Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Faves - Running Edition

So today I'd like to share some of my favorite things - raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens - no, no, not those favorite things, although The Sound of Music is one of my favorite movies.  Today let's stick to running.

1.  What is the only real piece of "equipment" any runner needs?  Feet?  Well...yes, I suppose that's it.

But also, SHOES!  I've worn Nike since I ran track in high school. Back then I ran in Nike Pegasus, which is a bit less cushioned than the shoe I'm in now, but I wasn't putting in as many miles.  I've tried other brands, but they never feel like they fit my feet as well.  I've even bought a few other brands from my local running store over the past few years, only to return them a week or two later because of blistering, heel rubbing, etc.  So, old school I remain, but I do love my Nike Vomeros:

2.  I suffer from recurring shin splints and tibial tendinitis in my lower legs and no Doctor or Physical Therapist has yet been able to tell me why.  I've got loads of differing opinions from: too much mileage (not the case), heel striking (jury's still out), my bow legs (who knows?!), running strictly on roads/paved surfaces (probably correct).  In any case, there are two products that have saved me from these ailments taking over my life and really kept both at bay.

One of these is compression sleeves or socks.  I wear both but tend to like the convenience of the socks better because it combines two products in one.  For the socks, I love Pro Compression marathon socks.  I have 3 pair already.  Since I only run outdoors on hard surfaces (there are no trails/dirt paths near me), I wear them on every run, and since I've been doing this, my shin splints are pretty non existent. 

I also have a pair of calf sleeves from CEP which I also really like.  The compression on these is a little tighter than my Pro Compression socks, which I like.

In addition to these products, I discovered something AMAZING about a year ago - these beauties are compression sleeves with BUILT IN ICE PACKS! I kid you not.  I found them on Amazon - link here - and I think they are one of the best inventions ever.  I am really sorry I did not come up with this idea because it's golden.  I used to have to sit motionless on the couch with an ice pack on each leg, constantly moving them up and down my shins.  No more, now I can walk around, chase the cats, go on a date (I kid), and all the while any inflammation in my legs is being zapped away into oblivion.  If you can't tell, I highly recommend these!

3.  Now onto Nutrition.  As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I can't tolerate any dairy.  This actually makes it tough when it comes to sport nutrition bars, shakes and supplements because many of them are whey or milk based.  I enjoy protein shakes after my runs because I feel like they kill two birds with one stone - thirst and hunger.  I also seem to struggle with incorporating enough protein into my diet because I'm not the best cook.  I do eat meat but I don't have a grill which makes preparing meat a bit more difficult.  So, I have tried a variety of vegan and plant based proteins and my favorite is Plant Fusion.  One scoop in a Blender Bottle filled with almond milk is all you need and you get 21 grams of protein!  How easy is that?  My favorite flavor so far is Cookies and Cream.  It's not too sweet but in my opinion it's delicious.  I like that this protein powder is plant based and not soy based.  For many years I drank soy milk and ate soy products, but I've started to steer clear of them.  I just don't think they are the best for my body.


There are so many more running products I love but I guess that's enough for today!  I am not sponsored by any of these companies and did not receive any money for writing these reviews, I just really love all of these things.  Probably as much as I love the Von Trapp children singing So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu. 

4.  And finally, although this isn't running related at all, I can't get enough of this song lately.  I find myself singing it constantly.  I was swimming laps today and was singing this in my head for the entire hour!

Questions for today:

What are some of your favorite running products?

What's your favorite song lately?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Weekend recap: Baltimore Women's Classic, Supermoon and #Skywire

For the past few months, I had been volunteering as a running coach for a group of women who were training for a 5K.  It was a wonderful experience not only because I had so much fun doing it, but also because I met so many great women!  Well, the race they were training for finally took place yesterday here in Baltimore.  The Baltimore Women's Classic is one of the largest all-female races in the country and over 3200 women raced yesterday!  I knew it would be pretty impossible to find all of the women from the program in that sea of people but surprisingly I ran into a few along the course.  It was a great opportunity for me to pat them on the shoulder and give them some encouragement along the way! One of the ladies thanked me for stopping to acknowledge her and said "I'm going to keep you in my sights Coach!".  I also ran into a couple of people at the finish line in the race village.  As far as my personal race, I didn't really have much of a strategy.  It had been a year since I ran a competitive 5K and I don't really train for fast short distances.  In my mind I was hoping for a sub 25.  Well, I missed it by 16 seconds! Don't you just hate when that happens?!  I was also hoping for negative splits but in actuality I didn't really train for that either.  Negative splits generally just naturally happen for me in my runs because I usually start out slower and gain speed throughout, but it's not something I'm consciously doing.  When I checked my Garmin after the race, I saw I ran a fast 1st mile, slower 2nd mile and my fastest 3rd mile so I guess I somewhat negative split it :)  I ended up 30th in my age group - finishing 199 out of 3211 runners overall. Not too shabby I suppose but the fastest female finisher ran a 16 minute race?! WHAT? Mind blown.

