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On Sunday, April 12, 2015 I joined a small group of runners at the Novato Wild Horses Half Marathon & 5k. Produced by Titanium Racing, this is the first of the three events that make up the Triple Crown Series (all of which are part of the 2015 California Half and Full Marathon Series).

Not wild, but still horses
Not wild, but still horses

Novato is in Marin County, which has designated a huge amount of land for permanent preservation through a variety of means, such as the Marin Agricultural Land Trust. As you might imagine, that has driven property values through the roof, but it has resulted in some gorgeous places to run.

Part of the course runs through a park
Part of the course runs through a park

The Triple Crown Series races do not have an expo. Instead, you can pick up your bib at one of the designated sponsor locations. This year, that was Whole Foods in Novato and Road Runner Sports in Berkeley. That’s all you pick up, just the bib–the other swag is waiting at the race.

Wild Horses starts and ends at the San Marin High School. Given the smaller size of the race, this is an ideal location: plenty of parking and an accessible building for swag pickup and post-race refreshments.

I'm sure the locals thought I was nuts as I talked to the horses and took this picture
I’m sure the locals thought I was nuts as I talked to the horses and took this picture

I thought I had a picture of the starting line, but it turns out I don’t. You can get a good idea of the size of the field by looking at the picture on the Wild Horses Half Marathon website. It’s a pretty small group, so if you’re a faster runner, your chances of taking home one of the awards. The course is an out-and-back, mostly along paved roads but also on some blacktop. It winds through residential areas, and by the College of Marin Indian Valley Campus. It’s a mostly flat course, with actual “gentle rolling hills” (not a euphemism for once, but an accurate description). Many of the homes are on large lots with animals; I like imagining what they think of the parade of runners.

Not a horse, but still a cutie
Not a horse, but still a cutie!

The course ends back at San Marin High School, where you do a victory lap around the school’s track before crossing the finish line. I have to say, it is pretty awesome to end the run on a softer surface! Also, race staff were there to run in the very last runners, which I really appreciated.

Titanium racing has a history of good-looking race shirts. The long-sleeved shirts for the Tiburon Half Marathon, for example, have side panels in contrasting colors. The Wild Horses shirt featured a full-face design this year.

Mr. Potter, inspecting the race shirt
Mr. Potter, inspecting the race shirt

The medal and cinch-sack feature the same race logo. Runners were treated to a variety of snacks at the finish line, including Nuun hydration. Whole Foods provided a take-away bag filled with goodies including Purity Juices and Hint water.

There were more snacks, but I eated them. #EatAllTheFoods
There were more snacks, but I eated them. #RunAllTheRaces #EatAllTheFoods

This year, Titanium Racing also hosted a virtual run option for those unable to attend the race in person. I found out about it by accident, when I received a virtual kit in the mail–cinch-sack, medal, and shirt. I contacted the race organizers to send them back, but they said I should keep them.

Race medal featuring a fancy ribbon
Race medal featuring a fancy ribbon

So…got a little runner in your life? Or a horse-crazed girl? Or some other good purpose for a medal, a cinch-sack, and a race shirt?
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I am a member of the BibRave Pro team. The Foothill 5k Challenge provided me with a free race entry in exchange for helping to promote the race, convince you to register to run it with me, and review the race after I run it.

Foothill 5k Challenge!

Sunday, July 19th
7 a.m. packet pick-up, race day registration
Glendale Sports Complex

Foothill 5k Challenge course map
No, not a dragon! Foothill 5k Challenge map. Look at that fast downhill finish!

The Foothill 5k Challenge is in two weeks. In preparation, I have not run up a single hill, “foot” or otherwise. Since I will be heading to the race directly from IDEA World BlogFest–where I expect to get up early, work out three times a day, and probably get no sleep–I’m starting to think I will be hiking the Foothill 5k. Especially because it has a 1000′ elevation gain in a mere 5k. (Hence the call it a challenge!)

You should definitely join me. Don’t just take my word for it.

Do you run because it makes you feel strong? Has running helped you through a difficult part of life? Is running your “me time” when you can forget your stress and focus on the run?

Running is a solo sport, but runners are never really alone
Running is a solo sport, but runners are never really alone

Then you really need to support this race, because it’s for a good cause: The Foothill 5k Challenge is a fundraiser for Back on My Feet of the Greater Los Angeles area. Before I started working on this race, I had never heard of Back on My Feet. I had heard of the power of running, from Girls on the Run chapters to the Oakland man who trained for a marathon by running around the same block, over and over, so he wouldn’t violate the terms of his probation. Running is some powerful stuff. Back on My Feet gives that power to people who need it. Their mission is

Back on My Feet (BoMF) is a national, for-purpose 501(c)3 organization that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness change the way they see themselves so they can make real change that results in employment and independent living.

I’ve never been homeless. I’ve never been hungry. I’ve never lived without a wide safety net. I realize that I am not just blessed, but spoiled rotten. I can’t imagine how disempowering and depressing it could be to experience homelessness, but I can say I hate it when I feel like I’m not in control of my life (again, I know I’ve lived a spoiled life). Back on My Feet has a specific program that uses running to help people start moving in a better direction. You can read about it here.

Inaugural Foothill 5k Challenge runners enjoying the climb
Inaugural Foothill 5k Challenge runners

When you register for the Foothill 5k Challenge, your registration benefits Back on My Feet. If you just want to run, sign up to run. You can also choose to sponsor a Back on My Feet participant (if you don’t want to run, or can’t run because, say, you live too far away), or do a “Buy One, Give One” (where you run, and you sponsor a Back on My Feet program member).  Head over to the registration page and be sure to use code BIBRAVE to save 15% on the race.

Runners supporting each other
Runners supporting each other

This is the second annual Foothill 5k Challenge. Challenges are GOOD, they help you to stretch your limits, and grow! If you come run with me, you can just do it for the fun of the event, or for the reward of seeing the San Gabriel mountains all around you. Of course, if you really want to run RUN run it, there are prizes (shoes! swag! gift certificates!).

Everyone loves race swag
Everyone loves race swag

You don’t have to finish first to be a winner. You don’t even have to pick up your packet until right before the race (which is perfect for me since I’ll be at IDEA World BlogFest that weekend). If you prefer, you can pick up your packet the day before the race at Run With Us. That’s Saturday, July 18th, from noon to 7 p.m.

Shoe heaven. Or it might be Run with Us. Maybe both?
Shoe heaven. Or it might be Run with Us. Maybe both?

There are Mizuno technical running tees for the first 500 runners, sizes available on a first-come first-served basis. (More pluses: There is free parking. The race is chip timed–and you have until 10:30 to finish, which is just about two and a half hours.) Everyone who finishes gets “finisher swag.” I’m not sure what all that includes, but some of the sponsors are Gatorade, Bimbo, YogaWorks, and Kind, so I’m pretty sure I’ll love it!

