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Disclosure: The fine folks at Click sent me a canister of CLICK All-In-One Coffee and Protein Drink Mix (caramel, nomnom!), a canister of CLICK Active All-In-One Coffee and Protein Drink Mix, two sample packets of other flavors, and a CLICK logo Blender Bottle. They are also generously providing a giveaway prize! As always, this review is my work, and contains my opinions. I wrote this–there is no ghost-written or “sponsored” content in this post.

Ice, shaker, CLICK, water, GO!

#CoffeeYesCoffee #ButFirstCoffee

Coffee is one of the greatest things on Earth. (If you disagree, you might be reading the wrong blog.) I love, love, love coffee. The best part of my Saturday (after sleeping in!) is grinding whole beans and making a fresh pot, then settling in for a mini-staycation. Coffee, however, is not breakfast. Even with milk and “fixin’s” coffee just doesn’t have the staying power I wish it did, and it definitely doesn’t have the nutrition to be a meal–if you’re drinking a coffeehouse coffee in the morning, it’s basically a sugar-bomb; if you’re drinking it non-fat to “save calories” you’re removing part of what could help your tummy feel satisfied even if I do get that you don’t need your mocha to have 450 calories (that’s a venti Starbucks mocha with 2% milk and whipped cream).

Right before I moved from Oakland to Portland, a friend told me about CLICK, a new drink mix that is real coffee with protein. Not coffee-flavored protein, but coffee with protein. Actual coffee, not faux-coffee. Protein is an important part of breakfast because it helps you feel full. Intrigued, I dashed off an email to the founders to learn more. Naturally the box with the goodies arrived right as I was moving and everything was in chaos, so I set it aside instead of tearing into it immediately. (This was not easy. I love opening boxes!)  I decided to wait until the road trip part of the move, for two reasons. One, taking CLICK with me meant I would have an easy breakfast every day. (Important when you are driving hundreds of miles with a cat and his many accessories.) Two, there is some data that starting a new habit while away from home will help you carry that habit over when you get home. (If you’ve read any books about habits and willpower, I’m sure you already know a few things about habit change. If you haven’t, I highly recommend Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonical, and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. They tread some of the same ground, but approach the topic from different angles.)

With traffic at a dead-stop for the visible mile ahead, so glad I had breakfast with me!

As an adult, I’ve become a serial breakfast skipper. (Or should that be cereal? I snap, crackle, pop myself up!) I know my body pretty well, and I can definitely feel my work and workouts suffer when I skip breakfast or just have coffee. When I skip breakfast, I am generally super ravenous by the time lunch rolls around, ready to stuff All The Foods into my face. As annoying as moving is–don’t ever move, ever–I decided to leverage the move as a life re-set. In “my new life” I have enough breakfast to make my body happy until lunch. While I doubted the CLICK literature asking if my coffee pot felt neglected (because no way am I giving up coffee!), I was game to try it.

Wait, what’s in CLICK? CLICK is an instant drink mix made from real coffee. (I promise, it tastes NOTHING like that bland “instant coffee” or “freeze dried coffee” stuff your parents had in the 1970s.) CLICK is intended to be a breakfast (or other meal or snack) replacement, though you can drink it in place of any regular coffee drink (saving calories and adding nutrition). In addition to two shots of espresso, CLICK has protein and 23 essential vitamins and minerals. Yes, it has sugar, but not much (5g per serving). If you make it with water, a serving is 110 or 120 calories, depending on which flavor you choose and how much you use. (If two scoops is too much flavor for you, try using just one scoop. My sweet spot is around one and a half scoops.) To make CLICK, you put CLICK in water and shake/stir. You can make it with milk or a milk substitute. You can make it hot or cold. You can make it fancier in a blender. You can make it in a box, you can make it with a fox! Oh, wait. Wrong story. Carrying on… CLICK is NOT for you if: One, you are vegan. CLICK contains milk. (If you’re interested and enough other people pester them too, I bet a vegan CLICK could be in the works.) Two, you are allergic to soy. CLICK contains soy-based ingredients. Three, you hate coffee. CLICK is coffee. If you hate coffee, can we even be friends?!?

The first taste test: cold-ish. It sounds silly now, but the first time I mixed CLICK I panicked. What if I don’t like it? What if it tastes weird? It sounds silly for many reasons, but at that moment I was on a very tight budget and this is what I had planned for breakfast. (Plus I had agreed to write an honest review, and no one likes to have to tell someone “hey I tried your product and it was icky.”) To me, a yucky breakfast is almost worse than no breakfast at all. The number one thing I fear in a drink mix is grittiness, and most drinks mix better in warmer rather than colder water, so I started with cold-ish water. I was particularly worried  because I was using water as a base, which would make any grit even grittier. If you’ve ever had protein powder, I’m sure you know what I mean–there’s nothing like drinking a glass of sand. Cautiously, I put the shaker ball into the Blender Bottle, added CLICK, added water, closed the lid (very important step!), and gave it a few shakes. It quickly dissolved. I took a deep breath, followed by an itty-bitty baby sip and…

IT WAS DELICIOUS!

First, the flavor was delicious. The caramel tasted like a fancy cold coffee drink treat. Second, CLICK dissolved completely. The resulting drink had a 100% smooth, completely liquid consistency without any lumps. There was NO grittiness at all, not even a little bit, and no weird crunchy bits left at the bottom (you know, those weird protein powder dregs). I quickly hoovered the remainder. Afterwards I felt like I’d had a coffee drink, and a little breakfast. My tummy was happy until lunch.

Icy cold coffee! The next day, I decided to try iced CLICK. The container said I could ice it, but I wasn’t sure I believed (yet). Also, some drinks are much better if you make them hot and ice them later. Since this was a test, I put the mixer ball in the Blender Bottle, filled the cup with ice, added CLICK, and then filled the cup with water (as cold as the tap would allow). After putting on the lid and shaking, I was shocked that CLICK dissolved completely! Even though it dissolved well at room temperature, I honestly thought it would be a little sandy-tasting when iced. Nope! I really like CLICK icy cold, so this is how I have been making it ever since. I’m still amazed that a powdered drink mix with protein dissolves this well without using an electric blender.

How much do I love CLICK?

Portability is key for breakfast on the go

For starters, I’ve continued to start every work day with iced CLICK (except the days I have been out of town–I need to get some little containers to put single servings in so I’m not relying on single-serve packets or plastic bags). I had planned to try making a hot CLICK, but Portland has been pretty warm since I moved and the thought of commuting on MAX with a hot beverage is not appealing. (That will change, I know!) When I reached the bottom of the canister, I hustled over to the website for more. As a result, I’m happy to report the vanilla latte flavor is also very yummy. (I haven’t opened the chocolate yet, as it seems overly decadent to have three canisters open at once.) Not only did I spend my own money on this–no special discount code or anything–I opted to buy the four-pack of canisters (and it comes with a cute hot drink mug). This is not a fling, my friends, this is a long-term relationship. I might need to go change my Facebook status. (My coffee pot is super jealous. I haven’t purchased a single bag of coffee beans since I moved.)

CLICK Active is another super yummy coffee-based drink mix with protein. CLICK Active is designed to take advantage of that magical post-workout “window of opportunity” when your (now worked-out and tired) muscles are extra-ready to suck in the nutrition to help repair and build muscle. You can read more about post-workout nutrition in general on my favorite nutrition site, Precision Nutrition. In a a nutshell, in a post-workout situation, nutrition helps the body to replenish glycogen, decrease protein breakdown, and increase protein synthesis. That’s what CLICK Active aims to do–and it’s still a better plan nutritionally than a venti mocha. CLICK Active has protein plus branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are the building blocks of protein, and therefore also of muscles. BCAAs are more easily digested than protein (which your body has to work to break down into amino acids before your body can use them).