All in all it was a great race and I actually enjoyed the quickness of it and the fun atmosphere.  I'm thinking about squeezing in a few more 5K's this summer before the Runner's World Half in October.  My sister just signed up for a summer training program and will be running her first 5K in the fall and I couldn't be more excited!  I'm hoping to do a race with her when she completes her program.  Ok now for some pics:

Post race - sweaty and smiling :)
Me, One of our trainees Ashley, and Wendy another great coach

After the race, I came home and settled in for an evening of Supermoon and Sky Wire.  Let me explain.
I am kind of an astronomy nerd so I was excited that yesterday was supposed to be the biggest and brightest moon of the year.  It certainly was beautiful last night but it wasn't one of those low hanging giant orange moons that we sometimes get in the fall that look like they're right out of a movie (Harvest moon maybe?).  So I came back inside and mentally prepared for this madness:
Did anyone else tune in to the Discovery Channel last night for Sky Wire Live?!  Nik Wallenda is a professional wire walker who decided he was going to walk across the Grand Canyon yesterday with no safety net and no tether.  I have to admit this was incredibly hard to watch.  I was simultaneously watching, tweeting about this (the tweets last night were hilarious), texting with my sister and sweating like a maniac.  I just can't wrap my head around someone's desire and ability to do something like this.  It is completely beyond my comprehension.  However, just because I don't understand it, doesn't necessarily make it wrong. I mean if this guy is truly living out his God given talent and purpose on earth who I am or anyone else to say that it's irresponsible or crazy? I do have issues with him having children and having them watch this, but by all accounts it appears that this is truly what this man was meant to do and I don't think he could stop even if he wanted to.  It seems like wire walking is in his DNA?! In any case, it made me think that if we all tapped into our truest selves and discovered what we were put here to do, we could all achieve things that seem impossible.  This wire walking is extreme, but weren't the worlds greatest inventors, writers, artists, scientists, etc considered crazy or extremist as well?  I guess if we have the courage to tap into our weirdness some pretty great things can come of it.  Whatever you think of this guy, you have to admit he has great courage to follow his dreams. 
*Fun fact - Nik Wallenda performed in Baltimore last summer! He walked on a wire strung across the Inner Harbor to celebrate the opening of Ripley's Believe it or Not down here.  I didn't get to see him live because I was working, but I did have a view of the crowd outside my office! You can read the article here.
My questions for you today:
When was your last race and what distance was it? Do you enjoy 5K's?
Did you watch Sky Wire last night? What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Let's play "Get to Know Your Blogger"!

I'm not sure how many people other than my friends have found and read my blog, but I thought I'd do a post with some fun, trivial facts about myself if there is anyone else out there! Ha ha.  When I read other blogs, I love to learn funny facts about the authors.  The Hungry Runner Girl always has some great ones.  (She is currently the only person I know who is not only addicted to Raisin Bran but also adds extra raisins!) 

So let's get started.  Maybe we'll all learn something today :)

(I have absolutely no idea if that's true, however, its adorable)

Random Fact #1:  Dairy and I do NOT get along.  We broke up sometime during middle school and we've never reconciled.  Which is to say, I'm super lactose intolerant and I haven't eaten any of these foods in a good 15-20 years:  Pizza, ice cream, cheese, yogurt, milk, milkshakes, GIRL SCOUT COOKIES (I know, gasp!), chocolate...  Oh the list could go on for days.  I know some people think they couldn't live without these things but it's been so long that I honestly don't remember what most of this stuff tastes like anymore! Crazy.  If I could cheat death (ok, not death, just extreme pain and discomfort) for a day, there are 2 foods I would love to taste just one more time - a Snickers bar and some bubblegum ice cream.  Apparently my dairy taste buds are still stuck back in my 10 year old body :)

Random Fact #2:  My career aspirations as a child included becoming a Catholic nun and/or an Olympic gymnast.  Not sure if those dreams were mutually exclusive, however I am currently neither!  I am however in the midst of redefining my career/life aspirations so I will let you know if anything half as good as those gems comes to the surface.

Random Fact #3:  I am a HUGE TSwift fan! I am fully aware I'm in my 30's and her lyrics are targeting a completely different demographic but I can't help it.  I've loved her from the very first time I heard her on the radio and I proudly have all of her CD's.  (Yes, fun fact 3.5, I still buy CD's.)

Random Fact #4:  I have two cats named Mikey and Sal.  Being half-Italian I like to say they are part of the Cat Mafia, but their names are actually the names of my two grandfathers (Micheal and Salvatore). 