Just remember that for safety reasons, no headphones, no strollers, no dogs, no bicycles. Bring your own hydration if you will need it before you cross the finish line.

Inaugural Challengers enjoying some finisher swag!
Inaugural Challengers enjoying some finisher swag!

Something else that is pretty great about this race: you can recycle your old running shoes. Pretty much every runner I know always has one pair of running shoes that have too much wear to keep running in, but aren’t so trashed that they are lawn mowing/mud run shoes. Resale shops don’t want those shoes, so what to do? Take them to the Foothill 5k Challenge! Shoebox Recycling will not only give your shoes a new life, they will donate $1 to Back on My Feet for each pair donated.

Look for Shoebox Recycling boxes at the event
Look for Shoebox Recycling boxes at the event

After enjoying your run (or hike–it even says on the FAQ that hikers are very welcome!), there is an after-party. Golden Road Brewing, another race sponsor, has a location just five miles from the Glendale Sports Complex (the start/finish). Not only are they offering a $1 discount on Golden Road’s core beers for every runner, but 15% of all proceeds will go to benefit Back on My Feet. So if you need a keg for the next weekend’s party, or just want to take home a growler, please head over to Golden Road Brewing on July 19th, 10-2.

So if you are REALLY opposed to running, but will be in the LA area, you could register to not-run (sponsor a Back on My Feet participant) and then just come on over to the finisher party–or better yet, sign up to volunteer at the race!

You can also support Back on My Feet using the Charity Miles app. Like any good 501(c)(3), they will also accept your monetary donations with gratitude. Check out the main race page for more information on the race and links to Back on My Feet of Greater Los Angeles.

Run, Sponsor, Volunteer, Donate, Party!
Run, Sponsor, Volunteer, Donate, Party!

Head over to the registration page and be sure to use code BIBRAVE to save 15% on the race.

LA-Foothill-5K-Logo-FINAL

Event Sponsors for the Second Foothill 5k Challenge:
AT&T Run With Us Mizuno  Bimbo Bakeries PSAVYogaWorksGatorade  Lexus LaceUp Running Series KIND Snacks  Golden Road Brewing Ameriprise Financial

Special thanks to the Foothill 5k Challenge benefiting Back on My Feet for the images used in this post.

After the race, I decided to camp out in Starbucks and write my recap. (Yes, I know I still haven’t written about Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego. Patience, grasshopper.) As I started to type, I could see marathoners still plugging away (first start for elites was at 7:00; last corral started about 8:00). This meant those folks had been out there for 5.5 hours and were just passing by mile 24. If you’ve never tried to walk for 5.5 hours (at any speed) you have no idea how much dedication that takes! About 15 minutes later I saw the very last marathon runner go by, a Team in Training coach by her side, and the official police escort and course sweeper vehicles right behind her. I’m thankful that Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series leaves the course open long enough to make the marathon distance less intimidating for those who are new to marathons, or slower runners/walkers. I don’t know who that last finisher is, but if you know her, please tell her she is a Rock Star in my book and I am very proud of her.

Hey, I'm in Seattle. Don't judge!
Hey, I’m in Seattle. Don’t judge!

Sometimes, the chaos produces awesome. I was very lucky to experience that this weekend!

My planning for this race was an epic FAIL. First, I originally bought tickets to fly into Sea-Tac Saturday morning, landing at 7:20. Thankfully another blogger pointed out that the race was on Saturday, starting at 7:00 a.m.! Southwest doesn’t charge a change fee (and they have my undying LUV), so I just had to pay the difference between my old ticket and the new one. (Let’s think of that as a stupid-tax, shall we?)  Second, I’d planned to stay at the Seattle HI, since staying there for Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego worked out so well. But I got distracted and didn’t make a reservation on Tuesday when there were many spots, and when I got back to it on Thursday it was booked solid. Thankfully all the crazy travel I did for work helped me accumulate a load of Marriott points, and I was able to score a room with them at the Courtyard, one of the host hotels. Third, the various running groups I’m involved in didn’t make solid plans for Friday so I thought I’d be wandering Seattle alone, but then Briana of Mat Miles Medals let me know she was coming in early Friday, and things worked out perfectly.

Friday’s flight in was uneventful. (Other than the flight attendant singing an awesome song about Seattle, which was fun!). It was easy to hop on the Link light rail from the airport to Pioneer Square, and walk the few blocks to the Courtyard. My double-queen room was enormous and gorgeous, and I was a wee bit sad when I arrived because it would have been fun to stay more than one night.  (I’ve got plans to stay with a friend from…sixth grade? No, fifth grade!) Briana met me at the hotel and kept her luggage in the room during the day, so she wouldn’t have to tote it around until she met up with her h0st for the weekend. We hit up The Pike Brewing Company for lunch, which is what I did when I ran this race in 2013. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the vegetarian options there, and they had a delicious apricot cider on tap!

Then it was time to hit the Expo. Briana introduced me to the proper, non-annoying (or at least not in anyone’s way, and in zero danger of hitting a person, a thing, or a Disney ride) use of the selfie-stick.

Train With Bain and Mat Miles Medals converge!
Train With Bain and Mat Miles Medals converge!
I'm not sure that's actually a salmon...
I’m not sure that’s actually a salmon…

 

I intended to take a bunch of pictures like I usually do, but wasn’t really inspired. So here’s a picture of me with a big fish. (I had other plans for this photo, until I realize the fish was safety-pinned to the mannequin. While I understand why, I think it’s sad to think anyone would steal the fish!) Per usual there was a ton of cute Brooks stuff that I petted but did not buy. To be fair, I think half my running shirts and jackets and pullovers are from Brooks, and my main running shoes are Brooks Pure Cadence (and yes I currently own three pair), so they probably were not too upset.

Once again Toyota kinda stole the expo with their display. This time it included the interactive vehicles, the SpongeBob car (which I think had the cameras installed to take groupies), and SpongeBob-themed swag for the kiddos to win (including one of those crane machines).

Why yes, that is a giant, spinning disco ball. Didn't you see one at your last race expo?
Why yes, that is a giant, spinning disco ball. Didn’t you see one at your last race expo?

 

 

We each had a few errands to run at the expo, and also wanted to see what was new.  Briana had just been named an ambassador for Sparkly Soul headbands (congratulations!), so we headed there first. The Rock ‘n’ Roll expos do tend to have the same race sponsor spaces and some of the same vendors, but each also features some regional flavors. Speaking of regional, Nuun is headquartered in Seattle so they were at the expo with a great special (two tubes and a bottle for $10). Since I’m a Nuunbassador, and totally in love with the tropical flavor for workplace hydration, I had to stock up. There’s definitely a Nuun giveaway in this blog’s near future. Anyway, after romping around the Expo (and wondering where PowerBar was??) we headed over to Pyramid Alehouse so one of my Seattlite friends could pick me up for dinner.