The difference between CLICK and CLICK Active is basically the difference between a meal replacement drink and a recovery drink. No, the two are NOT the same thing! Think of CLICK as a low calorie breakfast or snack to help keep you on track nutritionally, and CLICK Active as a post-workout drink that helps your muscles recover. You can read more about the difference on the CLICK website’s blog. The CLICK website has all sorts of useful information, including a weight-loss plan (focused on portion sizes, making good choices, and exercise!) and recipes for shakes and snacks (coffee protein CLICK pop, anyone?).

My cat observed, “She haz a sad.”

How much do YOU love CLICK?

You won’t know until you try it, right? So you should enter to win it!

My new friends at CLICK are offering one prize: your choice of a canister of CLICK or CLICK Active, in the flavor of your choice (assuming availability) and a snazzy purple CLICK branded Blender Bottle to go with it.

Since I practice law and all, here are the rules: (1) this contest is not sponsored or endorsed or in any way affiliated with any social media outlet (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snap, Tumblr, Pinterest, mySpace, Livejournal, or anything else you can name); (2) there is no purchase necessary to enter; (3) entrants must be 18 or older because I don’t want to violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and because in the U.S. minors can’t enter into a binding contract, and because teenagers don’t need to start the day with two shots of espresso; (4) there is one prize and will be one winner, who will be required to submit their shipping address for prize delivery purposes; (5) the winning entrant will be contacted by email, and must respond to that email within three days or a new winner will be selected; (6) this contest is void where prohibited (I’m pretty sure that still includes Quebec, sorry!); (7) if I missed any major legal points I reserve the right to add them here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I attended Natural Products Expo West on a Press pass. This post is not sponsored, endorsed, written, paid-for, etc. by Expo West (or any related entity) or any of the companies and products discussed below. The giveaway prize consists of samples I picked up at the Expo or purchased. Per usual, the topic was my idea and the opinions are all mine. Happy reading!

Chickpeas are everywhere this year. (Beets too, but that’s another post.) At Expo West I saw chickpeas in soups, ready-to-eat meals, baked goods, flour, chips, puffed snack foods, frozen snacks and entrees, and pretty much every category (other than beverages–maybe next year?). I’m not sure if I’m obsessed with chickpeas because I never ate them as a kid, so as an adult they are still a novelty, or because I know they are packed with protein and fiber, making them a great addition to my eating plan.

These are my favorites:

Vana Green Chickpea Superfood Bowls

Vegan, certified gluten-free, soy-free, non-GMO

There are so many good things to say about these that I don’t want to forget the most important: they are yummy! Vana Life Foods makes four varieties, each featuring green chickpeas: chipotle, black beans, and sweet corn; chimichurri, coconut, and butternut squash; kale, potato, rosemary, tomato; coconut, lime, cilantro, bell pepper, sweet potato. I’m not going to lie, I took lousy notes as I tasted my way across the expo, so I can’t remember which one was my favorite. The kale/potato/rosemary/tomato was sort of Italian-food inspired, not too zesty, with the kale sufficiently hidden that I didn’t feel like I was chewing on the lawn. The coconut/lime/cilantro/bell pepper/sweet potato also has lemongrass in it, and the flavor reminded me a little bit of Thai food. The chipotle/black bean/sweet corn has a vaguely Cuban flavor about it, zippy but not so spicy that it puts your mouth on fire. Finally, the chimichurri/coconut/butternut squash has to be South-American-inspired (as google tells me chimichurri sauce comes from Argentina).

If you open the package at the notches and microwave it, the bottom part of the package serves as a bowl.

Don’t fear the green chickpea. If you’ve never eaten one, pretend it’s like the first time you ate green pasta, or colored frosting. Why are they green? As Vana’s website explains:

A green chickpea is a garbanzo bean harvested from the vine in its optimal nutritional state that is immediately blanched and flash frozen to preserve all its inherent goodness. That’s because when it’s green, the flavorful young legume is packed with protein, fiber, A, B, and C vitamins, and minerals—while being low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Basically, it’s a superfood at its best.

Seattle-based Vana won the Expo West NEXTY (sort of like an Oscar for natural food) for Best New Packaged Food. The shelf-stable pouch has two places you can tear across the top to open (little notches help you tear it properly). Tear at the top line to pour out into a bowl, pan, etc. Tear at the bottom line if you want to keep the food in the package and microwave it–it turns into a bowl! (This is really a pretty cool trick.) There is no BPA in the packaging, and it is recyclable.)

When I left the booth, I told the great folks at Vana that there were only two things wrong with their product: (1) there are only four flavors (for now–looking forward to next year!), and (2) there aren’t any in my office desk drawer. The website has a store locator. You can also buy these green chickpea pouches through the Vana website, or via various other online vendors (e.g. Jet, Amazon). The price varies, but is generally $4-5; on the Vana website, a single pouch is $4.99 while a six pack of the same flavor is $26.94 (cheap compared to eating lunch out, even if you factor in the additional cost of a piece of fruit or side and a drink).

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Banza: Pasta Made From Chickpeas

Gluten-free, kosher, soy-free, allergy-friendly, produced in a nut-free facility, vegan (except for the mac n cheese varieties)

Technically this one is “cheating” since I first met Banza at IDEA last summer, but they were at Expo West this year.  (In 2015 Banza won the “People’s Choice” NEXTY at Natural Products Expo East.) You know how when you make traditional pasta you can eat a bowl the size of your butt, and then you still want seconds? So you love pasta, but maybe think you shouldn’t eat it so often? Banza is your dream, baby. Over 90% of the pasta is chickpeas, and the protein and fiber ensure that not only do you have to eat a smaller portion, you aren’t going to be starving and go back for seconds (or thirds). Banza cooks like regular pasta, though the water might foam up a tiny bit more (because hey, chickpeas). Just like regular pasta, you have to keep an eye on it towards the end to make sure it comes out al dente and not all mushy.

My personal favorite is the rotini shape, which I douse in warm italian spaghetti sauce mixed with Beyond Beef crumbles and then top with grated parmesean or mozarella shreds. (The ridges on the rotini help hold the saucey goodness.) Banza also make macaroni/elbows, spaghetti, penne, and shell shapes, and offers four varieties of mac and cheese. My favorite thing about Banza is that unlike several other non-wheat pastas I have tried, this one has the right toothiness to it, so when you chew it is just like chewing regular pasta.

Banza started in Detroit in 2013 with a non-cook 23-year-old kid messing with his food (or so the legend goes). I love a scrappy start-up with a great product, but I’m not sure you can call Banza a start-up anymore, since you can buy their pasta in Target and they are part of the inaugural class of the Chobani Food Incubator. At any rate, you can find Banza in 2,700+ stores in the US and Canada, including Shop Rite, meijer, HEB, Wegmans, Sprouts, Fairway, Marianos, Whole Foods (select regions–but if you bug the manager at your local store you can probably get it too), and Eataly. You can also buy from various online sellers such as Thrive Market ($2.95/box), where prices are $3-5, or buy directly from the Banza website (6 boxes for $30 though if you choose the subscription option, you also save 20%).

Hippeas: the vegan improvement on cheese puffs

Certified gluten-free, vegan, corn-free, and have no added MSG, trans-fats, or artificial preservatives

Clear, clean, consistent messaging from Hippeas

If you were at Expo West, it was really hard to miss the cute Hippeas swag themed to match their packaging. The Hippeas booth was strategically located at the corner of the room closest to the door, so a ton of people hit it up immediately when the Expo opened for the day, meaning tons of bright yellow bags with smiles on them (the eye is a chickpea, of course). If you weren’t at Expo West, you may have seen Hippeas at Starbucks and wondered what’s inside those yellow bags. The best I can put it, it’s a crunchy snack with the texture of those cheap cheesy puffs but with unusual flavors and a MUCH better nutrition profile.

