Review of RESOLVE, A Novel by J.J. Hensley

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If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may recall I am aspiring to be an author of an actual physical book one day (sooner, rather than later would be nice). Truth be told, I already consider myself a writer both because of this blog and my newest writing adventure to promote blood clot education and awareness. As you may also know, I have done a few book reviews on this blog and they are by far my favorite thing to review, especially when written by a first-time author. I recently read Resolve by J.J. Hensely and was able to review it.

Resolve is a murder-mystery novel written by J.J. Hensley, and while I love a good mystery, I was originally interested in reading this book because it takes place at the Pittsburgh Marathon – the race I ran as my first marathon in 2011. What I found once I started reading was that the plot and mystery of the story itself were simply intriguing. I could not put the book down from the first sentence, which remains my favorite.

Here is a short synopsis of Resolve from where you can also order your own copy-

In the Pittsburgh Marathon, 18,000 people from all over the world will participate. Some 9,500 will run a half marathon, while 4,500 participants will attempt the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 will quit before it’s over. More than 100 will be injured and require medical treatment. And one man is going to be murdered. When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows who is going to die — for the simple reason that he’s going to kill him.

Keller, a university professor of criminology at Three Rivers University and a former police officer, is an expert in criminal behavior and victimology. However, when one of his female students is murdered and his graduate assistant attempts to kill him, Keller finds himself swinging frantically back and forth between being a suspect and a victim. When the police assign a motive to the crimes that Keller knows cannot be true, he begins to ask questions that somebody out there does not want answered.

In the course of 26.2 miles, Keller recounts how he found himself encircled by a series of killings that have shocked the city, while he pursues — literally — his prey: the man who is behind it all.

Hensley has a unique and hilarious sense of humor (not too far off from my own), plus the ability to tell a riveting tail that keeps the reader turning the pages until the very end. The characters are well-developed, relevant and the story really portrays both Hensley’s experience as a runner and his background in law enforcement, both of which I can relate to as well. This book is a must read for any runner desiring a non-traditional running book or any person looking for a suspenseful novel.

The book is arranged in a series of chapters named after the miles in a marathon – an idea that I have always thought to be brilliant when writing a running book. Each chapter begins with a recap of that particular mile in the Pittsburgh Marathon and is followed by a section of the murder-mystery story, which takes place at a local university. The miles and story are welded together seamlessly throughout the novel, and I soon forgot I was reading two different stories. Hensley is a seasoned storyteller – both on and off the race course.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interview Mr. Hensley about his novel and here is what he had to say-

1.     Why did you choose to write about the Pittsburgh Marathon? Is it a significant race for you?

The concept of the novel evolved as I was training for the 2010 Pittsburgh Half-Marathon.  My wife and I had moved to the Pittsburgh area in 2006 and had fallen in love with the city.  As I devised the plot of Resolve, I realized I wanted the city to evolve into its own character and the marathon is a perfect vehicle for describing an urban setting.  Additionally, there are so many mysteries and thrillers out there that are set in New York, Los Angeles, or Washington, D.C.  I prefer books in atypical settings with protagonists who are less-than-perfect.

2.     How did you write the recaps of the miles on the race course? I know I ran Pittsburgh and I can barely remember what I saw on the course!

I have to admit I retraced the steps of the half-marathon and also drove the rest of the full marathon course while constructing the novel.  I also quickly discovered the importance of Google Street View because like many runners, during a race, a great deal of my attention was on not crashing into the person in front of me or missing a much needed water station.  It also helped that I’m local to the area, so I’m fairly familiar with the city.

3.     How difficult was it to write about the race as it was taking place and the murder-mystery together? Did you write them together or separately?

I wrote the book exactly as the reader experiences it.  I would construct a race scenes and then move on to the flashbacks in that same chapter.  I wanted to make sure that what was happening in the race (the struggles to climb a steep hill or the main character passing a particular landmark) was symbolic of what was occurring in the main plotline.  I have always felt that each distance race is its own story and every mile is a unique chapter.  Resolve was mapped out in way that I hope reflects that belief.

