Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Favorites & Plans for 2016

As 2015 wraps up, I like to look back on my year in running and the races I completed. This past year wasn't about time goals, but getting back into a routine and having a healthy relationship with running so that I enjoyed every race/run. I feel like I accomplished that. 

Most of my races fall in the second half of the year when I decided to run races more consisently again. Here are my favorites:

Morgantown Half Marathon
I loved it because they gave all runners a West Virginia state quarter that fit into a slot on the medal after you completed the race and I thought that was unique.

Pittsburgh Half Marathon
I love it because of the color (pink) and it's been comfortable to run in by itself or with layers. 

Pittsburgh Pirates 5k
I enjoyed the course that started on the Roberto Clemente bridge and finished with a lap inside PNC Park. 

Pittsburgh Half Marathon
Pittsburgh always wins this category. They advertise so much for this race that you feel like the whole city is out there cheering you on and you can't help but smile! 

A Christmas Story 10k
Everything Christmas, enough said! 

Runner's World Hat Trick 
I would expect nothing less from the people at Runner's World to have a well put together weekend. I had plenty of info through emails before arriving. Parking, expo, race start/finishes, medals, post race food, speakers, schedule, and the course were all very organized. For a multiple race event with so many activities going on in a short period if time, it allowed everyone to attend as much as they wanted without missing out on other things! 

A lot of Pittsburgh races give Eat 'n Park smiley cookies at the end. I don't ever buy them but I will eat one after a race! 

A Christmas Story 10k
They provided a fun race shirt, free photos, discounted food coupons, nice sized medal, drawstring bag, and FREE admission to the house/museum from the movie!

Runner's World Hat Trick
I left that weekend on cloud nine and couldn't stop talking or thinking about it for weeks. It was an awesome celebration of all things running and any race that has me feeling like that for weeks did a fantastic job.

Plans for for 2016? I am so excited to be chosen as a Nuun Ambassador

And I have a variety of races lined up:

January 17th: Clearwater 50K (yikes!)

February 5-8th: NuunYearDash (virtual run)

March 12th: Rock 'n Roll USA 13.1

April 14-17th: Disney Darkside Challenge (5k & 13.1)

...and LOTS more to come!

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy new year and may all your running dreams come true!

Happy running,

Friday, December 11, 2015

Wreaths Across America 2015

6 weeks ago Brad and I were discussing how to celebrate his birthday this year and he came up with the best idea...volunteer to lay wreaths in Arlington National Cemetery. It just so happened to be on the exact date of his birthday so we booked a hotel and made the plans official! 

We drove into D.C. Friday afternoon and checked into our hotel conveniently located near the National Mall. I lived in the area for about 7 years after college so was excited to come back and see the monuments again! We decided to have dinner down at the National Harbor where a big, beautiful Christmas tree was displayed and changed colors every few minutes- our favorite was of course the red, white & blue tree.We had dinner at an Italian restaurant called Fiorella. Yummy food, cool atmosphere.  

We relaxed at the hotel and went to bed early because the next day would be a long one. We were up at 5am and at the cemetary by 6:30 to make sure we were able to see all of the events. We had a perfect view of the crowds, bagpipes, and trucks of wreaths entering Arlington. 

We headed into the cemetery with everyone else and lined up at one of the many trucks placed at different sections of the cemetery. They briefed the crowd on where and how to place the wreaths. After another 30 minutes or so the trucks opened and we were each handed a wreath to place at a grave in the designated section. 
What a humbling experience. It was beautiful to see so many volunteers out there. Brad and I worried we wouldn't even be able to place one wreath (due to the high volume of volunteers predicted) and we ended up getting back in line 4 more times to place a total of 5 wreaths each, taking the time to read the stone and visit for a few minutes.

The cemetery beautifully decorated with wreaths:

We spent a total of 7 hours at Arlington that day. It was amazing to watch so many people come out and honor the fallen. 

After leaving the cemetery we took a nap at the hotel and later had dinner and visited the White House and Capitol Christmas trees. 

Of course I had to run my most FAVORITE running route before we left on Sunday. I used to run the National Mall a lot when I lived in the area and it's still my favorite. 

What a wonderful weekend, couldn't be any happier to celebrate Brad's birthday with him in DC. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Christmas Story 10K

If you love Christmas and the movie A Christmas Story, I highly suggest you head over to Cleveland, Ohio one year to participate in this festive run! Brad and I drove the 2 hours to Cleveland late Friday morning after I finished a 5 mile run at home. We headed straight to the Renaissance Hotel for packet pick-up where everything was labeled and easy to find. We luckily arrived so early that we didn't have to stand in any lines, but they had A Christmas Story playing in the room on a big screen if you did have to wait.

With the race bib, every runner receives free admission to the A Christmas Story House and Museum. Brad and I had so much time that day we decided to head over to see it. 

The house is in the middle of a residential neighborhood and we paid $5 to park in someone's driveway (parking can be scarce if it is crowded, but we were lucky and got there when it wasn't too bad). You enter the gift shop first to get your tickets for the tour and museum and wait for the next tour to begin. While waiting we browsed the shop which had any and everything from the movie you could think of! Since we just finished cleaning out our apartment of things we don't use, we settled on an ornament. 