Hippeas flavors include far out fajita, sriracha sunshine, vegan white cheddar, maple haze, pepper power, and happenin’ hickory. Far out fajita–the flavor I’m putting in the prize pack–is described as “A fiery stash of chilli, paprika and cumin puffs to take on your journey to self-discovery” on the website. They are definitely flavorful, so you might want to watch out what you pair them with! A single serving has 4g protein and 3g dietary fiber. It’s not the same as eating the chickpea, but it’s a definite snack improvement.

Hippeas also gives back. You can head to their website and read about current initiatives, including their support for Farm Africa. Oh, and they are hiring.

Chickpeatos: a crunchable munchable

Organic, kosher, gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO

When I tasted these in the fresh ideas pavilion, I was trying to describe the new Popped Chickpeatos to the guy working the booth. “They are like a Cheeto but made of chickpeas!” Um, duh, that’s why they are called ch-ickpea-tos. I immediately felt stupid and stuffed some more chickpeatos into my mouth so I had to stop talking.

Popped Chickpeatos

The non-popped Chickpeatos are roasted–NOT deep fried–in olive oil (except for the cinnamon toast flavor, which is roasted in coconut oil). Right now you can buy rosemary, spicy cayenne, and tomato basil (and cinnamon toast). They don’t have a lot of fussy ingredients; for example, here’s what’s on the ingredients list for rosemary chickpeatos: chickpeas, olive oil, rosemary, salt, garlic powder. Most of the ingredients are organic.

the not-popped Chickpeatos

Chickpeatos are great by themselves (I know, I tried them all!) but the company that makes them, Watusee, also has great recipes on the blog. How about chickpeatos instead of croutons? How about a recipe to use up the spices and crumbs that remain in the bag when you’re done? Check the blog. They have you covered. Watusee also makes a one-ingredient bread crumb substitute: chickpea crumbs! Anything you would use bread crumbs or panko on, you can use chickpea crumbs. It’s a sneaky way to add a wee bit of protein and fiber to any dish. Watusee also works to fight food insecurity–a huge problem in the United States–by donating products and supporting the Capitol Area Food Bank and D.C. Central Kitchen.

Chickpeatos have some nutritional punch that makes them better than your average chip. One serving has 6g protein and 5g fiber. A case of 12 bags (5 oz, 5 servings per container) purchased directly from Watusee is currently $45. They charge a flat $5 to ship.

 

 

But Wait! There’s More!

Chef Soraya can make my lunch any day–great to stash at work!

I could literally go on for another two blog posts on all the ways I saw chickpeas at Expo West. For example, I haven’t even mentioned hummus yet! Truitt Family Foods is a brand I knew before Expo West, as they were a BlogFest sponsor. I am a huge fan of the Fiesta Chili Lime hummus in go-cups (which I eat completely, then rinse the container to recycle it). Technically that flavor isn’t a chickpea product (the base is white beans and Greek yogurt, but the go-cups don’t require refrigeration), but I love it so much I had to mention it. I also visited Hope Foods, who I first met at Expo West last year and have subsequently seen at various race expos. If you haven’t tried the coconut curry hummus (or the frozen dessert hummus–yes! it’s a think!), try them at your first opportunity. Their booth always has so much energy, and they make all sorts of unusual flavors (lemon peppercorn, kale pesto, spicy avocado, to name a few).

Lilly’s hummus to go packs

This year I tried Lilly’s Hummus for the first time. Super smooth, based in Oregon, what’s not to love? My favorite is the roasted red pepper, and I just learned Lilly used hazelnut briquets (not the nuts, just the shells) to do the roasting. Great re-use of what is otherwise a “waste” product.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hummus Pods are a brilliant way to enjoy hummus warm (and with tidy fingers)

But instead of going on and on, how about a giveaway?

Crunchy chickpeas! (Not in the prize pack, but I had a picture…)

Chickpeas Prize Pack! The prize pack includes a full-sized box of Banza penne, Hippeas swag (tote and buttons), Hippeas 4oz bag in far out fajita, Maya Kaimal chickpea chips in lightly salted flavor, Biena foods chickpeas in sea salt, information on Watuse Chickpeatos and Vana Life Foods, and misc. other Expo West goodies (to fill the box, because partially empty boxes are sad). Again, this prize is NOT sponsored, endorsed, whatever by any of the companies included. There is one Chickpeas Prize Pack. Open to mailing addresses in the United States and Canada only (sorry everyone else, but postage…)

Runner-up Prize Pack! This prize pack will consist of a selection of snacks and goodies from the Expo West show. It’s a pot-luck assortment, and will likely include some exotic chips, nuts, and fruit snacks. Again, there is one Runner-up Prize Pack. Again, open to mailing addresses in the United States and Canada only.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Earlier this year, I received complimentary Luvo entrees because I am a BibRave Pro. (Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro, and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews. It’s a great way to help race directors see what is working and what needs improvement, and to help other runners find out what a race is really like.) You can read my original review HEREPlease note that while Luvo generously provided the free entree coupons for the giveaway, Luvo had exactly zero input on the content or timing of this post. All opinions are my own.

I’ve been a Luvo fan since I first tried their steam-in-the-bag entrees in February, so I’ve been gently stalking them since them to see what might happen next. If you saw my review (hint: go read it now) you might remember I ended on a hopeful note, looking forward to more vegetarian entree options.

Later in March I was lucky enough to chat with the team behind Luvo at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, the premier trade show for everything in the natural foods, body products, lifestyle, and ingredients space.

The Luvo kitchen at Natural Products Expo West
The Luvo kitchen at Natural Products Expo West

Luvo had a brightly colored, multi-space booth featuring a see-inside kitchen and orange-clad waiters passing samples on trays. You’d better believe I accepted every vegetarian option I was offered! It was cool to get to chat with some of the faces behind the meals.

Since then, a new round of BibRave Pro team members have tried Luvo. Jeremy over at Confessions of an Amateur Athlete liked that they don’t come in wasteful plastic trays, but instead in small steam pouches. He also liked that Luvo takes pride in NOT adding a ton of sugar (and having just read Salt, Sugar, Fat I now know what a big deal that is–the vast majority of packaged foods have added salt and sugar to enhance or disguise their flavors). SlackerRunner had some issues remembering how to work the microwave–not an issue I face, sadly–but liked the taste of the no-soy, no-dairy, no-nuts, no-fish entrees she tried. Arizona Sun Goddess, on the other hand, called the new flavors she tried, “steamazing.” Melinda over at 30 Something Therapy liked some of the ones she tried better than others, and she’s on a gluten-free diet from what I’ve read. Carolyn from Run Fierce, Live Fit was initially skeptical about prepared frozen foods (she doesn’t eat much processed food), but Luvo won her over.

The Swag Mama really liked the variety of choices available but honestly didn’t love EVERY flavor she tried. Which brings me to the thing I was so excited to learn today and can’t wait to try Planted Bowls from Luvo:

COMING SOON! New vegan, gluten-free options from Luvo!
COMING SOON! New vegan, gluten-free options from Luvo!

Okay, busted, I’m also gently stalking Luvo on social media. (Got a brand you love? I highly recommend this strategy for getting the scoop first.) I cannot wait to hunt these four–and their comrades–down and put them in my belly. Seriously, my schedule always has me on the hunt for healthier choices like Luvo, since I rarely have time to cook a whole meal for myself. Just as an example, I was only home for 30 hours for about 21 days of October.