Random Fact #5:  I have worn glasses since the FIRST grade.  Yes I am that kid.  I had the smallest head and the biggest glasses you have ever seen.  It was the 80's, but still.  I will try to find a picture of them.  Big plastic red beauties.  Thankfully I finally got contacts in high school. 

Random Fact #6:  I am in no way, shape or form an actress or model, however I have appeared in the following: A department store ad (when I was about 6), the newspaper (with my sister when we were tots), Cosmopolitan magazine (a few years ago in Dove ad), and as an extra in the HBO show Veep (a few months ago).  I didn't earn money for most of these things, however the 5 seconds of fame  basically made it all worth it!

Well I guess that's about it for the first installment.  I hope you enjoyed getting to know me and don't think I'm too weird. Ha!

I'd love to get to know you too.  If you'd like, you can share some fun facts about yourself in the comments.

Or, let me know if you liked this piece and I'll do another one sometime :)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Timing is Everything...

Today was a rainy dreary day here.  It was one of those days that makes you want to stay inside, curl up and read a good book all day.  Except that's not what I wanted to do today.  I really wanted to go for a run.  At one point I looked outside and saw that the rain seemed to have stopped.  The sun was even peeking out!  So I grabbed my sneakers and headed out.  And wouldn't you know, the rain held out the entire time. I was able to squeeze in 4 miles and just as I got to my front door, the first raindrops began to fall! Perfect timing, I thought. 

This got me thinking about timing in general, especially for key moments in your life.  I believe the timing really has to be right for many important things to take hold.  Whether its a relationship, a job opportunity, a move, or any number of turning points in life, I believe things come when they are supposed to and not necessarily when you want them to.  You can think of missed opportunities as failures or you can think that they didn't happen for a reason.  Sometimes, the timing is just not there.  But then there are times, like today, when the heavens open, the sky clears and its your time.  I think recognizing and jumping at those opportunities in life is often unclear or hard to do but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith.  I've been trying to be more open to these types of opportunities in my life recently, and it's small wonders like today that make me marvel at how wonderful timing can be sometimes.

To see just how important timing is, check out the amazing video below that was shared with me via Twitter today.  The 17 year cicadas live underground for nearly their entire lives - 17 years - and emerge for just a few weeks to mate, fulfill their purpose in life, and then they are gone.  It all comes down to nature and instinct for them.  They know when they are supposed to emerge and what they are supposed to do.  If only we were all so in tune with ourselves and our true nature.  The cinematography and story told in this video is moving (whether you like bugs or not!) so I thought I'd share.  For those who don't live on the east coast, and may not be familiar with the story, the 17 year cicadas emerged up and down the east coast in states from NJ down to VA a few weeks a go.  It's really a marvel how nature works.  The natural world really does have perfect timing and a lesson I'm trying to heed in my own life is to slow down, listen and recognize the signs around me.

Return of the Cicadas from motionkicker on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

National Running Day Recap and Plank A Day Challenge

The last few posts have been pretty heavy material, but I felt it necessary to tell the back stories surrounding my running and my desire to finally start this blog.  So today's topic will be something I could probably talk about for hours on end - Running!  If you are active on social media then I'm sure you were blasted from all directions with notifications that yesterday was National Running Day (or what I like to call 'The Most Wonderful Day of the Year!' haha).  There were so many contests, goodies, discounts, discussions, tweets and blog posts on the subject, it really did feel almost like Christmas - well Christmas for runners I guess :)

Funny Sports Ecard: My running style can be described as 'seductively awkward.'

So, how did I celebrate?  Well yet another blessing of having some time off, is that I've been able to dedicate some time to volunteer work.  I'm currently coaching a women's running group for the summer and Wednesday nights are our track workouts.  So I spent last night running 4 x 800's around the track with some great ladies!  It's been great to see their progress over the past few weeks, and what better way to celebrate National Running Day than with a bunch of other runners!  A funny thing is happening to me as I continue to coach these women toward their 5K goals.  I am actually beginning to like sprinting, and enjoy being on the track.  As a distance runner, I really haven't incorporated speed work or track workouts into my routine.  It's something I know I should be doing, if I really want to improve my race times, but I've always been focused on simply getting my mileage in leading up to events, and not really thinking about other aspects of training.  That includes speed work, strength training, active recovery, stretching (seriously lacking on this one).  I've really seen firsthand how good volunteering is not only for the recipients, but also for the volunteer. 

In addition to running yesterday, I also took advantage of Runner's World one day offer to take 20% off the entry fee to their second Runner's World Half Marathon and Festival that's held in my hometown of Bethlehem, PA!  I'm so glad I have my fall race set now (I was debating between a few) and that was a great deal!  I missed their inaugural race last year because I was planning to run the Nike Women's Half Marathon in San Francisco.  However, I was injured and ended up missing that race (but that is a whole other post).  I can't wait to go back home and run some of the same streets I ran in track practice 15 years ago (how can that be?!) surrounded by so many family and friends. 