I carb-loaded with Indian Food. Oh yummy, delicious, vegetarian, Indian food. Specifically, we went to Maharaja, which is at 105 1st Avenue S, Seattle. I’m not sure why it wasn’t packed, because the food was good and so was the price–the vegetarian feast for one was $20 and came with a samosa, rice, choice of two vegetarian dishes (I picked chana masala and malai kofta), a side of dal, raita, and rice pudding for dessert. Delicious!

After dinner I took a soothing bubble bath and then went to bed. Early. But before I went to bed, I had to take the obligatory “flat me” picture. I’m not sure who started this, but every time I see one I think of the book Flat Stanley. (In the original, the bulletin board over Stanley’s bed falls on him and flattens him out. He has various adventures, and gets mailed to visit relatives, etc.) Anyway, here’s Flat Bain in all her glory.

Flat Bain
Flat Bain

 

I slept like a rock. Except for waking up once because I’d thrown both of the duvets on top of me (I like a lot of covers) because that was too hot. Then when I woke up I didn’t want to get out of bed because I thought the room felt too cold (it was 67). When I checked the weather app on my phone it told me that it was in the 50s outside, and predicted 50s until after I thought I’d finish running. That led to a slight panic–and no further motivation to get out of bed–as I didn’t pack any toss clothing and didn’t have a garbage bag. The hotel’s laundry bags were too tiny. Eventually I managed to convince myself that I HAD TO GET OUT OF BED and just put on some clothes and go. I made a cup of coffee to console myself, and then swallowed some EnergyBits (with water, not coffee!).

The hotel was a fair walk from the start. It took me about 30 minutes to schlep over there, during which time I started to feel a little warmer. The sun was already out and there were zero clouds, which made me glad I’d slathered on some sunscreen. In case you’re wondering, your glow-in-the-dark-white runner started with a thick coat of the Hawaiian Tropic SPF 30 lotion, which sinks right in and has a dry sort of finish, and then added a layer of Neutrogena sunblock stick in SPF 70. (Why yes, I did get sunburned the last time I did Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle. How did you know?) I tried to stay in the sun, lest I start to freeze over again.

Non-elites wait to take the field, er road
Non-elites wait to take the field, er road

Of course I was too slow on the draw with my camera as the fireworks went off to start the elite corral. This year they had fireworks launch from the Space Needle, which was kind of cool. I did manage to snap a shot of the elites running.

Elite athletes off to a running start
Elite athletes off to a running start
The Brooks Guy
The Brooks Guy

 

I didn’t take nearly as many pictures along this course as I usually do, because (surprise!) I was actually really focused on the running. I started out with a mile run, then switched to 1:1 intervals, which I kept until I hit the nasty hill up to the highway at mile nine.  Brooks had the usual Brooks guy inflatable, but also a boat-float on the lake!

 

Run Happy boat
Run Happy boat!

Seattle is really green and gorgeous this time of year, reminding me of just how much I miss the verdant Pacific Northwest. The course along the lake and the park were really incredible.

Military Mile
Military Mile

One of the unique features of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle course is a mile staffed by, and dedicated to, U.S. military servicemen and women. The first section had photos of those who gave their lives, with their names and ranks and dates. The aid stations? This section of flags? Held by military, former military, and members of Wear Blue Run to Remember. (There is a great video up on the website right now for Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle.) The first year I saw this mile, I cried. To me, it is one more testament to the power of how running can change a life, create community, and change the world. It came on a lovely piece of the course, just before the marathon and half marathon split.

The last few miles of the half course are both interesting and annoying. On the one hand, I find it really fun to run through tunnels usually reserved for the highway. Maybe I’m too much of a goody-two-shoes, but it feels like I’m doing something wrong! On the other hand, running on sloped concrete is tough. Aside from the tunnel, the last few miles also run the road (highway?) right across/above the water’s edge. There are people cheering from the road above on the right, and the open water and the ferris wheel on the other side. I love running with the water at my side.

My favorite sign
My favorite sign

Every race has creative signs held by the cheering squads. Currently in the popular rotation are:

  • Run Like You Stole Something
  • I trained for months to hold this sign
  • If Brittany can survive 2002, you can survive this
  • Never trust a fart

Run now, beer lateAs I rounded one of the final corners, I saw my new favorite sign. Simple message, easy to read, colorful, and held up by a person high-fiving and actively cheering every runner that went by. I don’t think the spectators understand just how important they are to the race.

After crossing the finish line and collecting my medal, I slowly walked through the runner-food. While carrying three bottles (water, gatorade, chocolate milk) proved cumbersome, I was happy my skirt had pockets to hold most of the other snacks. The sun was out and it was a gorgeous day, so I laid down on the grass to collapse for a short period of time before collecting my Six String and starting the walk back to the hotel.

Active Recovery
Active Recovery

I was pleased to see an active recovery area sponsored by Gaiam. When I travel for a race, I can only bring one recovery tool since I try to stick to a carry-on. It’s either The Grid roller or The Roll8. Maybe if I don’t have to pack warm clothes I can also fit in a yoga mat. It’s tough, because all runners know you’re supposed to do some self-maintenance after a long run–maybe stretching, or yoga, some foam rolling, work with Yoga Tune Up balls, or something else. Also, with a concert going on and a city to explore, it can be hard to make time to recover properly. But when you cross the finish line and find an area complete with tools, yoga mats, and people to help, you’re more likely to jump in and do at least a little.

Space, mats, tools, and more
Space, mats, tools, and more

Gaiam was also giving away DVDs (yoga for runners, and a foam roller instructional DVD) to those who entered a raffle. Hopefully a bunch of those runners used those DVDs at home. Seriously, running is SO MUCH BETTER who you do a little self-care and body maintenance.

After a shower, I settled in at Starbucks to start writing this blog entry and caffeinate. From there I meandered over to the Sounders shop–can’t go to a game without a scarf!–then settled into the pub for a cider or two before meeting up with a friend for the game.

Naturally I have a picture of the Sounders band, but not the actual team
Naturally I have a picture of the Sounders band, but not the actual team

I got to see my first Sounders game and they won! Great way to wind up the day.

I wrapped up the weekend by spending Saturday night and Sunday with a friend I’ve known since 5th grade. Her cats were relatively indifferent, but her son (he’s 4) decided I’m the coolest and was not happy when I left Sunday night. Apparently I must go back to Seattle immediately so we can play more.

Want to read more about this year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle? Here’s the link to another Rock ‘n’ Blog team review: Pretty Little Grub. Here’s a photo essay by another team member: photos by Andrew Rich.

Did you run Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle? (What was the marathon course like?)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
Be honest!

Seriously, when? As I thought about it yesterday morning, I realized that I had not bought a new bra in three years. Yikes! “A bra should never see a birthday” is one of the little bits of wisdom I learned at the preview for Title Nine’s FitFest event.