Luvo's Expo West booth displayed the goodness inside on the outside!
Luvo’s Expo West booth displayed the goodness inside on the outside!

While I confirmed on Facebook that the new vegan bowls will be available at Expo West, I am hoping I can hunt them down much sooner. (I can never have enough fast and easy vegetarian lunch options that don’t involve the deep fryer in my building.) They are already on the Luvo website, so cross your fingers and think good thoughts that the Whole Foods in Oakland on Bay Street will start to carry them for me, okay? (That’s walking distance from my office.)

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Want to try out Luvo for yourself? I have FIVE free entree coupons for you! These are manufacturer coupons that expire February 28, 2017 and it will be up to you to find your nearest Luvo dealer, I mean retailer, and redeem them before they expire. (Hint: check out Luvo’s “where to find” page to see if there is a grocery near you.) If you win, I will pop them in the mail to you when the giveaway ends.

A few bullet points on the high points of Luvo
A few bullet points on the high points of Luvo

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I’m a member of the 2016 Rock’n’ Blog team. This year one of our perks was to select two books from VeloPress, a publisher focused on books for cyclists, runners, and triathletes. I was not required to write a review or offer this book for giveaway (though I have chosen to do both). All words and opinions are my own.

If you’ve poked around on the blog, you might have noticed one of my very first reviews for trail running shoes. That was also my very first experience with trail running, and my questionable decision to sign up for three half marathon trail runs taking place within a single week. (Note: don’t do that.) Despite my lack of judgment, or perhaps because ignorance is bliss, I had a great time and have continued to take on a trail run here and there. If you’re in Northern California, I highly recommend you take a look at Brazen Racing; if you have nothing to do on my birthday (October 9) the Sasquatch Racing Honey Badger has options for a 5k, 10k, and half marathon. (If you are one of the first ten people to use the code BAIN, you can save $10!)

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In hindsight, there are plenty of things I wish I’d known about trail running before I went out and picked a trail race. (It might have been nice to have a training run or two on a trail, for example!) For a fun romp through some trail advice, check out the Runner of a Certain Age Podcast Embrace the Chaos Edition

Trailhead by Lisa Jhung with illustrations by Charlie Layton (image from VeloPress)
Trailhead by Lisa Jhung with illustrations by Charlie Layton (image from VeloPress)

That’s where Trailhead comes in. Lisa Jhung’s book, subtitled “The Dirt on All Things Trail Running,” is playfully illustrated by Charlie Layton. It’s a great guide to running on trails for the beginner or someone who is otherwise newer to trail running. (If you’re already a die-hard trail runner, maybe you’d like to win a copy to give to a friend who is hesitant about off-roading?)

It comically begins by assuming you’re not sure what is and is not a trail. (Okay, maybe you’re actually not sure–there are plenty of “rails to trails” program “trails” that are really paved bike pants.)

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The first two chapters cover the potential benefits of trail running for your body and your mind. Some of them are the same as any exercise, but there are specific benefits to trail running, including a balance challenge that you don’t get from running on the road. Jhung covers the specific physical benefits of trail running for a variety of athletes, including yogis and swimmers and cross-fitters (oh my!).

The next few chapters are dedicated to the “hows” of trail running: how do you find a trail? How should you dress? How much gear do you need? While some of the basics are the same as running on the road (e.g. good socks are key, cotton clothing is like bad), some considerations are trail-specific. For example, you’re not going to find a drinking fountain or a Circle K on the trail, so you have to carry fluid–but what is the best way to do that? There’s a chapter devoted to weather and conditions on the trail (you probably don’t think about avoiding poison ivy when you run in the city), and another chapter about nutrition for trail running including special hydration issues (since again, you’re not going to find a water fountain to refill your bottle…and it might not be a great idea to drink directly from that stream).

"You haven't read Trailhead? Nope, not running that trail with you."
“You haven’t read Trailhead? Nope, not running that trail with you.”

Running on the pavement, wildlife encounters are generally limited. Sure, I stop to pet every cute dog I see (and sometimes the cats), but those are domestic-life not wildlife. Maybe you see squirrels, or a skunk, or a hedgehog (depending on where you are running). But on trails, you might run into wildlife that is actually wild, undomesticated, not likely to be seen regularly wandering suburbia: coyotes, wolves, bobcats, mountain lions…bears! Deer! Elk! Bison! Alligators! Snakes! What do you do if you find one in your path? Don’t worry, Jhung’s got you covered. (Because while the book is pretty funny, getting trampled by a moose while out on a run is not.)

Trail running also has some etiquette points that differ from pavement running. There are no garbage cans, so plan to pack out your trash. That’s obvious, but the rules for who has the right-of-way on a single-track trail are not always obvious. And what do you do if you need to take a leak in the woods? (Hint: nature does not come equipped with porta-potties. Also, you don’t want to pop a squat in poison oak.) Paved running surfaces are pretty easy to destroy and generally either take care of themselves or have assigned minders. Trails, on the other hand, are subject to erosion, and can be easily damaged or destroyed by bad behavior. Jhung also covers the basics for trail running with animals (dogs, horses, burros), so you can keep your non-human companions on their best behavior too.

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The end of Trailhead briefly covers some specific training for trail runs (including strength exercises that will benefit your running overall, but are especially suited to trail running), and trail races. I wish I’d had this advice before I signed up for my first trail runs!

Contest details: enter via Rafflecopter. I’ll pay postage to the U.S. and Canada (if you win and live elsewhere, you pay the postage). Prize consists of one copy of the book Trailhead, which is pre-read but looks like new (no creases, bent pages, cracked spine, etc.) This contest is not sponsored by, endorsed by, or affiliated with anyone other than Train With Bain. Please expect slow shipping, as Bain is running every weekend in October in a different state!

 

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Disclosure: I am a proud Ambassador for the 2016 Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon (and Half Marathon, Relay, 5k, and Kids Fun Run). The race supplied the books I’m giving away in this post. All words and opinions are my own.

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As I’m writing this, there are 20 days left until race day! (So, um, I guess I’d better buy some plane tickets and make a travel plan, eh?) If you’re not registered, it’s too late–but only for the international races. (Since the marathon, marathon relay, and international half marathon all cross the Ambassador Bridge into Canada, there’s that pesky business of giving the races’ registration lists to the U.S. Border Patrol and the Canada Border Services Agency to pre-clear everyone to enter. Can you imagine what your race times would look like if you had to wait in line at the border??) There IS still time to register for the U.S.-only half, the 5k, and the kids fun run. So hurry over to the race website and use code TRAINWITHBAIN to save 10% off of the current prices!

The 2012 Detroit International Half Marathon was the first race I did any serious training to run, and I still wasn’t fast. (It wasn’t even a PR.) I ran it for Mom, and for DetermiNation (which raises funds for the American Cancer Society). In the process, I also convinced my best friend, my Dad, and two cousins to run with us. In subsequent years I got one of my brothers to run (he likes to gloat about how much faster he is) and my best friend’s husband joined us too.

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My 2012 Race Crew, post race, at the DetermiNation tent

I remember how cold it was at the starting line and as I sit here sweating my buns off in California (hello, isn’t it supposed to be fall?) a crisp fall breeze blowing in my face as I run to Canada sounds delicious! It was chilly enough that while I slipped off the arms of the sweatshirt, I still wore my gloves for the entire race. At the same time, it was quite sunny and otherwise beautiful weather. Given how much I dislike the heat, I’ve found this race to have the perfect running weather.