4.     Do you have a favorite character or one you are particularly proud of?

I really like the two police detectives in the book.  In many novels where the protagonist is not with a police department, law enforcement officers are portrayed as incompetent or corrupt.  Throughout my history in law enforcement, I discovered most officers and agents are extremely honorable and intelligent.  For me, it was important to paint a realistic picture when it came to the detectives and not fall into the trap of using a stereotype that I believe is overused.

Oh, and the main character’s dog, Sigmund!  I have to give him a shout out.

5.     What advice would you give to someone training for their first marathon? What helped you get to the finish line?

I’m admittedly not a great marathoner.  I’ve found I like the half-marathon distance much, much better, but the challenge of the full marathon is something special.  For whatever reason, I can’t seem to run more than 25 – 30 miles per week without getting injured, so for my first marathon I fast-walked every 3rd mile.  That strategy worked great for me as it mentally broke the race up into 2 mile chunks for me.  I would tell myself, “Just run two miles and then you’ll be walking.”  Doing things that way kept me healthy and made the process much easier for me.  By the time I only had 6 or 7 miles to go, I didn’t even bother walking anymore.

6.     How has running influenced your writing? Do you find you are more creative when or shortly after running?

I’m a big believer in the psychological benefits of running.  I think running helps my writing, but it also helps me in my “real” job, my family life, and my overall wellbeing.  If I go three or four days without working out, I’m a real pain in the… well, I can be difficult.

7.     In your opinion, how are running and writing alike?

The biggest similarity is the mental approach.  If you stare at a blank page on the computer monitor and say, “Okay.  Now, I’m going to write 100,000 words and get published.  This should only take a year or two.”  You’re screwed.  It’s the same with running a distance race.  If you stand at the starting line and start thinking about the 13.1 miles or the 26.2 miles you have ahead of you, it’s too overwhelming.  I have to take things one chapter – or one mile – at a time.

8.    How has writing made you a better runner?

I’ve never really thought about it, but it probably has because it forced me to sit at a desk and not over-train.  Of course, I also tend to drink scotch when I write… so maybe not.

9.     How has running made you a better writer?

 Again, I think the psychological benefits have helped greatly in that aspect.  Of course if I’m exhausted after a 10 mile run, my spelling is probably atrocious.

I would definitely recommend Resolve to anyone looking for a great read this summer, especially if you are a runner. Be sure to connect with Hensley on Facebook too where you can find updates and more about his book.

Thank you to J.J. Hensley for the opportunity to interview him!

What about you? Have you read Resolve? If so, what did you think? Will you be adding Resolve to your summer reading list?

Until the next mile marker,

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2011: A Year to Remember

I’ve been reading everyone’s posts recapping 2011. It seems like the thing to do with the New Year only two days away.  It’s inspiring to read back over your victories, races, accomplishments, challenges, struggles and goals – especially the joyful times. Last year on this day, I wrote my own recap and it was happy. My mother started running in 2010 and I said then that she [Mom] has once again reminded me that no matter what you think stands in your way – it doesn’t – you can still accomplish your dreams if you put your heart into it.

Mom and I finishing her first 5K in August 2010.
 I closed with this:
As I lace up my shoes, zip up my jacket and head out the door this afternoon for my last run of 2010, I have a lot to be thankful for. A lot to be grateful for. And a lot to look forward to. I hope you do too. My sincere wish for each of you is that you have a happy and safe New Year, and I can’t wait to see where the new year takes us. I’m already looking forward to reading your blogs. Happy New Year from us.

It’s funny how everything changed on April 21, a short four months later. 2011 was horrible. There’s not really much I wish to remember. In all honesty, I wish I could just forget. My life changed forever a little after 2:00 p.m. on that day when the local police called to tell me there had been an accident and my mother was being taken to the hospital. What I didn’t know until I got there was that she had passed away. I can’t ever change that. 2011 ripped my one of the people who loved me the most right out of my life without even a chance to say goodbye. The last time I saw her? After a six and a half mile run the Saturday before and we went to breakfast with our friend Wendy. The details of that morning? They’re fading faster. The last thing she texted to me I’m going out for a four mile run! Love you, angel!The last thing I said to her? I don’t remember.