A few supportive styles
A few supportive styles

If your bra has had too many birthdays, read on, my friend. (If it’s old enough to vote, RUN to your nearest Title Nine RIGHT NOW.) Not only is Title Nine hosting events across the country where YOU can find your new chest-friend, but they are also sponsoring a giveaway! Enter to win include a personalized fitting (either at one of the 23 Title Nine stores or by phone, depending on where you live) and one bra.

Not only has it been that long since I bought a bra, it’s been even longer since I was measured and fitted. How long? It was at Victoria’s Secret, back when the entire store was done in dark wood, the London Symphony Orchestra provided the music, and the sales associates wore relatively conservative suits; it was before PINK, before Victoria’s Secret had a fashion show, before they sold make-up, and before the bags were pink striped and had hearts.

If I've been wearing the wrong and super-old bra, I wonder what I need to learn about swimsuits!?
If I’ve been wearing the wrong and super-old bra, I wonder what I need to learn about swimsuits!?

Anyway, I was thrilled to be asked to attend the Title Nine preview party, even if I wasn’t so sure about getting fitted for a bra. (Prior to the above-mentioned time, I think I was fitted by someone’s great-grandmother at JC Penney. Not a comforting experience.) Fortunately there was wine, and suddenly all the girls were talking about the girls.

Party treats!
Party treats!

For example, nobody is the same size in every brand and flavor of bra, and not every style is going to fit every woman, much less flatter. “If the girls are in the same zip code and they are neighbors, you’re going to need a different bra than if the girls are in the same zip code and live a few houses apart,” one bravangelist explained. (Think about it–it makes so much sense!)

Oh and before I forget–Title Nine has sports bras, “regular” bras, and work-to-workout bras. If you’ve never seen the ((bounce)) catalogue, you’re missing out. So you probably want to go to FitFest. FitFest includes personalized bra fitting advice from a “bravangelist” expert and an expanded assortment of bras (more than what your local store usually carries–like a trunk show). I came in with an agenda to choose a new everyday bra, since I’d recently tried to wear a thinner white t-shirt and realized every bra I own is visible through it. Ugh.

Sporty bras in all sizes
Sporty bras in all sizes

I explained to Amy, my bravangelist, what I wanted, she measured me, and we were off!  One thing about these Title Nine bra people, they know what they are doing! First, Amy brought me four bras: “I brought you two you asked for, and two you didn’t” Second, as I was trying them on, I noticed that the different styles had different sizes on them. It wasn’t a mistake, either–you know how some brands just have their own weird or different sizing? Well Amy did!

I'd never have picked a racerback. With lace?? It closes in the front??
I’d never have picked a racerback. With lace?? It closes in the front??

I was surprised to learn that the bras Title Nine carries include both their own brands AND many other brands. There are A to DDD+ sizes, and contoured cups that are shaped, but not stiff; there are bras for no impact, low impact, and high impact. One fun feature of FitFest is the “Bounce-ath-a-lon” area, for those who want to put Title Nine’s bras to the test. Seriously, do you need an excuse to get on a hippity hop?

Strong comes in many shapes and sizes. Don't be judge-y.
Strong comes in many shapes and sizes. Don’t be judge-y.

If you’re looking for a new bra, RSVP for FitFest at your local Title Nine store. Check out  www.titlenine.com for a full list of cities and more information. If you happen to be in the San Francisco Bay Area, here are a few of the upcoming events:

• June 17-18, 10am- 7pm
Title Nine Los Gatos
218 N. Santa Cruz Avenue, Los Gatos
• June 24-25, 10am-7pm
Title Nine Palo Alto
208 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto
• July 15-16, 10am-6pm
Title Nine Walnut Creek
1637 Mt. Diablo Blvd, Walnut Creek

The evening ended with many happy bloggers. Actually it was hard to leave, I was having way too much fun talking to the Title Nine staff and other bloggers. (I learned a lot about triathlons. I still don’t want to do one. Yet.) I went home with three bras, two of the everyday kind (one in hot pink!) and one completely bounce-proof yet 100% flattering (non-uniboob) sports bra. I wore the beige one to work today with one of those t-shirts, and it was perfect. It sounds stupid and sappy, but I cannot remember the last time I liked a bra this much. (Usually I race home and tear it off as soon as I can.)

Bag of goodies! Adorable blinky light on the cute makeup bag from Moving Comfort.
Bag of goodies! Adorable blinky light on the cute makeup bag from Moving Comfort.

Okay now, time to win a new bra!

Disclosure: Title Nine invited me to a sweet Blogger FitFest and provided me with an expert bra fitting, bra, and treat bag. (Oh, and some wine.) All opinions are my own.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you are a blogger and you write about anything related to health, fitness, exercise, running, or sports, then you NEED to be at IDEA BlogFest 2015 (EDIT: THIS YEAR. Not next year. 2015.) hosted by Sweat Pink. Fortunately for you, I have tickets and you can win them!

BlogFest includes two days of blogger-specific education, with lots of time for networking. It also includes ALL of IDEA World, with special access to presenters and brands. It is four days of bloggy goodness, and enough ideas and content to keep you writing all year long. Sweaty inspiration, new friendships, brand access, and swag. You can read all about the schedule by clicking HERE.

IDEA is the world’s largest association for health and fitness professionals.  I joined as soon as I had my first license (Zumba–which I earned at IDEA World!) and continued my membership as I took on group ex certification with AFAA and then ACE. If you’ve never heard of IDEA, you owe it to yourself to check out what IDEA has to offer: continuing education for fitness professionals, a trade journal, social media posting, conferences, insurance, and much more.

IDEA World's opening session included awards and inspiration.
IDEA World’s opening session included awards and inspiration.

IDEA World is a gathering of 12,000 amazing health and exercise-focused individuals from all over the world. There are literally hundreds of different workshops, lectures, and workouts. It starts with pre-conference sessions where you can get become a certified Schwinn Cycling Instructor, or take a workshop  with Stott Pilates, Balanced Body, NASM, or TRX, among others. (Pre-conference sessions are not included in BlogFest, but as long as you’re going to fly out, you might as well check one out.)

Thursday and Friday, you’ll spend at BlogFest. There’s a fresh agenda for 2016, including Gabrielle Reese, one of my favorite athletes, and Zumba founder Beto Perez,  but here are a few glimpses of last year.

BlogFest exclusive 2015: PiYo with Chalene Johnson
BlogFest exclusive 2015: PiYo with Chalene Johnson
Tara Stiles led one of the showcase workouts and BlogFest attendees got their yoga on--complete with mats from Reebok
Tara Stiles led one of the showcase workouts and BlogFest attendees got their yoga on–complete with mats from Reebok

In addition to the workout with Tara Stiles  and Chalene Johnson, BlogFest 2014  featured Jillian Michaels (I swear I took a  picture but I can’t find it!) and a  presentation by Under Armour with one of  my new favorite women, Shuana Harrison.  Sponsored athlete  and she has a PhD?  What’s not to love?