Once the tour started they took us and a group of people across the street and allowed us to walk all over the house and take pictures. I took a lot but will only post a few because you have to go see it in person to really experience the house! 
After touring the house there is a museum full of photos and props from the movie to check out. It was a great visit and we probably spent 1-2 hours there total. We were pretty hungry by the time we finished and decided to hit up a restaurant we had heard of that's famous in Ohio call Melt Bar & Grilled.

Let me just say, come HUNGRY! They have a menu full of every grilled cheese combo you could think of and the portions are massive. They also decorate the place with the ugliest plastic lawn decorations that makes for a fun atmosphere! I ordered a mac 'n cheese grilled cheese (don't judge my prerace food choices!) and couldn't even come close to finishing. Brad had a bacon grilled cheese and loved it.
After filling our bellies we relaxed at the hotel for the remainder of the evening. Thanks to our meal, we literally didn't eat for the rest of the day or the next morning before the race and ended up feeling just fine. Never want to do that again though haha. 

The temperature on the morning of the race was about 36 degrees, but we layered well and felt comfortable. Parking was plentiful and easy to find close to the start of the race near the Hard Rock Cafe. Many runners gathered inside the Tower Center near the start line to keep warm and use bathrooms. It was nicely decorated with a huge Christmas tree so we took a few prerace photos. 
The course had a few small elevations and a huge bridge to cross that allowed for a nice view of the city. The 5K finish line was at the Christmas Story House but we ran the 10K and continued on back to the original starting line. The race was family friendly and we saw tons of strollers and even dogs running (if only we had known!). They had one water stop that you passed twice and each mile marker was decorated with movie quotes! Also, the race website says the distance is "approximate" so if you are looking for a certified course this is not for you. My garmin said 6.15 miles at the finish line.
We stopped to take lots of pictures and required a bathroom stop too, so this wasn't a race we were aiming to run for a specific time, just fun and for the experience. When we crossed the finish line they had snacks including cups of Ovaltine and we were given our medals while the movie played on a big screen. 

Overall I have great things to say about the race! The website even offered post race showers for runners at a specific location, something I am loving and finding more races are offering for out of town guests. Even Brad said he loved the race! He is not a fan of running but participates so we can do things together (wonderful guy!). Definitely a race we would both do again and plan to make a yearly tradition!🎄

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Social Media Words Can Hurt

When I started this blog almost a year ago, I did it to share my love of running and hold myself accountable to live a more healthy lifestyle. Well I failed. I wrote only twice before this post and have completed sporadic bursts of the healthy lifestyle I aspire to live. 

When I moved back to Pittsburgh 368 days ago, I was emotionally drained from previous years of an unhealthy relationship, without a job in my field that continued for 9 months, broke, and had lost my desire to run. It was just gone, and I was fighting to keep it alive. I plan to address that issue in another post.

Naturally, if you run and eat a lot, then stop running and continue to eat like a runner, you will gain weight. That is unless you have a super awesome metabolism. Which I do not. And I gained weight. It's not a secret, and I clearly am reminded of it every single day. Sometimes hourly. It destroys me inside and I can seriously drain myself emotionally and beat myself up about it so bad that I no longer have the energy to go run. Weird right? I know. But this how it is right now. I hate it.

Earlier this week I traveled out of state with my boyfriend and cousins to celebrate another cousin's Army graduation. A fun-filled couple of days with people I love soooo much. Naturally I posted photos on social media of our adventures, although not without hesitation due to my insecurities.

First comment on the above photo: "Jenn, YOU GAINED WEIGHT". Printed just like that. Nothing else. 

I literally died inside temporarily. A simple photo I shared completely crushed me. I shed a few tears alone in the hotel bathroom, thought a few things about not being good enough, pretty enough, etc. Then built myself back up, then pulled myself back down. Just horrible. Nobody deserves to go through that. 

Almost immediately after that comment, I received private messages, texts, a phone call, and other friends commenting on how beautiful I looked and to ignore people like that. My boyfriend reminded me how much he loved me no matter what and that I was perfect. I couldn't believe it. It's weird to say, but I was shocked to see that people still cared about me even though I gained some pounds. My opinion of others never ever changes no matter their size, shape, etc. I love my friends and family because of who they are no matter what they look like on the outside, and if someone told me that they think the things I say to myself I would hug them and tell them to stop thinking that way and that they are beautiful no matter what. And I would mean every single word. 

Words are powerful. They can be so inspiring but also hurtful. Some people have a thicker skin than others, and everyone has internal battles they fight daily, hourly, or by the minute. Be kind and respect others. Just because someone runs doesn't mean they will be tiny. Runners come in all shapes and sizes and ages and colors and backgrounds. One of the things that attracted me to the sport was that anyone could do it. There's no size, age, or time limit to participate. We all fall off track for whatever reason and I think when you have amazing support you're able to get right back on track. 

I realized I have that. So even though that comment hurt so bad, I was given back some of the confidence I lost. Confidence to believe in myself, confidence to get back on track, and confidence to live my life and surround myself with POSITIVE PEOPLE ONLY. Be kind to others, but more importantly be kind to yourself. Don't let anyone tear you down. Because if I would've allowed that comment to affect me any longer than it did I would have missed out on some pretty special moments with some very special people in my life❤️