Sure, there were some memorable times in 2011. Even some happier times, but everything is overshadowed by how much I miss her and how lonely I am sometimes without her by my side. So many questions, so many things left undone. Not unsaid, my mother knew how much I loved her, just undone.
We ran Cap City, the race she had been training for, in her honor:
Cap City Memory Bib we wore.


The Lucky 13’s getting ready for the race.


Mollie & Me after the race.


Julie finishing the Cap City 1/4 wearing Mom’s Bib #.

I ran Pittsburgh, my first full marathon, with the unexpected help of my dear friends:

After the Pittsburgh Marathon.


My friends drove all the way to PA to surprise me on the course – AND RUN WITH ME!

I kept running even though I wanted to quit:

Westerville Rotary Fourth of July 5K.


Me & Mollie on the Fourth of July.


Running in the rain.


2011 Race Club. I’m in there somewhere.


Me & Mollie after the Columbus Half.


Mollie & Me at the Veterans 5K.

I continued coaching the Lucky 13’s with MIT.

I was honored to receive the Spirit Award from the Columbus Marathon in October:

My friend who nominated me Dave, Me, Michael & Dad.

We carried on the family Thanksgiving Day Tradition:

I know there are good things on the horizon for 2012.

Continued reporting for Pace Per Mile Radio:


Representing FitFluential as an Ambassador to inspire others to achieve their health and fitness dreams:

Pace Coaching, of course:

And my biggest challenge, happening soon, The Goofy:

Spending time with the ones I love. I’m not taking them for granted.

And more blogging, you blogland friends, have been with me through the darkest time in my life. Your support, love, encouragement, sympathy, understanding and friendship has not gone unnoticed.

But, I also know 2012 won’t even be the same. Every joy is laced with sadness too at all that is left undone. Opportunities lost. Death is so final. You can’t demand a redo. I never knew what that felt like before this year.

So, for as much as I wish I could forget, I will remember. For my mother. Because she would never want me to forget that I love running – and so did she.

My wish for you all? A joyful New Year filled with love, happiness, friendship and good health.

Until the next mile marker,

Dream Big, Set a Goal & Go For It!

Let’s travel back in time, shall we? Remember these posts? Remember when I checked off one goal for the year and then apparently stopped working on them?

Well, I do!

My 2011 Goals:

  1. Run the Pittsburgh Marathon in May. Check! On May 15th, I became a Marathoner!
  2. Lose the last 50 pounds the healthy way.
  3. Be at my goal weight of 150 pounds by this summer.
  4. Be a committed, reliable, inspiring, encouraging, and helpful Pace Coach to the 13-minute per mile pace group and help newer runners achieve their dreams of running a half marathon or marathon.
  5. Obtain my ACSM Personal Training Certification by April 2011.

At least the first one was a good one? I want to be inspired again, to reach my goals and feel the sweet success of achieving something great. I want to say Yes! Did that, now what’s next?

I have been working on a goal/vision board to keep me motivated. And, I recently entered the Goal Board Contest to win a pair of glam gloves by RB!
Here’s my board:
Sorry the picture is not very clear!

It keeps me motivated because when I start to get those negative thoughts in my head (I can’t; I’m too fat; I’m too slow; It’s too hard; etc.) I can remember what I did before and know that I can achieve great things! I have pictures on it from my first half marathon and my first full, as well as my bib from Pittsburgh.
As you can see, my Mother is a huge inspiration to me. It keeps me going to know that my mom would never want me to quite running. When I see her picture, especially her smiling and waving at the Finish Line after her first 5K, I want to run every day because she no longer can. There are several pictures of her on my board, including one of her holding me when I was only days old and a picture of her, me and Bart Yasso. That was a great day for us. We both got to meet our running hero.