 

 

BlogFest attendees  had their choice of Saturday and Sunday  workshops (which included workouts). Last  year also featured a pre-event unofficial run  sponsored by RunGo. BlogFest attendees  could also chose from sponsored sessions  early morning and at lunch. I tried Fluidity bar early one morning (it kicked my butt), and then took a  lunchtime session with Vibram and Bosu (and experienced more about my feet than I ever had before).

Gotta stay hydrated! I loved guzzling Gerolsteiner all weekend.
Gotta stay hydrated! I loved guzzling Gerolsteiner all weekend.
IMG_1049
Breakfast by Gerolsteiner

During BlogFest, some of the tweet breaks included snacks by BlogFest sponsors. Dannon, also an IDEA World sponsor, presented one tweet break with snacks and a presentation by an RD specific to sports nutrition for women. Dannon also gave each of us a jumpdrive loaded with information about yogurt.

I also attended a gorgeous breakfast sponsored by Gerolsteiner, and learned more about regulation of water, bottled water, and mineral water.

Why yes, I did a lot of eating! Did I mention there are also snacks in the Expo? I’m woefully short on snaps, but there were EAS smoothies, Kelloggs products, Go Veggie! vegan cheese, a new pasta made from beans, and Beyond Meat’s new line of protein products.

Yeah, it might be all about the snacks
Yeah, it might be all about the snacks

 

The Expo had more than just snacks though. This year  there are over 600 exhibitors. There  were exhibits  with EVERYTHING related to fitness.  NASM, ACE,  and AFAA all had booths where you  could learn about  their certifications and exams.  Merrithew-Stott had  tons of products to try out,  including mini-classes, as  well as consultants about  their educational programs.  BlogFest sponsor Lorna  Jane debuted a boutique of  gorgeous workout wear, as  did Blogilates with her  new line of clothes and fitness  journals. You could try  out Zumba or a towel-fitness  class, learn about fitness  classes for you and your dog,  test disinfecting wipes  for use at the gym, and do a million other things.

Sponsor Reebok had a workout floor
Sponsor Reebok had a workout floor

 

Sometimes, a dance party broke out. Or a crossfit class. The Expo hall was a pretty great place to pick up blog-fodder. Everyone was eager to put a product in your hand, talk to you about new developments, demonstrate the moves, or offer you some literature to read later.

 

 

Comfy swag from Reebok included shoes for the pre-registered
Comfy swag from Reebok included shoes for the pre-registered

 

BlogFest attendees get a special swag-bag with freebies, products, and special offers. I don’t remember everything that was in it, but I remember a pre-release copy of Leslie Sansone’s newest  “Walk off the Pounds,” a year subscription to a streaming fitness service, a certificate redeemable for a free Under Armour heart rate monitor, and stacks of other goodies.

 

 

 

Merrithew-Stott sponsored one of our tweet breaks, complete with moves using the magic circle
Merrithew-Stott sponsored one of our tweet breaks, complete with moves using the magic circle

 

The sponsors of BlogFest also handed out goodies  during the course of the event. Surprises around every  corner! Lorna Jane gave each attendee a cute tank  with fitness inspiration, a visor, a stretchy hair-taming  headband, and also hosted a raffle at the closing  party.

During the BlogFest sessions, we covered a bunch of  topics. Some topics were very broad, like how to turn  your blog into a brand, or legal advice for bloggers,  while others were more targeted, such as taking good  food pictures and learning a little SEO. Attendees  were a mix of experienced and professional bloggers,  and newer bloggers from those not-yet-blogging on up.

Ahnu shoes booth
Ahnu shoes booth

 

In addition to the brands sponsoring BlogFest, all of which expressed interest in working with bloggers, there were also brands at the Expo looking for social media contacts or brand ambassadors.

Sometimes, you’ve just gotta selfie.

This year’s BlogFest presentations cover blogging topics such as how to increase readership and market your message, building a following on Instagram, busting nutrition myths, and the future of blogging. (Seriously, check out the schedule and look who is presenting! I’m so excited to learn from Kasey Arena, Katy Widrick, Melissa Burton, and the other bloggers and celebrity guests.)

The private BlogFest reception included dinner by Subway, including a visit from Jarod
The private BlogFest reception included dinner by Subway, including a visit from Jarod and insulated Subway messenger bags

 

Sponsor for BlogFest 2015 [EDIT: why did I keep typing 2016? Do I think I am living in the future?] include Siggi’s (seriously, I cannot wait for you to taste skyr!), Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition by General Mills, Merrithew (Stott Pilates, Zenga, Core, Total Barre), MorningStar Farms, Propel, and Reebok.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A tiny section of the Expo
A tiny section of the Expo

I can’t think of a better place to make connections with bloggers and brands, learn about the style and substance of  blogging (and the mechanics–I need all the  help I can get!), and try out the latest  trends in fitness and food and fashion.

 

 

 

If you’d like to join me at IDEA World’s BlogFest 2015 with Sweat Pink, save July 15-19 on your calendar and book a plane ticket to Los Angeles. Then cross your fingers, and enter to win a ticket to BlogFest using the widget below.

(Ticket to BlogFest includes admission badge for BlogFest and IDEA World. It does not include airfare, room and board, pre- and post-con sessions, your passport renewal, boarding for your cat, or that cute new top from Eleven by Venus that you just have to have. Legal disclaimer, blah blah blah.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2015 is my third year with the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco half marathon. The race organizers got some things right from the first year, including runner transportation from the finish line to the start and copious amounts of pre-paid parking nearby.  Some things took just a little bit of a learning curve (such as teaching newer runners what a “bus box” is so they stopped freaking out and claiming they were “diverted” or “cut short”).

This year I made the very silly decision to run the second Livermore Half Marathon on Saturday and the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco on Sunday. I’m not sure I noticed the dates when I signed up for the events more than six months in advance. Yes, wine was involved–I’ll write more about Livermore later. Livermore and the after-party demanded a post-event shower, which demanded a post-shower nap. Suddenly it was time to leave for the expo if I wanted to get there before it closed. Yikes!

Expo Entrance
Expo Entrance

A quick trip to San Francisco later, I grabbed my bib and shirt. Per usual, no line. Next a walk through the Brooks shop with Rock ‘n’ Roll themed merchandise, Moving Comfort bras, and the very best shoe porn.

So very many cute things I managed not to buy!
So very many cute things I managed not to buy!

I’m quite proud of escaping without a new running wardrobe, since I love the blues and greens in this year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll collection. The expo had a few things that were new to me, and some of the usual vendors. To my delight (and my wallet’s demise), there were also some surprises.

Is that a Clinique Bonus in your booth, or are you just happy to see me, Macy's?
Is that a Clinique Bonus in your booth, or are you just happy to see me, Macy’s?

True confession, I am a sucker for the Clinique bonus. Since I needed a new eye crayon and a less harsh lipstick for everyday wear, this was pretty much perfection. The best part is that it was right next to the booth I was actually looking for: Go Tape.

