Blyss Running Champion ~ Meet Jennifer


This month we meet Jennifer! She and I met in Lexington, KY at Run the Bluegrass.

"I wanted to run back in high school, but didn’t because I didn’t have the courage or confidence to."  How many of us can relate?  I'll let her tell the rest. Meet Jennifer.....

I live in Corydon, Indiana with my husband (Nathan) and two cats (Sir Purrs A Lot and Sophia). I work as a dental hygienist and just recently got hired to help at 502 Power Yoga which is the yoga studio I go to. My hobbies are biking, running and hiking, yoga, some swimming, visiting craft microbreweries with my husband, and I hope to travel more. I did Ragnar back in April and was reminded of how much I enjoyed camping, but I haven’t convinced my husband to go…yet. Other hobbies include going to local markets with my Momma and buying repurposed junk, handmade jewelry, and spending time together. I enjoy chilling on the couch reading or watching a movie with both my cats curled up next to me while enjoying a nice cup of Yogi hot tea or coffee. When I need an adrenaline rush my brother and I take a road trip to an amusement park for some big roller coasters or I will skydive (done that only a couple of times). I am up for just about any adventure except bungee jumping…nope. 

I first encountered Blyss running gear at the Run the Bluegrass race expo and bought the Knickers and Distance Shorts. I wore the knickers the next day for the race and loved them! The waistband is so comfortable and all the pockets are wonderful, especially the back pocket that hold my iPhone 7! I really like the shorts because they don’t chafe and stay put. I wore them during my ultra and never had to fuss with them at all. My backpack was bothering me and I left it at gear drop, the deep pockets (in the shorts) gave me plenty of storage room to carry my Tailwind nutrition I needed when I switched to a handheld water bottle. I used to hate wearing shorts to the point I wore capris running even in the hot summer, so I was so happy to come across these at the expo! The customer service was amazing too and they let me try on just about everything twice and helped me pick out what worked (and looked) best for me. Thank you Blyss Running! 

When and why did you start running? What’s your story?

I wanted to run back in high school, but didn’t because I didn’t have the courage or confidence to. I had a gym teacher make some awful comments to me that no teenager should ever hear and it literally caused me to shut down and not want to try to run anymore. Fast forward many years and I was doing some occasional 5k’s (mostly walking) and even walked a 5 miler once. It wasn’t until 2011 when my husband was training for his first half marathon that I became inspired. I remember watching all the runners at the race and was astounded on how different everyone was… tall, short, old, young, thin, overweight, and everything in-between. It was then I decided I wanted to run a half marathon too and set my heart on running this race next year. That summer I started training and I couldn’t run more than a quarter of a mile without either crying, puking, or both. I kept trying and never gave up. A year later I was ready to conquer that half marathon that I was working for. However, 3 weeks before my race I was struck by a car while running. It was was a hit and run and I was left laying on the road. I had some injuries but nothing was going to stop me from running 13.1 in three weeks….and I DID IT. I remember making the last turn and seeing the finish line and I’ve never felt such a sense of accomplishment. When I felt weak during the race I thought about what that coach said to me and it lit a burning fire inside of me. I am enough. I can and I will. After that first half marathon I was hooked. Over the next 5 years I went on to run many more half marathons and got into triathlons for a couple of years. 

 

Unfortunately, I had many injuries along the way that constantly set me back. In October 2013 I tore some ligaments in my ankle, it wasn’t even 4 months later and I ended up with a stress fracture in my tibia and a torn achilles tendon (that happened during the bike portion of a triathlon). That same year, a car accident in December, set me back yet again. I recovered and returned to running and triathlon pretty quickly, but didn’t do much later that year. 2015 was a difficult year for me. I was depressed from all the injuries I had and kept getting, work was a toxic place to be that made me so anxious I was having health problems, I found myself taking excessive amounts of prescription drugs to dull the pain that I think now was just my soul hurting more than anything. I quit running by that summer and just started shutting down. My husband was my strength and helped me recover along with the love of my friends and family. I signed up for another half marathon that fall and it was the worst race I’ve ever ran (walked). I cried and would have dropped out if my husband wasn’t running it with me.  

 Then I decided it’s time to change my ways and I picked up the pieces again. Running was my therapy. I decided to run a marathon to really challenge myself so I kept on training through the winter. In February 2016 I slipped on a dog turd and damaged some tendons in my leg that later led to another stress fracture. It literally was a 'crappy injury' and yet another setback. I did get to walk/run the half marathon at the race even though I wanted to do the full marathon distance. After that I took a longer break to heal my body. Once I was cleared to run, I went for a trail run on my birthday! I started building back slowly and raced another triathlon that fall. I got 3rd place in my division only missing 2nd by less than 2 minutes. I like to swim, bike, and run but not so much all in the same day back to back. I decided to take break from triathlon and work on running only with a focus on distance. A month after my triathlon I went back to that race (Urban Bourbon Half) that I was so miserable at in 2015 and ran it again in October 2016...this time setting a new half PR. I also joined a local yoga studio that month after drinking too much beer at a festival and bidding on (and winning) a silent auction yoga package deal! It changed my life. I know that sounds cliche, but this studio and the community there really helped me open myself up and take a look inside.