And, of course, the Lucky 13’s keep me motivated when I want to give up! I have never found such loving, supportive, caring and encouraging friends as I have in the running community. I am thankful every day that I have each and every one of them in my life. They have been right by my side – through thick and thin, no questions asked – and I know I can always turn to them for advice, guidance, tough love and support – or just plain fun! They are my rock(s?).
I want to update my goals too. Things are hard right now, no doubt, and I have some pretty big things on the horizon. I need to slow down, take time to myself to figure things out, but I don’t have to give up. I may not reach these goals in 2011, but I will reach them. Maybe even before I am 30 years old! Here are my updated goals (in no particular order):

  1. Run the Pittsburgh Marathon in May. Check! On May 15th, I became a Marathoner!
  2. Run the Goofy Challenge in January 2012! 39.3 miles in 2 days to honor my mother!  
  3. Lose the last 50 pounds the healthy way.
  4. Reach my goal weight of 150 pounds.
  5. Be a committed, reliable, inspiring, encouraging, and helpful Pace Coach to the 13-minute per mile pace group and help newer runners achieve their dreams of running a half marathon or marathon.
  6. Inspire someone every day.
  7. Obtain my RRCA Coaching Certification.
  8. Work on making my relationship with my husband the best it has ever been.
 What about you? What are some of your goals? If you haven’t entered the contest, tell me about your goals in the comments! 
Look for my photo!
And, please consider voting for me to be a part of Team Refuel! You can do so once a day until September 15th HERE. I am on Page 5. To learn more about chocolate milk as recovery fuel and what I plan to do with the grant money if I am selected, please visit THIS post. Thank you. I appreciate any votes that I receive and the time you take to think of me.
Until the next mile marker, 


It’s probably no secret that I am in a rut – majorly. Not only in running, but in life too. Everything feels like a chore. It doesn’t help that the heat index in Central Ohio is 110 degrees, either, that does make everything a chore. I sweat just walking from my front door to the car. It’s hard to breath. I haven’t even tried to run this week. I won’t try until Saturday. I can’t get out of bed to run at 5:30 a.m. when it’s merely 80 degrees outside let alone get up, shower, get dressed and make it to work by eight in the morning. Everything hurts. My knees ache and throb from time to time. I think about my mom a lot and it hurts a lot. I want to lie on a beach and forget the world, but it would be too much effort to get there.
Truth is I haven’t really had a good run since Pittsburgh, as long as we’re being honest. That was two months ago. Running used to bring me so much joy, now it feels like a chore. But, I love running. I know I do. I miss it. I pass people running when I’m driving and think Man, am I jealous. Immediately followed by you’re stupid for running in this hellish heat.
And while we’re being honest, I’ve gained 16 pounds since Pittsburgh. Yeah. It’s easy to slip back into the old lifestyle – mindlessly snacking, eating out all the time, ordering the French fries, hitting the drive through, not planning your meals, skipping workouts, not bothering to fill up your water bottle throughout the day, a beer or wine with dinner, putting yourself down, only focusing on the negative. It comes really easy. And so do the pounds. I had a meltdown Wednesday morning when I had to dig out the “fat” dress pants because my “skinny” ones were just snug enough to be uncomfortable. I cried for what seemed like forever and was late for work. I swore I would never go back, not even for a second. I blame running (or the lack-there-of). It’s a love-hate thing with us. Maybe that is why me and running usually get along so well.
I feel like a failure and no amount of telling me “but, you’re not,” isn’t going to help right now. Roll with the punches? I’m too beat up to care. Look on the bright side? There isn’t one. Is the glass half full or half empty? It’s pretty much drained. It could be worse? Don’t tell me how or it just might happen. This too shall pass? Maybe someday.
You get the point. I’m stuck in a rut.
And I feel like everyone knows it and is tired of hearing about it, especially my husband, who has the unfortunate luck of spending quite a significant time with me. I know he hasn’t been feeling good this week, but I started wallowing in my misery as soon as I got home today. He asked me what was wrong and he listened while I told him. He didn’t speak or do anything – he just listened. I figured he didn’t care. Who wants to listen to me complain, especially when they don’t feel good? He rarely talks with me about running anyway.
Then my husband said, “You’re burned out. It happens to everyone. It happens.” My initial reaction was I wish he would have just kept quiet if he was going to blow me off, but then he continued:
 It happened to me in Martial Arts and I hated it. I worked hard to compete and I kept telling my instructor that I was I was wearing out, feeling the burn-out, if you will. He kept pushing and so I kept pushing, training for hours on end everyday – all the way to the Junior Olympics, where I placed second in the Nation. Then, I didn’t care. I quit right then and there and never went back. And I miss it everyday.
So, you burned yourself out. Shit happens. You fell off the horse. So, get back on. Remember what you love about running and start there. Start over again. You ran and ran and ran training for Pittsburgh and now you can’t. So don’t right now. Remember instead what you love. Run halfs for awhile. Run 5K’s. Have fun with your friends. Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks, stop comparing yourself to others. You have to run your own race, not everyone else’s. It is what it is. Everyone gets burned out. Everyone has to take time off – even professionals. Even Lance Armstrong or Bart Yasso or anyone else you are going to throw at me.
You’ll run again and you’ll love it, then you’ll burn yourself out again and hate it. Take a break. It’s okay. Run the Goofy and then don’t run a Marathon for a year or two. Run halfs, if you want. Focus on smaller races. Have fun coaching. Don’t give up what you love. Fall in love again.
Whoa. Who are you and what have you done with Michael? I was speechless. And then I started thinking. 