Go Tape comes in smaller rolls with pre-cut strips, and larger uncut rolls.
Go Tape comes in smaller rolls with pre-cut strips, and larger uncut rolls.

A friend turned me on to Go Tape. I’d tried kinesio tape a few times before, but somehow it just peeled right off around the edges so by the time the race rolled around it was less like tape and more like decorative flaps. Go Tape is sticky and stays put, so I was really happy to see them taping at their booth.

Go Tape pro-tapers, doing their thing.
Go Tape pro-tapers, doing their thing.

I had my shoulders taped by one of the pros taping that day. My tape-r was also an athlete. Turns out her “day job” is working as a doctor in the pediatric ER! I found out she had a sports injury while in school and was really frustrated that the kinesio tape available to her wasn’t sticky and would peel off before she was done with it. That’s why she loves to spread the Go Tape love. Clearly other runners have caught on, as people were still trying to get in line to get Go Tape-d even as the dudes in uniforms were trying to kick us all out of the expo. I grabbed a quick bite and a drink with another one of this year’s Rock ‘n’ Blog team, but naturally totally neglected to photograph it. Drat.

Thanks to pre-paid, guaranteed parking and a seamless shuttle system, I arrived at the starting line plenty early. (Earlier than I like to get up, in fact.)

O'dark Thirty in San Francisco
O’dark Thirty in San Francisco

The course starts right out at the beach, along the highway (which–fortunately for us–was not covered in sand as we started). That means less-than-gentle ocean breezes blowing through our bones as we waited and huddled for warmth.

Inching towards the starting line
Inching towards the starting line

It was a chilly morning, with many people opting to keep their “toss” layers instead of tossing them. It wasn’t long before we had all crossed the start and were working our way through the neighborhoods.

Did I mention the neighborhoods have hills?
Did I mention the neighborhoods have hills?

No bands in the residential areas, as no sane people are up at this hour (just runners). Everyone was looking forward to those gorgeous views of the Golden Gate, and we had scored some sweet, clear skies. We got a teaser look through the residential areas, before we hit…

Kind of a warning sign...
Kind of a warning sign…

A Hill. Not just any hill, but the great big one leading up to the smaller one that is the lead-up to the Golden Gate Bridge. Fortunately for the runners, this section of the course was OWNED by the San Francisco November Project. (If you don’t know who they are, you should.)

The November Project cheering tunnel
The November Project cheering tunnel

There were costumes, noise makers, signs, and plenty of hands to high-five, plus the bridge teasing us in the background.

It's left-side-cheer-tunnel by the November Project!
It’s left-side-cheer-tunnel by the November Project!

These are people who voluntarily get up at obscene hours for group workouts, so they understand the special kind of crazy that is running races. Mad props, guys! You made my race.

Not to be outdone, right-sided cheer tunnel decked out in bright duds
Not to be outdone, right-side-cheer-tunnel decked out in bright duds

Just past the November Project there was a designated selfie-station, complete with props and a faux Instagram frame.

The November Project rock band
The November Project rock band

Since I live close enough to go running in the Presidio pretty much any time I want to, it is easy for me to forget that this is DESTINATION race; even people who don’t stop for pictures stop for pictures.

Selfie-station even had a hastag
Selfie-station even had a hashtag

The course went up to the Golden Gate Bridge, and over it and back again. My phone’s battery was starting to run low, as was my energy (because running back-to-back half marathons with hills was not my best idea). I feared dropping the phone off of the bridge! Since you had to run out-and-back across the bridge, I had the opportunity to wave and yell HI! to my fleet-footed friends.

The view from "the other side"
The view from “the other side”

The course wound down the bridge exit and across Marina Green. Even with the Bay breeze’s chill in the air, there were at least a half dozen other things going on: big cycling event, smaller charity run, farmer’s market, and an assortment of random runners, cyclists, frisbee players, and very happy puppy dogs. Past the parks and back into the urban heart of San Francisco, around mile 9 I decided that coffee was definitely in order. (Hey, it worked for me in Dallas!) It wasn’t until mile 12 I found my opportunity to buy a hot mocha from a local establishment. I even got the extra whipped cream.

photo 5 (3)
I wasn’t “Quik” and neither is my mocha, but this somehow seemed appropriate…

Since I was seriously lagging, I missed all but the end of the concert (which is fine, as I was post-run-dazed and trying to absorb caffeine). The finish line had the usual assortment of salty things, bananas, chocolate milk, water, Gatorade, and the Michelob Light beer tent (which I skipped since I don’t do beer). There were also some fun additions, including a Sambazon mobile cafe! After thankfully accepting some bottled samples, I checked out the available açai bowls.

Acai you need some refreshment...
Açai you need some refreshment…

This was the first year I knew plenty of other people running, but didn’t traverse any significant portion of the course with someone I knew. Overall I think the Rock ‘n’ Roll crew did a great job with this race, and the gorgeous weather didn’t hurt. Now if I could just convince them to coordinate with the Livermore Half Marathon so I don’t end up with back-to-backs in 2016…

P.S. If you want to read more from the Rock ‘n’ Blog team, here are some options:

Pavement Runner on the course preview

Andrew Rich’s photo essay (much better pics than mine!)

Half Crazy Mama’s event recap

Do Things Always race recap with VIP (and much better pictures than mine)

This past summer I had the good fortune to run through Napa’s wine country twice, with two different series races. Naturally I wrote a blog post about the races and then promptly forgot to post it. So here it is, to help you make your 2016 race choices.  I ran the Zooma Napa Half Marathon, and the Destination Races Napa to Sonoma.

Zooma Napa Valley June 28, 2014

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES2014 was the first year for the Zooma race in Napa.  In case you are not familiar with it, Zooma is a series of races aimed at women. The races are held in a variety of “getaway” locations, and are promoted as destinations for a girlfriends’ getaway weekend.   Here is the promo text from the Zooma website (registration for 2015 is still open but like to sell out; the 2014 race sold out):

ZOOMA’s newest fit girlfriends’ getaway will treat you to a scenic half marathon or 10K race in the luxurious Napa Valley.  The race starts and finishes near the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa, our host resort, and runs on mostly flat terrain with awe-inspiring views of the vineyards and the mountain ranges that create the Valley.

You’ll be welcomed to your wine country getaway with a Fitness Expo at the host resort, then feted at the Honest Tea Mocktail Party. Walk from your cozy bed to the start line to run an unforgettable race through the vines.  After the race, its time to celebrate with an After-Party Expo at the host resort, including wine tastings, live music, a pool party, food, and shopping. After a quick shower, you and your best running girlfriends can visit some of the best winery tasting rooms in the country.

