Your Coffee Horoscope

On Saturday, I somehow managed to make it to 4 pm without a single cup of coffee. While it was unintentional, I realized the true extent of my caffeine addiction after a lingering headache and a killer 3-hour nap on the couch that afternoon. 🙂 Still, I find anything relating coffee choice to personality interesting. My only question is, what if I order something different every time?!

Alexi Pappas: The Rawbook

There’s no doubt Alexi has somewhat of a following, especially after the Youtube video of her cheering on Jordan Hasay. The Rawbook interview just adds another layer.

WANT! Get Shit Done Mug

This isn’t a read, but a WANT! They also have the design as a large format poster that I’m considering. I might have to dedicate a wall to GSD-related prints because it would look good next to this one (that I have yet to frame).

What have you been reading lately? Do you save articles to read later or just in the moment?

– J

11 Things I Learned On Vacation


This past Tuesday, I returned from a 5-night vacation in Cabo San Lucas. This is what I learned:

  1. It’s never too early to order a piña colada. They’re especially delicious for breakfast.
  2. Buying “real books”, as opposed to using my Kindle, was liberating. No screens = happy eyeballs.
  3. Taking the time to think about absolutely nothing is time well spent.
  4. I missed the Chicago lakefront after approximately 4 days away. A humid gym at the resort just didn’t cut it.
  5. Avoiding clocks is something everyone should do on vacation (or whenever possible. weekends?)
  6. Note to future self: do not go to a resort for my 40th birthday with a gaggle of girlfriends. You’ll look ridiculous, tired, & drunk.
  7. My cup of coffee in the morning has never tasted so good as it did on that balcony overlooking the ocean. :sigh:
  8. Fresh fruit and Nuun. Fresh fruit and Nuun. Margaritas. Fresh fruit and Nuun.
  9. SPF50 prevented a sunburn. It also prevented a nice tan from developing.
  10. Never, EVER take full advantage of the open bar on a dinner cruise. (You and your boyfriend will be the only ones on the dance floor and the ‘audience’ will proceed to take videos of you “dancing” and post them on Youtube…). And no, I’m not speaking from experience.
  11. Doing what you want to do, when you want to do it is exactly what vacation is for. Mission accomplished.


Vacation Brain

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I think pre-vacation brain is like taper brain. I’ve managed to forget the simplest things, my mind is restless, I dream of calories in the form of beer, and I’ve checked the weather no less than 5 times today even though the weather should be sunny and gorgeous where I’m going.

I’m really looking forward to this vacation. Last time I went to Mexico, I literally turned my phone off the moment we landed and turned it back on only when we arrived back in Chicago after 6 days lounging in the sunshine with a margarita in hand. I’ve been thinking more about unplugging 100% for the 6 days, just as I did then. That feeling of becoming detached from technology was scary and wonderful at the same time.

I’m anxious to take some time away to READ. My Goodreads list is out of control and there’s no way that I would be able to read all of the books I want to read in my lifetime while still trying to hold down a regular job. I bought the three books above to devour on vacation. I’m a Kindle-reader and read 3/4 books on it. But I’m leaving it  at home, all by its lonesome. Maybe if I pretend I’m allergic to technology for the next week, quitting it cold turkey won’t seem so scary?

Have you ever done a technology detox? Was it as easy or hard as you thought it would be?


A Few Reasons To Be Happy

I’ve smiled more in the past two days than I smiled all last week. There’s a lot to be said for a few good nights of sleep and a new mindset thanks to a clear schedule last weekend. I tried my best not to put anything on the calendar or think about what time it was (note: avoiding a clock is harder than it seems!).

Post-marathon recovery is going well. I think my legs are confused at this point. They’re restless at times, heavy at times, and some sort of mixture between those two at other times. It appears that reverse taper madness is alive and well in my world. It seems like Boston was more than 9 days ago. A lot has happened since then. I was looking at the calendar last night and realized that April is GONE. When did *that* happen?!

Hillary made my day when sent me a link to this month’s Chicago Athlete. Turns out I placed 21st out of 50 of the women from Illinois racing Boston this year! :Mind=blown: It’s really cool to see the locals represented at Boston and my name among them. Cheesin’!