I started thinking about all of the reasons why I love running. Because it makes me happy. Because I feel free. Because I feel healthy, strong and beautiful. When I don’t run, I don’t feel these things.

Because I love writing about it and I love helping others through my words. If I can’t run right now, I can still write about it. I can still help someone else find joy in accomplishing what they once thought was impossible. 

Because I love reading about running and because I can always do that. I can learn about what will make me a better runner when I do start training again. Not only that, I can learn to fuel my body properly. I can finally try to figure out the great endurance vs. weight loss conflict. 

Because I love coaching people. I want to help people. And, if my training is sidelined, it doesn’t mean I can’t help others train. I can find joy when others find joy in their training. 

Because my running friends have become my best friends. I would not be where I am today without them.

Because my mom loved running and she wouldn’t want me to stop forever. Because she can no longer run. And because I know she would say there are more people to inspire, more people to get off the couch. 

Because it has made me who I am. I never used to think I was capable of anything – let alone running a marathon or a half marathon. Now, since I started running, I know there is nothing I can’t do. Because I am the person I love the most when I am running.  

And that person also needs a break – so she can come back stronger and better and healthier than before. I need to give that to her and let her heal – from the physical and emotional scars of the last three months. Mind, body and soul, she has asked me for a break and I need to let her have it without feeling guilty or being upset about it. She deserves that. She’s been through quite a lot. I don’t need to keep beating her down. I’m done fighting her. 

She will have good runs again, I know, and go on to run races that she never dreamed she would. Just not right now. And I am okay with that. I will give her what she needs, despite what I want. And run again we will – stronger and better together than ever before. 
Until the next mile marker, 

My Race Rundown [hopefully!]