For the first year, I thought the race went pretty well. The two Zooma Run Ambassadors hosted training runs from local Athleta stores, which I thought was a great idea.  at the kick-off, Athleta gave the attendees headbands and tech fabric running hats, and Muscle Milk (one of the race sponsors) provided post-race hydration for many of the runs. Friends were allowed to pick up bibs, which was important to me since I ended up stuck at work and didn’t make it to the Expo and mocktail party (which I understand was small, but populated with some of my absolute favorites, including Bani Bands and Scott James Jewelry). Transportation from the host hotel to the start/finish ran smoothly. While I’m not sure the “Zooma Signature Swag Bag” contents were valued at $50 as touted on the website (hat, shirt, Feetures socks, and some Kind bars), they were all items I liked and use–even the race shirt–so I have no complaints.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI’m not likely to run this one again, as for me the minuses outweighed the plusses. First and foremost, the course was not at all awe-inspiring.  For all the hype about how scenic it was supposed to be, the race was an out-and-back with the longest stretch alongside the highway. People did complain, so that might change–Zooma seemed responsive to feedback and has, for example, changed to an earlier start time (runners were melting to the pavement by the time they finished). Second, the host hotel is very expensive. Napa is not inexpensive, I’ve got it, but the race rate for a hotel room with two double beds was about $300 for a single night, and the hotel did not allow ANY late check-outs that weekend (or so the front desk told us, more than once). I suppose I could have stayed somewhere else or driven in the day of the race, but the transportation to the starting line was from the host hotel and it wasn’t clear to me where I could park and attend the post-race party. (The hotel parking was guests only, and overflowing the entire time.)

Finally, the After-Party Expo was clearly geared towards the fast runners–it was literally over before I could get to it.  I wanted to shower before I drove home (an hour and a half) and the hotel wouldn’t allow any late check-outs, so I had to go from the race to the room to shower and pack up. By the time we checked out, the DJ was breaking down, there was not really any food left, and the Honest Tea was all on trolleys being moved out of the patio area (which was separate from the pool). I did not see evidence of shopping or wine tasting, though there were some empty booths. I finished the race in a little over 3 hours, waited on the bus, and went back to the hotel, showered without much lazing about, and still missed the party.  My friends ended up split into two groups; one group had stayed in Vallejo (due to the high cost of the Napa hotel) and they left early, while those of us who stayed at the Napa hotel bought champagne and then ate lunch at The Habit.

If you’ve never been to Napa and are planning to make a long weekend out of it, this might be a good race to throw in. As someone who lives relatively close, this race experience did not justify the high cost. I’d rather allocate those dollars elsewhere in 2015.

Destination Races Napa To Sonoma July 20, 2014

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThis race was a last-minute addition to my summer racing calendar, and my favorite race of the year! A friend-of-a-friend had registered (the field is limited to 3,500 and only 1,800 of those are individual spots–the race sells out) but was unable to run. Destination Races allows a bib transfer for $25 plus some paperwork, so I gladly hopped in to take her place. (The transfer process was painless. It took five minutes.) The website describes this race pretty accurately:

Napa-to-Sonoma is the flagship event in the Wine Country Half Marathon Series. This popular race features a fast and scenic course starting at Cuvaison Carneros Winery and finishing in historic Sonoma Plaza in front of City Hall. The world-renowned Napa and Sonoma Valleys serve as the host of this event, offering the finest in wine country ambience and hospitality.

Other activities are scheduled around the race, so bring family and friends and plan to stay and play! You’ll also meet new friends and running colleagues at this iconic event, which draws from all fifty states and many foreign countries. This is not your typical running race, this is a lifestyle experience!

photo 2 (12)The expo was relatively small, but had a variety of vendors and sponsors in addition to a Destination Races gear shop. After getting my bib, I had my first taste of Annie’s gluten-free, vegan pizza. There was also a speakers area where runners could attend a course preview or hear Meb speak.  There was an Elliptigo set up to try in the parking lot (Meb led the race on an Elliptigo).

Race day transportation was offered from both Napa and Sonoma–the race is a point-to-point, starting in Napa and ending in the plaza in downtown Sonoma–with public parking available on both ends. I parked my car a few blocks away from the downtown Sonoma plaza and hopped on the race bus, easy-peasy. At the starting point I indulged in some hand-poured drip coffee before photographing the winery pond as the sun rose.

Sunrise at the starting line
Sunrise at the starting line

This was the most gorgeous course I’ve run, with a long stretch through vineyards and greenery with mostly downhill-hills.  I’m not pleased there was a big hill at the beginning, but the rest of the course was relatively fast (I think it had a significant drop). The course wound through pretty agricultural areas and shaded neighborhoods (and past a house cooking bacon for breakfast, to the chagrin of the omnivores in the group). This is the only race I’ve run with an “unofficial Guinness aid station” followed by an officially sanctioned wine station! I’m not sure that shot of gewürztraminer was a good idea, but it was fun! I really enjoyed the course itself and kept smiling all day.  The weather was perfect (which I can’t attribute to the race organizers, but it made me smile all day).

Across the finish line, past the medals and post-race snacks (and a huge tub of bio-freeze packets) was a huge finishing festival with lots of wine tastings and live music. Team Challenge had a big tent with a post-race meal for all the team members, too. In line for the wine tastings, people were pretty social (and I invited everyone I could to join us for Run 10 Feed 10). The party lasted through the afternoon, with plenty of time for even the slowest runners to finish and still enjoy snacks and wine.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI wasn’t familiar with this race until I had the good fortune to be offered a bib. (By the way, since acts of good karma should be appreciated fully, I did send some wine and race goodies to the bib’s original owner.)  You can bet I’ve marked the registration date on my calendar so I can run it again next year! I don’t know if the other Destination Races events are as wonderful, but this one was truly a lovely experience.

 

You never know what you'll find in a park
You never know what you’ll find in a park

What is your favorite destination race? Have you run any races in wine country?

I got up at o’dark-thirty to hop a flight to Dallas, picked up my rental car, and headed off to the convention center. Unfortunately I didn’t know that (1) there are no food or coffee places within walking distance of the convention center, and (2) there are very limited options inside the convention center. So I had popcorn and a Dr. Pepper for lunch. (Safety Tip: next year, plan ahead!) A quick no-line stop to pick up my bibs and shirts, and it was time to explore the expo!

Do not be fooled, everything is not bigger in Texas. Sure, the convention center is huge, but those parking spaces? Not so much.
Do not be fooled, everything is not bigger in Texas. Sure, the convention center is huge, but those parking spaces? Not so much.