ChicagoAthlete_April_2013 Arrow

Pinch me.

So…what’s “next”? I haven’t gotten there just yet. I know that I want to take 4-6 weeks off of a consistent training cycle for some easy miles (and impromptu fartleks). I started daydreaming about more spin classes while I was working the other day so that will probably happen too. I’m looking forward to a bit of a change of pace and rest, but I know that once I get into that rhythm it will likely change. I can only rest for so long before I get antsy to put another race on the calendar. I’m sure I’ll do 1-2 half marathons this summer just to get to a start line.

For now, the only event I’ve committed to is …..

Hood to Coast with the #NuunHTC team in August!

After a cancelled and rebooked flight from Boston last Wednesday, I really needed something to smile about. I submitted a silly video application to the Nuun team on a silly whim a few weeks ago and honestly didn’t think I had much of a chance of being selected. (If you have seen some of the other applications, you know what I’m talking about!) I’m really looking forward to an adventure and connecting with badass ladies from across the country. The ultimate bonding experience is in a sweaty, smelly van, right?! I’ve already decided that I need to work on my vuvuzela skills.

Beyond August, I will definitely be running a fall marathon but I haven’t decided which one yet. Grand Rapids is high on the list mostly because of the beer options afterward. (Duh).

Speaking of R-E-S-T (my body says, “what’s that??”)! Last night I officially booked a VACATION. In the words of the Man, “Even though Jenny and I just got back from an “adventure”, We just booked another one with more SUN and SAND and Exotic Appeal.” I.cannot.freaking.wait. I need time to unplug, drink countless margaritas, and read silly beach novels. If I do anything more active than that, it will be because I was forced to. I booked the trip last night and I’ve already started thinking about what I’m going to be packing in my suitcase. Definite sign that I need some R & R.

To those of you running Eugene this weekend, KICK THAT RACE’S ASS!! If you begin to lose momentum, just remember…I’ll be tracking you! Don’t let the internet down!

How much time do you take to recover after a marathon? What tips do you have for a Hood To Coast noob? How far out do you plan your races?


What You Can Accomplish “Alone”

I came across this video awhile ago but BuzzFeed just included it today in 25 Things to Do When You’re Feeling Down. [Note: I’m not feeling down. In fact, I’m having a great week and feeling super productive both at work and in running. But the article made me think, and has some really great tips for pick-me-ups when you need ’em. My favorite is #25. :)]

Since starting my new job just over a year ago, I’ve spent a lot of time alone. I work alone at home. I work “alone” at coffee shops. It’s amazing what you can accomplish without distractions from coworkers (because I don’t have any, unless you count my boss.) Even though I’m not interacting with a ton of people on a daily basis, I still feel like I’m connected to a community both professionally and personally. Oh, the wonders of technology, right?

I’ve always enjoyed my time to myself. I’m one of those people that doesn’t mind going to a movie solo (although I haven’t done that in awhile). I always say that I just want to spend one afternoon in a comfy coffee shop with nothing but a good book to read. I have this idea that if I can just get away from my phone or computer long enough to read for 2-3 hours, I will feel instantly refreshed. [Anyone else feel this way?] Sadly, it doesn’t happen often but it’s still a constant dream of mine.

I think I enjoy being (mostly) a solo runner because I enjoy being alone. I like to work through things in my head while I pound glide over the pavement. I feel like I can enjoy my time with others when I’ve had the time *and space* to be by myself first, if only for a brief moment over a cup of coffee in the morning.

And while you may not all be solo runners or people that like to spend time ‘alone’, I have a feeling that some of you out there might appreciate this video:

One of my favorite lines is:

‘cuz when you’re happy in your head

then solitude is blessed

and alone is okay.

[Also, It made me think about the book, Quiet by Susan Cain too. I’d recommend it if you haven’t picked it up yet (not just for “introverts”!)]


Are you a solo runner? Do you try to spend time by yourself every once in awhile? When was the last time you spend the day by yourself?