Name: Jamilee Jones (aka Jaylee and Jami)
Family: Awesome mom named Nancy (not sure what I’d do without her), fabulous dad named Bob (nothing beats spending time with him, I’ve even talked him into running some races, he’ll be at the long Island half marathon, it’ll be his first!), and a younger brother named Taylor (he can be a pain at times but I still love him! One day I’ll get him out on those hills…)
Boyfriend: Craig Brekne, such a sweetheart!
Occupation: Living Environment and Special Education Teacher by school year and Ocean Rescue lifeguard by summer, I get to live the best of both worlds!
Super stoked to have been asked to be Warrior of the Week by Lou, thanks! I can’t believe it’s been just over a year since my first hills run and boy are those hills life changing but more on that to come later.
I’ll start out way back when I was just a baby. I received my first ever pair of running shoes as a gift at my Christening from someone that many people in the running community here on long island know, Pat Peterson. He was a wonderful man, runner and friend who passed away earlier this year after battling pancreatic cancer. Each year at this time we have the tree decorated and those reebok running shoes are always present, they will forever remind me of Pat and the road that he really got me started on even if it was 20 something years later.
From the time I was a kid athletics was never my strong point. I played soccer on a co-ed kids team with my brother and I’m pretty sure neither of us ever scored a goal, even in practice… I took dance classes growing up and lets just say my dancing skills and rhythm and beat where just all things I really lacked! Next it was time to try cheerleading, that I was actually ok and stuck with for a few years competing when I was really young. Then cheerleading turned into mostly gymnastic cartwheels and flips and back handspring and once again I was at a loss so that was the end of my cheerleading career. In middle school I thought I was meant to be a basketball player and asked for a net for the driveway to play at home with all the neighborhood kids. I wasn’t awful but anytime I played I ended up hurting someone (usually my brother, took a chunk out of his gum once and broke his thumb on vacation another time, I played rough lol). I tried out for the middle school team and got cut after the first day of try-outs, again not my sport. That same year then next season my friend talked me into trying out for the swim team with her and her other friend. After the first day of try-outs my friend quit but her friend talked me into sticking it out with her. I stuck it up and ended up falling in love with the sport!
Once I hit high school swimming started taking over my life and I loved it! I swam for the varsity swim team and then joined the local swim club. I was swimming all the time all year long, never the fastest but always working hard and having a blast. We used to play water polo of Fridays for the last half hour of practice and I was a beast, it was so much fun! I contemplated quitting swim club to join a water polo team but it was wicked expensive and they only had practices 3 days a week at LIAC, too far a hike for my parents to drive on weeknights so I stuck with what I was already doing. Anytime that we would have to run at practice I said no way, I’d figure out a way to get out of it. At the same rate the mile and the pacer test in school where like torture, I’m pretty sure my fastest mile ever during that time was up around 15 minutes… I couldn’t even make it one lap around the track without feeling like I was dying, probably why today I still hate the first mile to mile and a half of every run and I haven’t ran just a mile since high school days. Back in 9th grade I also started lifeguarding at pools and teaching swim lessons both at pools and in the open water and it was the best first job I could ever have had, going to work was always a blast! At the end of my varsity swim senior year season I finally decided that I wasn’t ready to give it up and wanted to swim in college.
The following year I headed off to SUNY Oswego for college. They talk about college being the best years of your life and I totally know what they mean! I lived those four years to the max being involved in everything from the swim team to being a mentor, joining a co-ed frat based on community service, working with campus recreation and so much more. I also made some of the best friends I could ever imagine and even though we now live far away from one another we are still the best of friends. We all used to attempt to run together from our house off campus to campus and then over to Laker where we had a gym to lift, I always only finally made it to the gym when everyone else was done with the lift and we all walked back together, it was aweful!
Swimming in college was also a blast, the team was like an immediate family and every year I look forward to going back for the alumni weekend. Coach used to make us run tours of the campus, I used to get out of it by either running stairs or throwing some fins on and treading water in the diving well holding a medicine ball over my head. We’d head to Florida on training trip this time every year and coach always made us run in addition to our double practices, I used to run until he could no longer see me and then slow my roll to just above a slow walk because that was all I could maintain for the hour run. There was one practice my senior year that he made us run hill repeats in town on a side road, these hills seemed impossible for me at the time, now looking at them I’m like they aren’t even the size of that first hill on Adirondack! Being captain of the team I had to do them and couldn’t get out of it this time… I ran the hills and the team loved me for it because they were able to recover from their fast sprint while I died coming back up before we all stared together again.