Note the fashionable addition of Dad's old sweatshirt to my outfit to combat the cold! P.S. I did pay for this download, so I'm not sure what's up with the watermark.
Note the fashionable addition of Dad’s old sweatshirt to my outfit to combat the cold! P.S. I did pay for this download, so I’m not sure what’s up with the watermark.

2016 is the 39th running of the Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon. The race has a colorful history filled with “firsts” and “onlys.” For example, this race was the very first event to ever close down the Detroit-Windsor tunnel, which runners have playfully nicknamed “the underwater mile.”

The Under Water Mile, and quite possibly the world's worst selfie
The Under Water Mile, and quite possibly the world’s worst selfie

As a runner, I love this race. It shows off the best of Detroit, and while it doesn’t necessarily show off “the worst” it doesn’t hide that Detroit is a city undergoing big changes. Detroit has some magnificent architecture and a pretty great history; I like to try to imagine what it looked like when my great-grandmother went to Detroit to meet with the rum runners who supplied her bar during Prohibition. The crowd support is amazing, especially along the Windsor waterfront where the streets are lined with cheering Canadians, and there’s always a giant crowd right before you hit the runnel to run back to Michigan. Speaking of the tunnel, there is a great selfie opportunity at the U.S./Canada border. As Emma Tranter (the women’s winner of the 1978 marathon) said, “The people along the route were great to us and the course was great. There’s just not enough I can say about it. It was a really great event.” Thirty-nine years later, that’s still true. But don’t just take my word for it; check out my fellow ambassador Meghan Warzecha’s reasons she loves this race.

As one of the inaugural Ambassadors for this race, I only love it more! (I still can’t believe they picked me to be on the team.) The entire race team welcomed us aboard with a meeting in February, and it was scheduled during my visit to Michigan for Dad’s wedding so that I would be able to attend. New Balance Detroit provided us with some sweet Ambassador swag, including tech shirts and pullovers. Ambassadors have been invited to subsequent planning meetings (though I haven’t been able to attend). We have regularly been invited to give input, and our suggestions are taken seriously. This year we are even going to host a #WeRunSocial meetup at the expo!

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By the way, if you aren’t prepared to run the race but are going to be in the area, you are still very welcome to join us at the meetup–#werunsocial is for all runners! If you can’t make the meet-up, come say hi at the

This week, three of the race staff took time out from their Sunday evening to join us on the Runner of a Certain Age podcast too. (Did you know there are 4,000 runners who will run Detroit for charity?) You can check out the episode and the show notes for The Gotta Lose Your Mind In Detroit edition. The podcast is filled with race details and excellent trivia.

A little more than half of the 2016 Ambassadors
A little more than half of the 2016 Ambassadors

I’m really just thrilled to be able to share one of the best races in the country with my friends! Before I forget, the medals for this race are also pretty sweet. The bling itself pays homage to Detroit’s heritage as The Motor City. Each year features a different car (see above and below). The ribbon weaves elements of the U.S. flag and Canadian flag together.

I'm in line for coffee while displaying the 2012 bling
I’m in line for coffee while displaying the 2012 bling

In combination with the Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon weekend, I’m giving away three copies of The Long Run. This book is a history of the first 30 years of the race. It’s filled with facts, but also with pictures, and covers not just the runners but also the wheelchair division and the handcycle division. It’s interesting both as a history of this particular race and as a a chronicle of the development of a major marathon.

This is the prize!
This is the prize!

If you want to get a sneak preview, you can check out the “Look Inside!” feature on Amazon.com. (Or you can just trust me that it is a great read!)

Details: this contest is not sponsored, endorsed, or otherwise related to anyone or any entity with two exceptions. One, Bain is an ambassador and this is her blog; she is 100% responsible for this contest. Two, the Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon has generously provided copies of the book. Shipping will be slow! This contest closes on the first day of the race expo, and Bain and the race team are going to be super busy!!

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Disclosure: Amphipod provided the prize for the giveaway in this post, because I am a BibRave Pro. Amphipod did not exercise any editorial control, or provide any content, for this post. All content reflects my own research, experience, and opinions. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro, and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews. It’s a great way to help race directors see what is working and what needs improvement, and to help other runners find out what a race is really like.

You are just a big bag of water.

Let’s talk water. Did you know that about 60% of your body’s weight is water? Think about that for a minute: a 200 lb. man is 120 pounds of water. You’ve got water in your cells and water in between your cells. Basically you’re a carbon-based container of mostly water.

You are what you drink (water). Everything your body uses to run contains water. Your blood, which carries oxygen and nutrients to your working cells, is 83% water. Your body fat, which you might be burning as fuel, is 25% water. Your muscles that propel you along at 75% water. Even your bones are about 22% water.

You run on water. Again, literally. Every system in your body needs water while you are running (and while you are not!). Water dissolves and transports various substances, moving nutrients into cells and waste products out of cells and eventually out of the body as urine and feces. Water plays a role in the synthesis of proteins, glycogen, and other nutrients. Water keeps you moving by lubricating your joints, and serves as a shock absorber for your eyes and in your spine (and for your fetus, if you’re pregnant).

The Sweaty Life. If you lead an active lifestyle you’re more than familiar with water as a temperature regulator. Exercise heats the body, which sends water outside of the body to the surface of your skin, so that it can evaporate and cool.  The more you exercise, the more efficient your body becomes at cooling itself. Translation: you start to sweat earlier, and likely sweat more. Since each body is different, some of us sweat more than others. Sweat isn’t the only way you lose water while exercising though.

You lose water 24/7: It’s not just about sweat. Breathing also requires water, as your nose and mouth hydrate dry air on the way in, and release vapor (water in gas form) on the way out. The harder you work out, the more demand your body has for oxygen, the harder you breathe. Tissue in your nose, nasal passage, throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs is more sensitive when it is dehydrated. As a practical matter, that can trigger asthma, allergies, and COPD; if you have none of these, it still means you’re more likely to be irritated by pollen, dust, and fumes.

Sleep is dehydrating! Just think about it–you go 8 hours without taking in any liquids, but you continue to breathe, losing water. Maybe you sweat a little at night.

Dehydration is BAD. You’ve probably read that dehydration–not enough water in the body–contributes to heat stroke and heat exhaustion, as reduced water reduces your body’s ability to regulate body temperature. It’s worse than that. If you are down a mere 0.5% of your body water, you have an increased strain on your heart. (Think about it: less water, less blood volume, sludgier blood, takes more effort to pump it through your body.) At 1% loss of body water, your aerobic endurance suffers. At 2%, your muscular endurance declines; basically if you hit 2% as a runner, you are nowhere near the top of your game. At 4% you have not just reduced aerobic and muscular endurance, but also reduced muscle strength and reduced motors skills–and you’re at a risk for heat cramps. Seriously, you’ve got to keep that water loss below half a percentage point.

Did you know sleep is dehydrating? Check out more tips from @TrainWithBainClick To Tweet

As a runner, you MUST be on top of your hydration game.

Water intake isn’t the whole story. You can drink boatloads of water, but unless you give your body some electrolytes, that water might just pass right through, useless. Electrolytes are compounds that dissolve in water and keep an electrical charge, allowing them to regulate the flow of water (and other substances) in and out of cells. Electrolytes form the salty grit on your face if you’re a sweaty runner (and even if you are not, since they regulate the release of water from the cells of your body). Electrolytes include: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, chloride, manganese, sodium, and potassium.

