EBR Rock Star: Jesica D’Avanza

It’s EBR Rock Star time! Today we’re chatting with Jesica D’Avanza, a road warrior who will run her fifth marathon on October 28 (eep!), just completed a half Ironman on September 30 (double eep!), and is part of our Fall Fun Run. (Have you shared your run with us yet? You really should!) Welcome, Jesica!

1. So, you’re a fresh face on the blogging scene (though certainly not to running, we’ll get to that next…) – welcome! Tell us about your blog, rUnladylike, and why it’s totally awesome.

I started runladylike.com in July 2012 as a way to challenge myself to be better tomorrow than I was yesterday and to inspire other runners to do the same – by embracing our unique abilities, charting our own course and making our own rules. Through honest and real conversation, I share my uncensored adventures about what running teaches me about life – and what life teaches me about running. My blog is about the good (ladylike), bad and ugly (unladylike) of juggling life, fitness and family while trying not to drop any balls or make excuses. I talk about not settling for the status quo. Making things happen even when I don’t feel like it. Overcoming everyday barriers and achieving small victories. But also admitting when I fall off the wagon and feel challenged to follow my own advice. You can read more about my promises to my readers here.

My blog is not just for runners. You don’t have to be fast (I’m not). You don’t have to have completed a zillion races or even one race. It’s for anyone who has an interest in living healthy and striving to be better tomorrow than they were yesterday. My hope is that when you read my blog, you’ll feel inspired and motivated. You’ll believe you’re capable of things you never thought possible and will share that with the world. You’ll know you can achieve any goal you set your mind to if you’re willing to work for it. You’ll figure out that it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing or how fast anyone else is going. You’ll only compete against yourself. And you’ll join me in the conversation.

2. Your upcoming 10/28 is your fifth marathon. And you just did a half Ironman on 9/30 that included a 13.1 mile run. Madness! What inspires you to pursue these races and how do you keep the momentum going once you finish one of these incredible accomplishments?

There are 2 things that inspire me to keep training for and racing in endurance events. The first is that I love to push myself to be the best version of me I can be. I’ve always been someone who takes the road less traveled … To see what I’m capable of. To do what the average person thinks is too hard or too time consuming. To prove that I can do anything I am willing to work hard for. It’s not about being fast or the best. It’s about doing something that makes me feel empowered. Strong. Extraordinary. It’s about crossing the finish line and enjoying the journey.

The second thing that keeps me motivated is the incredible running community. Both the people I run with in my city as well as the many awe-inspiring runners I’ve meet on Twitter and through the blogosphere are the coolest people around. I’ve never met a group of individuals who are more encouraging, motivating and helpful. People I’ve never even met share their stories of triumph, tips for success and kind words to keep me going. The friends I’ve met through running are people who will forever impact my life. I am truly honored to be among this special community of individuals. I get just as much joy out of hearing about their victories as I do from achieving my own.

3. You’re a seasoned long distance runner – what are your top recommendations for fueling up en route?

Being properly fueled and hydrated is critical for successful performance. It’s probably the biggest thing that will make or break you during a long run or race. And it starts before you even go for a long run. What and how much you eat and drink before your long run (both in the days leading up to your run as well as the morning of) plays a key role in how you’ll feel when you’re hitting the pavement for several hours.

Looking at an average long run day, I start with a breakfast that will yield adequate calories and carbs, while limiting fiber and too much protein. I typically eat a Clif Bar (White Chocolate Macadamia Nut) and a banana, preferably 2 to 2.5 hours before the start of my run. Having a little caffeine (such as a half a cup of coffee) is also good, because it helps ensure you go to the bathroom (yes, that kind of “going to the bathroom” before your run – helping you avoid tummy troubles in the middle of your miles). I also drink about 8-12 ounces of water before my runs. It’s good to stop drinking water about an hour before your run to help you avoid needing to pee en route.

As for hydrating and fueling on the run, it is truly a science that takes a lot of practice to determine what is right for you. Most experts suggest that for runs longer than an hour, you should consume 100-250 calories per hour, depending on your size, and drink about 4 ounces of water or sports drink every 15 minutes (there are equations you can use to calculate your sweat rate, etc. to determine liquid consumption). My strategy is to consume about 120 calories every 45 minutes or so. You want to eat/fuel BEFORE you start to feel out of energy to prevent bonking. Fueling products that have worked for me include Honey Stinger vanilla waffles and gold gels, Swedish Fish (yes, the candy) and Power Bar chews (strawberry banana flavor). (When cycling, I also eat steamed, salty baby potatoes and peanut butter-filled pretzels.) I carry my own hydration, which is a 24-ounce bottle in a Nathan Hydration hand-held unit, filled with water and a Nuun tablet (Strawberry Lemonade flavor). Nuun is a sugar-free, 8-calorie electrolyte tablet that helps provide sodium while you’re running, which is critical to a successful run. Each tablet has 150 grams of sodium. Sometimes I will consume salt pills (one per hour) to help get the proper amount of electrolytes into my system. If your skin has ever felt like sandpaper while running or when you lick your lips you taste salt, it means you need more electrolytes. I typically drink several sips each mile.