My Junior year I headed back to school with three of my friends, when we were just outside of Syracuse we got into an accident and rolled the car a few times landing on its side. We were taken to the hospital and luckily we only had minor injuries; my friend had a cracked tooth and a concussion, her brother had a sore back and I had torn my AC joint in my shoulder. My friend sitting next to me unbelievably did not have any injuries and he had unbuckled his seatbelt 15 minutes before the accident and was the first one discharged from the hospital. This started another round of physical therapy for me and my already bad now worse shoulders making me know that after college I wouldn’t be looking to join a masters swim team right away because of how much it aggravates me when I swim a lot.
My last semester of college I decided to do my student teaching in New Zealand! It was the best experience ever! I worked it out that I didn’t have to go over until after the swim championships and stayed until the end of May. My host family and cooperating teacher as well as all of the other teachers and students where all amazing! I still hear from some of the students from time to time (they are turning 16!). Anyway my time spent in NZ was amazing and truly life changing however I had just finished out competitive swim season and was still in the I can eat anything mode. At the time aside from walking a lot I wasn’t doing anything active and I packed on the pounds, very very quickly over those few months. I came home and said well I’ll never swim like I used to so I need to find something else to do because the weight gain can’t continue. At the time that summer I was working with Jon Heitner and he was running like crazy! That was the summer I took up running and after doing my first 5k, the Bellport clipper classic and walking most of it, I was hooked and wanted to be able to run the entire next one. Next I did the Sachem Cross Country 5k, that was a bad decision as the second ever 5k, it was a trail run full of hills! I finished in just under 40 minutes and still had to walk a bunch but I had found out that they were doing it again two weeks later and I began to run every day. At that 5k 2 weeks later I was able to run the entire course and I took 5 minutes off my time. I was hooked! I gradually kept running and adding small amounts of distance.
The following year I talked my brother into running a few races with me and he loved them but that died out after the summer but I signed up for the Long Island half in May and will be out of the country so I think he is going to run it in my place! Anyway, that same time we both took the ocean rescue lifeguard course together and I’ll never forget the instructor starting out before the run saying to make sure you run the whole time, I think it was 3 miles. Well we started out and I was like I’ve got this, yeah no, running on the sand is a whole different ball game and it was awful! I ran the entire thing but I was so slow everyone was already working on carries by the time I got back frown emoticon That test for my ocean rescue certification was the most mentally and physically challenging thing that I have ever done but I am so glad that I did. This passed summer I recertified and breezed through the test other then having to carry my brother (the biggest guy in the test) up the beach. I love love love my summer job!
Fast forward to November of 2014, Jon asked Craig and I to go run the hills with him. I gave him a heads up that I still wasn’t fast and that they’d have to wait for me but they said they didn’t mind. I thought we were going out to do a 5k on the hills but at the bottom of Adirondack I realized that we must be going for longer then 3 miles considering we were at least 2 from where we started. That was when they told me it was a 10k and I was ready to kill them both. As we ran down blue point they tried to catch as many falling leaves as they could and I could barely focus on keeping one foot in front of the other. It was after that morning that Craig and I had our first real date in Port Jeff and I stopped pushing him away. A few days later we were both back for our first group run with the hills and I knew right then that I loved this group! Since that first group run I have met and chatted with many of you and I have enjoyed every second! From awesome slaughterhouse chats with John Greene and Deb and Debbie to my first and only meatgrinder so far with Juls, many long runs with Joanne, the vampire runs that I started back in May and have only missed 2 of since then, Debbie planting seeds in my head for things like lets run a marathon and so so so many more. This is an amazing group that has truly changed my life this passed year and I’m excited for us to keep growing and enjoying our hills runs and each others company every day! So from not being able to make it once around the track to running a marathon these hills have become part of my life and have made me a better and stronger person.