Carbohydrates love water. You’ve probably read that for most athletes, the notion of “carb loading” before a race to replenish glycogen stores is neither necessary nor particularly helpful. But wait, there’s more: carbohydrates love water, and for every gram of carbohydrate stored in your body, you’ve also got 3-4 grams of water hanging out. (This is why low-carb, high-protein diets initially show a quick weight loss–depleting the carb stores means water goes away, plus a high protein diet contributes to fluid losses to remove urea from the body.) This is also why most electrolyte drinks have some amount of sugar or carb in them. Like to eat pasta? You’re welcome.

It’s harder to judge dehydration that you think. By the time you’re thirsty, you’re already partially dehydrated–and now you know how bad even half a percent of body water loss is. Urine color is favored by some, but you’re unlikely to see your urine on race day (I don’t know about you, but I’m NOT looking into that porta-potty!), and a number of popular supplements and foods (beets!) can darken your urine and give a misleading impression.

Top Five Tips for Building Your Hydration Strategy

What's your hydration strategy? Do you know the basic facts?Click To Tweet
  1. Know your body. Learn to recognize the pre-thirst indicators of dehydration in your body, monitor your water loss through sweat, pay attention to how you feel during training runs and workouts. So many factors affect your hydration needs–body weight, body composition, environment, medication usage, diet, and more–that the best advice is to learn and listen to your body.
  2. Practice good hydration when you’re NOT running. Eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruit (they are good sources of water, as well as electrolytes and other vitamins and minerals). Sip on beverages throughout your day. Like coffee, tea, soda? Current research shows they aren’t automatically dehydrating, but they are not as hydrating as other choices.
  3. Pre-hydrate before a workout or a run. Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning to make up for water loss while you’ve slept. (Adding a lemon to it makes it taste nice, but it’s not going help you lose weight, burn fat, “detox,” or any other popular yet silly-and-unscientific claim. Watch your teeth if you take that option, lemons aren’t kind to tooth enamel.) If you’re taking a heated class like hot yoga, tank up before you go.
  4. Test your hydration products BEFORE race day! Nothing new on race day. Seriously, you don’t want to discover that your tummy doesn’t like XYZ Hydration Brand at mile 4. Anything you’re going to use at a race, take it for a test drive. Find out what hydration the race plans to have on the course, so you can evaluate whether to use what they provide or bring your own exclusively.
  5. Carry hydration–and emergency cash. I need sips of fluids more often than every two miles (how aid stations are frequently spaced at races) to stay fresh and properly hydrated. Once I ran a race where the second aid station, manned by well-meaning but clueless high school students, completely ran out of water and electrolyte beverage! Fortunately I had my emergency fiver, and ran into a nearby CVS.

Enter (to win) the Amphipod.

I'm giving away THIS exact Amphipod, an Ergo-Lite Ultra.
I’m giving away THIS exact Amphipod, an Ergo-Lite Ultra.

To help you up your hydration game, I’ve got an Ergo-Lite Ultra Amphipod to give away, courtesy of Amphipod. (Amphipod provided this exclusively for this giveaway; it was not sent to me for testing purposes.) It’s brand new, never-used, and only came out of the box so I could take a few pictures of it.

All of the BibRave Pros who tried out the Amphipod liked it, even those who had previously shied away from hand-helds for various reasons. Like Running for the Average Joe, most of us hated the idea of running “while holding something.” But as he pointed out, the Amphipod isn’t something you hold, it’s something you wear. Dr. Runner liked the one-way drinking valve (you have to suck on it or squirt to get the water out).

Hand elastic showing both the ergonomic thumb hole and the loops for gels or fuel
Hand elastic showing both the ergonomic thumb hole and the loops for gels or fuel

The thumb holed was a hit with Runner Transformed, who liked the more ergonomic fit. Run Away with Me liked the softness of the fabric (we all agree that chafing from stiff fabric is BAD).  If you look at the various photos accompanying the reviews, you can see that the Amphipod works well on either hand, something Samantha Andrews liked.

The products are durable, and might just save your hand if you crash on the trail, as My Name Is Dad learned. Unlike some bottles, it’s also easy to clean, as Fun Size Athlete noted. That said, if you leave it in a hot car, the sleeve might discolor the bottle (as Darlin’ Rae learned). Maybe wash the sleeve first?

The storage pocket has a key loop inside
The storage pocket has a key loop inside

All of the Pros liked the amount of storage in the pocket, and The Caffeinated Runner found it had enough room to carry doggy essentials when running with her pooch.

Seattle-based blogger Sweet Blonde’s Fit Life points out these are made in USA and, specifically, in Seattle!

 

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Now that you’ve learned about hydration, why not hop over to the internet home of the Arizona Sun Goddess and read about solo running adventures?

Selected References:

 

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Disclosure: the prize for this giveaway will be provided by siggi’s (legally: The Icelandic Milk & Skyr Corp.). Everything in this post is my own creation unless otherwise indicated. The folks at siggi’s did not preview or edit this post, it’s all me, baby!

A few years ago I stumbled on siggi’s and fell in love. Since then, I’ve learned more about the siggi’s story, and even met Siggi himself! As I’m writing this from Oakland, California I’m just one week out from the third IDEA World/Sweat Pink BlogFest, which siggi’s has sponsored for the past two years. Actually I SHOULD be in Indianapolis at FitBloggin’ and FitSocial 2016–which siggi’s is also sponsoring this year–but as you may have heard, Southwest had a little computer issue, and that left me stranded. Oops. In any case, I am thankful and happy to have siggi’s sponsor these events for health and fitness bloggers. I’m even more thankful they make a protein-packed, yummy skyr.

But back to the story. A few years ago I fell in love with siggi’s. At that time, siggi’s had one product: Icelandic style skyr, a strained non-fat yogurt. I wish I could tell you the story, but I honestly do not remember how it happened! I do remember two things.

set up for tasting
Set up for a recent skyr tasting

First, I was very impressed by the ingredients list. Here is the ingredients list from the peach flavor in front of me:

pasteurized skim milk,

peaches,

cane sugar,

fruit pectin,

live active cultures

That’s it. Five ingredients, and I know what each one of them is and why it is there. (The package has a list of the live active cultures, in case your nerdy streak runs deep.) This was around the point that I started to get more picky about my food. While I still indulge in some items that are absolutely, inexcusably, 100% junk food, I’m trying to be more conscious of eating more whole foods. I really liked that siggi’s doesn’t have any artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, or artificial anything else. I also really loved that there isn’t a ton of added sugar. The peach skyr sitting in front of me (150g serving size) has 11g of sugar, and 14g of protein, for example. Compare this to other yogurts and you’ll see how awesome this is.

No weird stuff in the ingredients means I'm happy to share
No weird stuff in the ingredients means I’m happy to share

Let’s compare strawberries to strawberries. A serving of siggi’s strawberry skyr is 150g, and contains 11g sugar, 16g protein, and 120 calories. (I picked those data points because they are important to me.) Data from the respective manufacturer’s websites:

  •  original Yoplait strawberry, serving size not listed on website (currently has 18g sugar, used to have 26g; 6g protein; 150 calories
  • thick ‘n’ creamy Yoplait strawberry, serving size not listed on website (28g sugar, 7g protein, 180 calories
  • Greek yogurt Yoplait strawberry, serving size 150g (18g sugar, 11g protein, 140 calories)
  • Dannon creamy strawberry, serving size 113g–note smaller serving size (12g sugar, 4g protein, 80 calories)
  • Dannon Oikos Greek strawberry, serving size 150g (18g sugar, 12g protein, 120 calories)
  • Chobani (fruit on the bottom style) strawberry, serving size 150g (15g sugar, 12g protein, 120 calories)

I’m not picking on these guys–they are no better or worse than any other brand, store brand, etc.–those are just brands that immediately popped to mind when I thought of yogurt. I didn’t even bother to compare other “fruit on the bottom” styles to siggi’s, or the dessert flavors (i.e. anything with “pie” in the name) as those are a hot mess of sugar…and let’s not mention the yogurt marketed to kids with cartoon characters on it. Seriously, you might as well hand your kid a Snickers. Now sometimes you WANT a dessert, and I’ve been known to pick a certain coconut cream pie flavor of yogurt instead of a pudding…you make your own choices 🙂

My very favorite, as I love all things pumpkin spice and fall!
My very favorite, as I love all things pumpkin spice and fall!