It’s probably no secret that I have been in a running slump since running 26.2 in Pittsburgh. I haven’t been logging more than a few miles here and there and haven’t done much strength training in weeks. I even gained about 8 pounds since the race and haven’t got too excited for anything running related except for Saturday morning workouts with MIT.
I know post-race blues are normal, I felt down after my first half marathon, but nothing like I feel now. I just feel sad, unmotivated and sluggish. In the weeks leading up to Pittsburgh I wasn’t running a whole lot, given the unexpected passing of my mother, but I felt like I was on a constant high getting ready for the race. There was no way I was going to let my mom down now. Not to mention, watching my teammates and friends cross the finish line at the Cap City Half the week before my race after running with them for six months was one of the greatest experiences of my life. We ran in honor of my mother, both here and in Pittsburgh. It was emotional. It was hard. My mom was supposed to run Cap City. She didn’t get that chance. We ran for her.
Me and Mom
I don’t think I felt the emotions until now. The few times I have run, it hurts – emotionally and physically. I look for my mother on the trails; still pick up the phone to ask her how her run went. I think about the races she would have wanted to run this summer. I think about how she was hopeful to run with the Lucky 13’s. Her last run was at a 13:30 pace, she accomplished her goal. Her reward to herself? Running with us – as if we had a speed requirement anyway!
Physically, my knee hurts. It’s not excruciating, I can still run, but it’s bothering me during normal activities like walking down the stairs, getting up off the floor, or sitting at a desk for too long. That’s how it started before. I’m not afraid of injury again, I just know I need to be proactive with my knee or it will get worse, then I won’t be able to run for awhile, then I will probably feel worse. [This is the part where you tell me I am right]. I’ve slacked on strength training – my knee pulls out of the groove instead of my hamstrings pulling my knee. I can feel it not working right. I need to fix it. Preferably soon. Wow, that was painful to admit too.
So, naturally, I got home from Pittsburgh and signed up for another full marathon in September. The Air Force Marathon to be exact. Only, I’m not ready to jump back into that kind of training. It hurts too much right now. Some days, it’s a struggle for me to make it out the door in the morning, let alone attempt a 15 mile run. Plus, I am not entirely sure that my knee could handle it yet. Last Saturday was supposed to be a nine mile run, I made it to two. Maybe I need a longer break before jumping back into higher mileage.
I want to enjoy running and coaching my pace group. Not feel pressure to get the miles in.
But, I love to race. And I love summer. And I love summer races. It’s my favorite time of the year! Coming up with a race schedule has been difficult. I’ve changed my mind more than once, committed to a race, backed out, and then recommitted again (all in my head).
I’ve asked advice, given myself advice, and continued to rest (mostly) day after day. I’m getting antsy to run. But, the pan still looms fresh before me like a watery haze. I can almost see through it – to the other side – but I can’t get through it just yet. And so I wait and argue with myself and tell myself to chill right before telling myself to get back out there and pound it out on the pavement. They tell me this is normal. I don’t want to disappoint anyone; I don’t want to let myself down. Lately I have felt like it is a no-win situation. 
Today, I came up with a race schedule I think I can live with (both sides of me). Deciding on a race schedule is hard enough – let alone trying to come up with something concrete when you can’t even agree with yourself!
The Nitty Gritty:
Emerald City Quarter (09/04) – I loved the Emerald Half, it was a PR for me, and for as much as I want to run it again, I will give the Quarter a shot.
Air Force Half Marathon (09/17) – Don’t hate me because I changed my registration!
Columbus Full Marathon (10/16) – I backed out of this race once before because of my stupid knee, I won’t let that happen again!
The Goofy Challenge (January 2012) – 39.3 miles in two days! And you thought I was done after 26.2! Or, wait, did I think that instead?!   
Race Club: 5K’s, Fun, and Worthwhile Causes to Me
Race for Ellie (06/12)
Westerville Rotary 5K (07/04)
Panerathon 5K (08/07)
Purple Strides 5K (08/13)
A&F Challenge 5K (09/08)
Oktoberfest (09/23)
EAS 5K & 10 Miler (09/25)
Buckeye Classic 10K (11/13)
So…it’s settled then? I sure hope so! Oh, wait, no one ask me where I will get the funds for these races – I am still working on that part! Overcommitment at it’s finest.
I read back over this post and think, “Should I even run at all?” Ugh, just when I though I was getting somewhere. I miss my mom. Somehow, running is not the same without her.
Then, inspiration comes, from Robert of the Lucky 13’s, We’re the Lucky 13’s, the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the icing on the cake. When the going gets tough, we get going, albeit at a 13 minute mile pace, but…. Nobody does it better! Which makes me feel sad for the rest. Nobody does it quite the way we do, baby, we’re the best!”
 And I know, I’m making the right decision to keep going, even when the going is tough.
Until the next mile marker,