In other fitness news, I decided to hop on the Plank A Day challenge boat for the month of June.  I'm designing my own challenge in that each day I'm trying a different plank variation, then holding it til I drop, or die, whichever comes first!  If you follow me on Instagram (@Jillyruns) or Twitter (@Jillyruns) you can see my daily time postings.  Here's a list of the planks I've done thus far:

June 1st - straight arm plank
June 2nd - forearm/elbow plank
June 3rd - straight arm plank with alternating arm/leg lifts
June 4th - left-side straight arm plank
June 5th - right-side straight arm plank
June 6th - reverse plank

I am personally loving this challenge!  Its so fun to try out a new move every day, and I love putting my endurance/willpower to the test each day.  When I told a few friends about the challenge, they asked, "What are you planking on?"

I had to explain it wasn't this type of plank:
But, this type:
My enthusiasm for planking must be contagious because one of my friends even has her kids planking now! 
So my questions for you today are:
What did you do to celebrate National Running Day yesterday?
Do you plank? 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Escape the City

I've discovered that one of the advantages of having some (involuntary) time off has been the opportunity to spend some more quality time with friends and family, which is always good for the soul.  So I took a trip back to Pennsylvania to join forces with my sisters and the rest of my extended family for a bit.  I spent the recent Memorial Day holiday week barbecuing, swimming, watching baseball, catching up with friends and entertaining my nieces and nephews with my crazy antics! All in all a great week.  Spending time with people I love always seems to rejuvenate my spirit and reminds me of what's important in life.  Going back home is also always a nice escape from city living (and you really can't beat the food!). 

I spent a lot of time with these cuties - I might be biased but I think they should all be baby models :)

And had some great sister time too:

And linked up with some hometown friends for girls night!

I love big gatherings - friends or family.  It's always interesting to see what everyone has been up to and where everyone is in their lives at the moment.  It kind of gives you perspective.  I've read a few blog posts recently that touch on the subject of being the 'odd one out' and some of those posts really struck a chord with me.  At my age, most of my sisters, cousins and friends are all married with kids, so for a few years I have definitely felt like a fish out of water amongst many of them.  But I've done a lot of self reflection over the past 2 1/2 years and I've come to some important realizations that I try to cling to in moments of self doubt. 

I think it's most important to not compare myself to others.  Comparisons in any aspect of your life will only leave you feeling inadequate. I mean, there will always be someone out there who is prettier/richer/stronger/faster, etc etc etc than you, but what exactly does that prove?  On that same vain, if you look at the flip side, there will always be someone who has less money/beauty/strength, etc than you and that person may very well be happy with exactly where they are because they are not comparing themselves to you!  I think the key is gratitude and comparing you only to yourself - to measure your own progress, however slow it may be.  Yes, there are certainly times I wish it was me who has settled down and found the love of my life, and was having babies like everyone else, but it's just not my time.  There must be something else I am meant to be doing right now instead of that, and it is my job to keep moving and figure that out!  It's also important to note that everyone has problems.  I wish that I had someone to love right now, and then I see a friend going through heartache and realize she's wishing for peace.  I wish that it was my turn to have a baby and then see my sister with the baby who refuses to sleep and realize she's just wishing for rest.  There will always be things that others have, that I wish to have, but we all have our crosses to bear.  Turning those hints of envy into gratitude for what I already have is admittedly hard to do at times, but is so much better for my spirit.  I've come to believe over the past few years that positivity does indeed breed positivity.

That brings me to the other aspect of 'escaping the city'.  When I was still working in finance, I stumbled upon this fantastic movement called Escape the City.  It's a truly inspirational start-up formed by 3 ex-corporate guys in London.  I began following them back then and their message really coincided with how I was feeling at the time.  They decided the conventional route, the standard 9 to 5, wasn't for them, and set out to chart their own path, and help others do the same.  I'd urge you to check out their website for inspiration if you have any of the same inklings.  There are some pretty amazing and inspiring stories of people who have quit their high power jobs to pursue their passions, and have been successful.  Its pretty amazing what people can do when they are inspired by what's inside them and not by external factors (like money/prestige/etc). 

(Quote by Randy Komsar, Photo by Stephanie Sievers via

I have followed a pretty standard path thus far - go to school, get good grades, go to college, get a reputable, stable job - but that path has not led to happiness nor a feeling of being fulfilled.  I really believe that each of us is put on this Earth for a purpose, and that purpose is to realize the full potential of who we are.  To do the most with the unique talents and abilities we are given.  And for me, sitting at a desk behind a computer crunching numbers every day for the next 30 years would be doing a great disservice to the Universe! 

In the words of Oprah:  "The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams."

So my questions for you are:

Have you ever felt like the odd one out?

What are your dreams for your life?  What would you do, if you knew you couldn't fail?