The “not a lot of sugar” brings me to the second thing I remember: the taste! One of the things I liked about the initial wave of Greek-style yogurts is that they are thicker than what I will call mainstream yogurt; I also liked that the initial offerings of those yogurts didn’t seem as sickly sweet as mainstream yogurt. My first taste of Skyr blew my mind! It’s thick and smooth and creamy. If you open a container and hold it upside down (don’t squeeze!) it is so thick that it will stay in the container. When I eat it, I feel like I am eating something of substance–and not just because of the 14g of protein–because it has a creamy mouth-feel. While you don’t have to chew it (it’s yogurt), it feels more satisfying to me than mainstream yogurt, more like a solid breakfast. I learned it takes four times as much milk to make a serving of siggi’s as it does to make a mainstream yogurt.

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As seen in my local grocery!

After I decided I loved the products–seriously, I said “goodbye!” to the rest of the yogurt world and haven’t looked back–I became a member of the inaugural siggi’s Culture Club. Each month we had a challenge to focus on, all about sharing the love of siggi’s. I took coupons for freebies to my yoga students and they universally loved siggi’s. My current favorites are seasonal flavors: pumpkin in the fall, and strawberry basil in the summer. Other flavors in the siggi’s family include peach, raspberry, strawberry, pomegranate & passion fruit, blueberry, orange & ginger, vanilla, mixed berries & açai, and (of course!) plain (with no added sugar). All of these come in single serving cups, and the vanilla and plain come in economical 24 oz. packages as well.

Whole-fat milk skyr is even thicker and creamier
Whole-fat milk skyr is even thicker and creamier

siggi’s now makes other products in addition to the Icelandic style skyr strained non-fat yogurt, including a low-fat mile skyr (2%milkfat), whole-milk skyr (4% milkfat), filmjölk (a drinkable yogurt), and tubes (a kid-friendly to-go product with 5g sugar and the same five basic ingredients). I haven’t tried anything but the skyr yet, though I’m stalking my local retailers for the others.

But enough about my experience, here’s a chance to win your own!

The fine print: There is ONE prize, which consists of coupons for free siggi’s. If you eat one a day, it’s a 30-day month’s worth. After I contact you, you’ll have seven days to claim it; at that time you must provide your mailing address so I can send it to siggi’s and they can send you the prize!
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Disclosure: if you’ve read the other two #Buffalove posts, you know I got the opportunity to run and help promote the Buffalo Marathon because I am on the BibRave Pro Team. (If you haven’t read them, why not?!?) This post is a continuation of my adventures in Buffalo. This post has no sponsors or sponsored content. BibRave, Buffalo Marathon, and Spot don’t even know I’m going to write it.

Coffee and compression socks for the win
Coffee and compression socks for the win

As you may have figured out, I love a good cup of coffee. (Yes, I have a Starbucks Gold Card; when you travel for work as much as I do, it is often the only place to get coffee and/or the only place with reliable wifi…and sometimes I am not feeling adventurous.) When I travel for fun, I like to check out the local variations on the bean of life. It gives me an excuse to explore a little, and usually a place to check my email, start my race review, and otherwise kick back a little. In Buffalo, I checked out Spot Coffee. Spot has coffee and the usual coffee place menu (e.g. baked goods) but also serves real food (like breakfast, burritos/wraps, sandwiches, pizza, salads, and other things that are not just sweet little noshes to go with coffee).

 

 

 

Spot's welcome chalkboard
Spot’s welcome chalkboard

The Spot I visited was smack in the middle of downtown; I ran past it during the marathon, and made a mental note of the name so I could look it up later. (Okay so I lost that note and had to google, but hey.) There is a Starbucks literally across the street, and yet both times I was there (you know I like coffee, right?) it had plenty of customers. The chalkboard marquis distracted me from my immediate goal (get coffee inside me, pronto) and enticed me to walk past the bags of freshly roasted coffee. That turns out well for you, as there is a chance to win a bag at the end of this post!

Before I left, I saw the roasting room. I didn’t have time to beg for a tour (I had a plane to catch) but I did stop to ogle the equipment and try not to drool.

But back to the Spot experience. There is a lot of real estate that could support a line to wait to order, but on the Tuesday after a holiday weekend (and not during a rush hour) there was no wait to belly up to the coffee bar. There were more choices than I expected, and the staff were kind and friendly as I dithered about what to get.

Sorry this shot turned out so dark--next time I'll try a filter! (Yes, that was my attempt at a coffee joke.)
Sorry this shot turned out so dark–next time I’ll try a filter! (Yes, that was my attempt at a coffee joke.)

The decor was a funky mix, with unique lighting fixtures (I don’t think any two of the chandeliers over the tables matched each other), a mural covering one wall, and all sorts of seating. The main room (the part surrounding the bar, above) included tables and bar-style window seats. There were two outdoor areas, one reserved for smoking and the other non-smoking. Also, bonus, lots of places to plug in gadgets (since I started playing Ingress, my iPhone is always in need of a charge). The back room had a few bigger tables, some chairs and lamps, and a few booths. I like how there were many different types of seating; there was something suitable for every possible purpose at a cafe from study alone or read the paper to hosting a group meeting.

Chandelier and purple wall!
Chandelier and purple wall!

Aside from the mural, there were also various pieces of art hung around the cafe. I really enjoy visual art, and appreciate it when cafes support artists by hosting shows, or serving as a temporary art gallery. Another thing I like about checking out the local cafes is that there is usually a literature and brochure area. Sure, I did read The Buffalo News while in town, but I also like to read the alternative papers. It was fun to see postcards and papers out for other local races, Pride events, art shows, churches, and community groups. (Sometimes there is more than one place for these items, and sometimes there is a bulletin board as well. I find it is a way to get a different, less touristy, feel for a place I’m visiting.) Several of the fun runs sounded like I’d enjoy them, but since I live in California I knew they’d be a no-go.

 

 

 

Condiment bar with sriracha? Yes, please!
Condiment bar with sriracha? Yes, please!

My first go at Spot, I had a (hot) mocha. I’m pretty sure the barista thought I was insane for ordering a hot drink on a hot day; if he saw the marathon medal that should have confirmed my insanity right there. It was made with a strong, dark espresso and wasn’t overly sweet. Tuesday I tried a variation, adding a shot of hazelnut (because as soon as I saw they had it, I had a major jones for hazelnut syrup). Yes, that made my drink taste more like a candy bar, but I loved every sip of it!

For a list of locations in Buffalo and elsewhere, try the Spot Coffee website. It also lists contact information and hours for each cafe.

 

 

Now the part you’ve been waiting for: win some coffee! This giveaway has two prizes. Prize #1 is Spot Coffee Company’s “House” coffee. The label identifies notes of milk chocolate, nougat, and cream. Prize #2 is Spot Coffee Company’s “Espresso” coffee. The label says it has notes of dark chocolate, stonefruit, and “syrupy” (which I believe refers to the consistency or mouth-feel after brewing). These are both 12 oz., sealed packages of whole-bean coffee roasted by Spot in Buffalo, NY.