  

{ Jennifer setting a PR at her 2016 half }

 I decided to get back into trail running just for a change of pace and scenery and a much need for nature. I LOVED IT. I was stronger and wiser which made it better too. I remember running on the trails on December 31, 2016 and decided that 2017 was going to be my year. I am going to do epic shit and not let anyone dim my shine including myself. I needed to STOP holding onto the past and looking back and let go and keep looking forward. I needed to trust my body was stronger and really do some soul searching and let go of what’s holding me down. That’s exactly what I did. This year in January I quit my job of 17 years because it was such a negative workplace (hardest thing I’ve ever done). February, I ran my longest distance on trails (a hilly 15 miler) and found a new office to work at. March, I ran my first 30k, and my first marathon in April. I changed a lot of things in April (nutrition, training fuel, shoes, preventive strength training and more). May 20th I ran my first ultra (50k) and still couldn’t believe I did that afterwards. I had the bruised toenails and blisters to prove it, but it was so surreal. This was the first time in 5 years of running that I completed all the races I planned to do. I did have some minor injuries along the way, but I was able to keep on going. I credit better nutrition, proper fueling, yoga, doing physical therapy, weekly, and listening to my body to rest when needed for the goals I was able to meet this season so far.   

{ First 50K done! In her Distance Shorts!}

I was given the nickname “Phoenix” from a  former triathlon coach of mine. I would get injured and have a set back only to return stronger and more determined that before. I do not give up and I will not quit. Over the last few years I’ve had so many people suggest I give up running and take up a safer hobby. No. There has been a few times my mind wanted to give up running, but my heart wouldn’t let me. I run because it brings joy being with other like minded people and the community. I feel  accomplishment and more confidence after a challenging run or any race. I love trail running because being surrounded by nature brings me a sense of peace and feeds my need for adventure. I love the sense of of freedom felt when running and I am constantly amazed at what we can achieve when we believe in ourselves. 

Favorite distance? And /or favorite race you have run?

 My favorite distances to run is really anything over 4 miles. I dislike 5k’s because it takes me a good 3-4 miles to convince my brain and body I want to be running and get a good groove. I am a slower runner and people at 5k’s are so speedy!! I think my favorite distance is 13.1 because usually there is more food at the end (slow runner problems) and I’ve ran many of those and feel a little less timid, but I’ve only run one road marathon and trail ultra so I want to do more of those.  

 My favorite race I’ve done was the Flying Pig half marathon. The course had the best cheer crowd and hilarious signs. It was a very well organized event and the finish “swine” was amazing. Oh, the swag and food was incredible too. I had a stress fracture and was only allowed to run a little, but I still really enjoyed this race. I will be going back to do the marathon (as planned before) perhaps next year. 

 I also enjoyed the Women’s Rock Chicago race series. The event itself was terrible due to poor planning, communication, and so much more, but  my Momma was there with me. I ran the 10k and then ran Momma's first 5k with her. We had so much fun and made many cherished memories. 

{ With her Momma in Chicago }

If you could go on a run anywhere, where would it be? Your ideal run?

I always see featured runs in Runner’s World magazine and I would LOVE to run any one of those courses. I want to travel out West someday and I would love to see the Grand Canyon and visit as many national parks as I can. Trail or road I will be ready!! I’m not a beach runner so I will pass on the sand…other than that lets go! A few “bucket list” races I have is Big Sur Marathon, Oregon Tracktown Marathon, NYC Marathon, and one of the Disney weekends. 

Favorite pre or post run food?

The day before a big race I like to have a good steak dinner with sweet potatoes. I’m not a pasta carb loader. Race morning I tend to keep it simple and eat steel cut oats with raisins, apples, little brown sugar or peanut butter, and an egg with bacon. I’ve been know to eat bacon out on the trails running! While running (or biking) I use Tailwind nutrition. That has been a huge game changer for me. I struggled all year with nutrition until mid April when I gave this stuff a try (right before my first marathon— yikes). After I finish running I really enjoy chocolate milk or a cold beer (IPA only). Once I get more of an appetite a big juicy burger  is satisfying.

Do you cross train?

I must cross train due to all the injuries I’ve had over the years. I will admit that I didn’t cross train this year so far like I should have, but now that I have a little break from crazy distances I am making that a priority. I’ve been pretty consistent with Yoga so that has really helped me stay mostly injury free. I will start riding my bike more to work on quad strength and less joint impact, and perhaps get back to the pool again. Swimming is great cardio for sure! I have specific strength training exercises that I try to do everyday. I really need to work on foam rolling better, that is something I don’t do like I should either and it’s so important. It’s a love hate relationship with the foam roller. 

Do you use a GPS or track your mileage and if so, which one?

I wear a Garmin 920xt to track my stats. I’m a bit of a technology geek and I am looking at the newest Garmin watch (Fenix 5s) because I don’t like wearing a heart rate monitor chest strap all the time, especially during races. I train with a HRM and try to learn by feel that way race day I can gauge my efforts better. I like to know the elevation, cadence, and other bits of info. It’s also cool to look back at the same course and see improvements during training and races. Sometimes I do go and run without my watch. I call those unplugged runs and really enjoy them, but I do have my phone in my back pocket just in case I need it. 

What have you learned/gained through running?

Listen to your body because it knows best, but don’t be afraid to try. You must believe in yourself and if you think you can do it then you can. Injuries and set backs happen. My strength did not come from lifting weights, it came from lifting myself up every time I was knocked down. Life will test you but when you walk up a mountain, your legs get stronger. It’s okay to be a glowstick, sometimes you have to break before you shine. I have learned and gained so much over the last few years, and especially the last few months. I am stronger than I thought and having the right people in your corner makes this crazy journey better. 

Your next running goal?

 I am keeping the distances low this summer and focusing on strength and cross training (a lot more biking), but still keeping a solid run base. I plan to do a lot more yoga and deepen my practice. I may do the yoga assisting training program this year, but haven’t decided yet. I have an 8 miler planned for next month, then a 200 mile (80's themed!) relay along the  Kentucky Bourbon Trail called The Bourbon Chase. This fall I have the Urban Bourbon half marathon (October) again. I have another road marathon on the books for March, maybe another 50k (Pistol Ultra) in March as well, and perhaps the Flying Pig marathon in May. 

 

Find Your Blyss,

Alyson 


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