The key is to experiment, experiment, experiment, and find out what works for you. There will be some things that upset your stomach and others that don’t. You’ll learn how much you need and when. You NEVER want to try something new on race day. Use the middle of your training season to develop your strategy, and then treat each long run as if it was race day to execute your hydration and fueling plan. What you eat and drink after your runs/races is also important for recovery. I’m a big post-run chocolate milk fan!

4. Tell us about your favorite gear. (Whatever it is I’m totally buying it after I publish this post.)

There are so many awesome running products that I don’t leave home without! Here are a few of my ultimate favs:

  • Garmin: I used to run with the 405 but just recently got the 910 for triathletes, which I LOVE!
  • iPod: I love running with music and rarely leave home without my tunes.
  • Head Sweats visor: I always run with a visor, and I totally dig this brand.
  • Lululemon Run Shorty Shorts: Best running shorts on the planet! They are short and tight, so you might feel a little self-conscious in them at first, but they rock. They have 7 pockets for fuel and other items, and have material that prevents your running top from riding up and the shorts from riding up on your legs. They have been on sale all month too!
  • Nike running tank tops with a built in bra in neon colors
  • Aquaphor: I seriously could not run without this! It helps prevent me from chafing and getting scraped up from my sweaty clothes rubbing back and forth for hours.
  • Brooks Pure Cadence: I am a Brooks running shoe-lifer. I swear by their shoes, and I’m obsessed with their PureProject line. The Cadence is their stability shoe, and Brooks is known for making great stability shoes for those of us who over-pronate. I have three pairs.
  • Nuun: As I mentioned before, this is a great hydration option to get your electrolytes without all the sugar of a sports drink.
  • Honey Stinger: I love their organic, all natural fuel options. The vanilla waffles and gold gels are my favorite. They are also a staple for me on the bike as well.
  • Daily Mile: I love tracking my training and connecting with other fit people on DailyMile.com, or through their app, Electric Miles. You can find me on Daily Mile at http://www.dailymile.com/people/jesica/.
  • For running in the dark, I’m a fan of the Nite Beams LED armband. It has several different settings and is an easy way to add some light to your step so cars and others can see you.
  • After a long run, I love drinking 8-12 ounces of Horizon Organic low-fat chocolate milk. The best!

5. Are you inspired by any running bloggers? If so, who?

I get SO much inspiration by the running blogger community. These are a few of my very favorite running bloggers:

6. Bonus question (sorry, it was hard to limit myself to just 5!): What’s your top advice for new (and perhaps intimidated) runners?

The most important thing you’ll ever accomplish is just taking that first step. Don’t worry about how fast anyone else is going or what anyone else is doing. Run (or run-walk) your own pace. Two years ago, my mom couldn’t run more than 60 seconds without stopping. This year she ran her first half-marathon without stopping. I know it seems impossible when you first start, but it’s not. Find some friends or a local running group you can train with. Running groups have pace teams for every kind of pace, including walkers. Know that you can do it! Be confident in yourself. And DON’T give up! Surround yourself with people who can help you learn about running and who will support you. Get on Twitter and interact with other runners who have been where you are now and can help provide encouragement. It’s not about being fast or doing races. It is about getting out there, getting moving and being healthy!

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Jesica D’Avanza is a communications professional, writer and the blogger behind runladylike.com. As a runner and triathlete, she’s on a mission to find her extraordinary and inspire others to do the same. On her blog, she shares her uncensored (and often unladylike) adventures of what running teaches her about life and what life teaches her about running. When it comes to fitness, she believes in making her own rules, relentlessly pursuing her best self, rebelling against “I can’t” or “I won’t,” not making excuses and empowering all of us to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday. Jesica lives in Atlanta and just finished her first half Ironman and will run her fifth marathon at the end of October. In her day job, she serves as senior communications director for one of the largest global health charities. You can follow her adventures at runladylike.com, on Twitter (@rUnladylike) and on Facebook (facebook.com/runladylike).


  1. Wahoo!! Great interview. Fun to get to know you! Good luck with your race!

  2. I just added this weblog to my rss reader, outstanding stuff. I like your writing style.
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