Win this coffee!
Win this coffee!

Enter using the Rafflecopter below. Please note this contest is void where prohibited by law. I will happily ship prizes to addresses in the U.S. and Canada. Winners will be notified and must respond within 7 days or forfeit. There is only one of each prize, and the first winner drawn will get to choose which prize they would prefer.

 

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Disclaimer: I received a swag kit to review and a free entry to The Color Run Sacramento because I am a BibRave Pro. (As always, ALL opinions are my own and I wrote my review all by myself.) Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews! Reviewing races on BibRave helps other runners plan their race schedules, and helps race directors make races even better! 

In the world of the Serious Runners, there are MANY people who have strong opinions about The Color Run. I’m one of them. So when BibRave provided us with the opportunity to have a swaggy giveaway and help promote The Color Run, I was ALL IN. In my least humble opinion, here are the most important things to know.

Pro Tip: Plan Ahead! If you’re worried about inhaling too much color (for whatever reason) stick to the outer lane of the course, and wear a bandanna over your mouth/nose. If you plan to take pictures, cover your camera with a clean plastic bag (as that color is sneaky and will get everywhere). You don’t need massive race gear, but if you want to carry a water bottle, choose one that seals shut (so you can control whether it turns colors!).

A burst of color at the starting line. (Individual runner's packet, not a mile-marker color zone!)
A burst of color at the starting line. (Individual runner’s packet, not a mile-marker color zone!)

The Color Run is the original, reliable, real deal. If you sign up for The Color Run, you’re going to have a run, as well as all the swag you pre-ordered. I mention this because over the past few years there have been a ton of imitation races that have not been responsible members of the running community. (If you are one of the people who got stiffed by the 5k Foam Fest, I’m so sorry. I promise, The Color Run is NOT like that!) I’ve done The Color Run and they deliver!

THIS is how I roll!
THIS is how I roll!

The Color Run is FUN (and colorful). Part of the joy of The Color Run is that everyone is there to have a good time–it’s okay to act like a kid! Everyone gets a packet of color to toss, and you have the opportunity to get more (you can buy them at the event, and when I ran the DJ at the starting line was tossing out packets too). The colors are basically non-toxic coloring agents and corn starch. If you missed the opportunity to play with these colors during the Indian festival of Holi–which you probably did, since it is a spring festival and took place in March this year (though I just learned the Krishna Temple hosts Color Festival events throughout the summer in various locations)–The Color Run is your opportunity! Unlike many of the color powders now used in India, The Color Run’s colors are made in the USA and do not contain heavy metals or other questionable ingredients. Common sense should reign, however, and you can take away this important safety tip: tossing color straight up in the air does not produce a cool shower of color, but instead guarantees it will fall straight back down into your face. Oops.

Pro Tip! Wear The Color Run white shirt to the event. The colors show up best on white. If you want to keep the color on your shirt after you wash it, spritz it with water to let the color soak in, then let it dry 100% before washing. Don’t use bleach (it is the anti-color).

Small to Tall, Fun for All!
Small to Tall, Fun for All!

The Color Run may or may not involve running. As the website explains, The Color Run is not a timed event. You don’t get a prize for coming in first. While some runners complain this isn’t a “real” run, I think those folks just need to relax! I am in favor of any fun, physical activity that gets people up off the couch and out into the world. One thing I really liked about The Color Run is that everyone could enjoy it. I saw singles and groups of high school students, college friends, adults of all ages, families, and parent-child teams. Personally, I think it’s a great sneaky way to get kids to exercise. 5k is still 3.1 miles, which isn’t really that far for any kid (they walk more if they go to Disneyland), but the permission to get messy and colorful is pretty much the opposite of what a kid associates with exercise.

Pro Tip!  If you DO want to run, you should seed yourself accordingly: plant yourself at the very front of your wave. (To reduce the chance that anyone gets trampled, The Color Run uses a wave start to break runners into groups.) If you are planning to stroll (or roll!), hang out towards the back. The Color Run is like a mullet–serious in the front, party in the back.

Post Race Posing at The Color Run
Post Race Posing at The Color Run

The Color Run Tropicolor is coming to Baltimore on May 21! All the details are HERE and you should go register immediately. (I’m not in Baltimore or anywhere nearby, so I’m running in Sacramento.) Plus you can save $5 with code BRP16.

Pro Tip for Post-Race! Pack a post-race kit for your car. (Unless you want a tropicolor-mobile, in which case, ignore this tip.) Personally, my Color Run kit includes a gallon of water, face/body wipes, and a big beach towel to cover my car’s seats. The water is nice for rinsing off hands–I don’t trust wipes 100%!–which will turn brown when all the colors mix up on your hands.

Also, enter to win a Tropicolor Swag Pack from The Color Run. Don’t wait! It’s a short, sweet, swag giveaway.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Try Out ThursdaysI’ve joined Running With SD Mom for the “Try Out Thursdays” LinkUp. I tried The Color Run–and I’m committed to do it again!

Disclosure: BibRave and BUFF have partnered up for a BUFF prize pack giveaway, and because I am a BibRave Pro, I am giving you a chance to win! Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Join Me In the Buff®! What?

As a BibRave Pro, I’ve been introduced to some really great gear for running and a healthy lifestyle. One product I had seen, but never tried, is the Buff®. The Original Buff® is basically a seamless soft fabric tube that you can wear a variety of ways. My favorite way to wear the Buff® is as weather protection: in colder weather, I wear it around my neck and pulled up over my mouth and nose; in warmer weather, I wear it as a hat liner and to cover the tops of my ears (which have a habit of getting very sunburned in the summer).

Speaking of sunburned, I’ve also been able to test-drive the UV Buff® and UV Half Buff®.  The UV collection Half Buff is the perfect hat-liner size for me. The entire UV collection blocks 95% of UV rays, so it is a must-have for all the best summer activities, regardless of whether you like to get out and run, watch parades, go fishing, or work in the yard.

How much did I love these Buff® products? So much that in addition to buying a few more of each, I also bought a wool Buff® (because, winter) and a Buff® Headband (a quick-drying way to keep sweat out of my eyes during hot yoga), and I bought all the women in my immediate family a Buff® scarf for Christmas.

photo 1 (11)
#Buffie alert!

To enter to win the giveaway, you need to find me (or another BibRave Pro) at a race during the month of May. My race schedule is:

Come find me at a race and snap a Buffie with me! It’s BYOB (bring your own Buff®) or you can try on mine.

If you won’t be at any of these races, perhaps you’ll be at a race with the other BibRave Pros who will be out there wearing Buff® in the wild? Check out more places to play to win by finding out where Karen, Mark, Angie, Brenda, Heather, and Katherine are running–we’re running wild, all over the country!

UV Half Buff as packaged
UV Half Buff as packaged

®

Giveaway Details!

What’s the prize? The winner will receive:

  • 1 Original Buff®
  • 2 UV Buff®
  • 1 Merino Wool Buff®
  • 1 UV Half Buff®
  • 1 Headband Buff®
  • 1 Shirt
  • 1 Sweatshirt
  • Stickers

What are the rules? Official Rules:

  • Take a #buffie with a Bibrave pro AT A RACE
  • Post your #buffie to Twitter or Instagram. (Note: this contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or otherwise affiliated with Twitter or Instagram.)
  • Tag @Bibrave & @buff_usa
  • Use hastags #buffie & #bibchat
  • Contest runs May 1–31, 2016
  • Open to US residents only (sorry Canadians, I still love you!)
  • Participants can enter #buffies from multiple events
  • One #buffie entry per race

Come Buff(ie) With Me!

Part of my Buff collection
Part of my Buff collection