 

While smaller than the San Francisco and Los Angeles expos, the Dallas expo had some good stuff I’ve not seen elsewhere. Humana, the title sponsor for the race, was printing out post-sized photos of races and handing out free water bottles. Dunkin’ Donuts had samples of iced coffee. There were booths for several local events, including a Texas 10k series and the Plano balloon festival. I discovered the coolest adjustable headband ever, made by a company called LemonHeads. If you are a runner with long hair, you have got to check these out! Not only can you adjust the length of the elastic band, but you can also use the loop created by adjusting as a ponytail holder or bun holder. They have many colors and patterns, and two different styles. One is a ribbon headband, and the other is made from stretchy sports fabric. After one of the booth staff helped me try one on I was hooked, and I bought two: a ribbon style for running, and a stretchy fabric for yoga (to hold my bangs out of the way and prevent them from dripping sweat into my face). If you can’t picture how these work, there are videos on the (click!) Lemonheads Website:

Lemonheads headband and ponytail holder in one
Lemonheads headband and ponytail holder in one

One nice thing about the Dallas Convention Center, it does have good, free, public wifi. I parked on a couch in front of some art, plugged my computer into the power outlets (plentiful!) and accomplished some work before my friend T arrived. Since I’m an instigator, I talked T into signing up for her first 5k event. After picking up her bib and shirt, I did another spin through the expo. It was really fun to see the running culture (and the “runner mall”) through T’s eyes.

Me and T!
Me and T!

We both swore we were going to bed early, but T’s delicious vegetable chickpea pasta led to a few more glasses of wine than we usually drink, and we stayed up later than planned, catching up while I tried to bribe T’s cat to let me scratch her ears.

photo 3 (7)Saturday morning we got up a bit too early for my taste, and T made breakfast (eggs and tomatoes, and a big pot of coffee) before we drove over to Fair Park. The weather was playing games with us and threatening to rain, though in the end we barely felt a few sprinkles. The 5k was self-seeded, and since we planned to walk we settled in towards the back.

 

 

 

photo 1 (9)
The pointy thing belongs to one of those barfy “drop” rides, but it would have been cool to ride the ferris wheel

 

T enjoyed some great people-watching, as I pointed out the various known characters (e.g. Team Chocolate Milk, Half Fanatics), race swag (lots of Hot Chocolate hoodies!), and costuming elements (such as random tutus, matching socks, my favorite Brooks sneakers…).

 

 

photo 2 (10)
Look! The Cotton Bowl! The post-race concert was right in the front there.

 

 

 

The course had a slice of not-so-exciting out and back around a parking area, but the rest of the course showed off Fair Park’s WPA-era buildings, museums, gardens, and public art. I’d never been through the area.

 

 

 

The weather threatened to rain, and it was cloudy the entire time. No one really seemed to mind, since at least that meant it wasn’t too hot. Fortunately for us–or at least for me, since I’m still wearing glasses–it didn’t start to rain until near the end. Even then it was just a few sprinkles, no big deal. Refreshing!

Obligatory Mid-Race Selfie
Obligatory Mid-Race Selfie

After the stroll (oh right, it was a  race!) we caught the end of the concert and I explained a little bit more about what the ends of various races looked like. For an inaugural race, I thought there was a pretty good turn-out, even if it was a bit early (and a bit cool-ish) to grab a beer afterwards, or eat anything from a carnival food truck. Deena Kastor was there, signing and taking pictures, but I was so caught up in explaining the quirks of race culture that it didn’t occur to me to get my bib signed. Oops.

Happy stroll-ers!
Happy stroll-ers!

If I’d been thinking more clearly, I’m sure I would have taken pictures of the turtle pond, the birds, the very cool garden-like atmosphere in some areas of the park, and the museum fronts. My bad. Here’s a bling shot instead:

Rock n Roll did a nice job with the shirt this year
Rock n Roll did a nice job with the shirt this year

The rest of Saturday was a sloth-fest for me as I tried to catch up on the sleep I missed last week. A shower, followed by a long nap, and another decadent dinner by T: tofu rice biryani, curried vegetables, and a red lentil dal. We didn’t stay up too too late, since the half marathon was going to have me up early.

Did you Rock the Dallas 5k? What did you think? What would you suggest the team do differently next year?

Psst! Want to read about the half marathon and brunch? Click HERE

Integrity Statement: I’m a proud member of the 2015 Rock ‘n’ Blog Team! In exchange for blogging about the 2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll events, Team members receive certain perks, including a limited number of free race entries. You can save $15 off any marathon or half marathon in the United States and Canada by using the code TRAINWITHBAIN. (Offer not valid on Las Vegas, sorry! I hope to see you there anyway.)

Two Bibs, Two Runs, Remix Fun!
Two Bibs, Two Runs, Remix Fun!

Since I ran the New Year’s Double marathons on December 31 and January 1, and then did the Disney World Marathon as part of the Dopey Challenge the next week, it seemed like a great idea to sign up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona marathon the next weekend. (Why yes, I might be crazy.) After all, there was something important at stake: the very last opportunity to earn the Desert Double Down medal.

photo 2 (7)Actually I’d never really been to Arizona (other than a work trip to Lake Havasu City, and passing through the airport, which I don’t think counts). Since Arizona was the first Rock ‘n’ Roll event of the year and my first opportunity to run as a Rock ‘n’ Blog team member, and there was an Arizona Remix Challenge, and I could get the last Desert Double Down (since I ran Las Vegas), I REALLY wanted to run it. Then I managed to talk my friend Jackie into running it with me (because she’d just done the Dopey Challenge too, and clearly needed to run another marathon) and also let me crash at her place, I had to do it!

Jackie met me at the airport and we went straight to the Expo. Though I’m usually photographing everything, I managed to take just one photo with my camera all weekend. Impressive, right?

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona medals from 2015 to 2019 will fit together to make one big Arizona!

The Remix Challenge is two races, the 5k and then either the half or marathon, so we had to pick up two bibs. Fortunately there were no lines, so we each had two bibs and two tech shirts in hand pretty quickly. (I’ve actually never stood in line for more than a few minutes at any of the Rock ‘n’ Roll races I’ve done, except for Philadelphia.) We drooled over the cute race merchandise but didn’t buy any. Remember, we just did the Dopey Challenge the weekend before. (Read: we left all of our money with the mouse).

I like the way this race in Durango thinks!
I like the way this race in Durango thinks!

The rest of the Expo was fun. It’s a little bit like being at a runner mall, with games and prizes. We tasted some delicious sangria from P.F. Chang’s, the title race sponsor. The other big highlights for me included restocking Nuun (I’m a #nuunbassador for a reason!) and scoring the new Rock ‘n’ Roll water bottle design while discovering the “tropical” flavor might just be my new favorite; and trying out the R8 tool by Roll Recovery. I’m a fascia tool nerd, and even though there is essentially just one technique with this tool after trying it I had to have it. Peace out, my hammies are happy.

FOT23E6
Who could’t love that one snaggletooth??

We spent the evening chowing on Chipotle and lazing about the house, where I met the furry members of the family. Spotty kitty was a little too high-strung to become my new bestie, but her mother is the softest, friendliest, chummiest little furball ever. It broke my heart to learn her life started out rather terribly, and Jackie found her living in a dumpster all super skinny and with a litter of kittens. Poor dumpster kitty! I don’t see how anyone can be so cruel! I’m so glad little dumpster kitty found Jackie, as her life is immeasurably better now (plus she’s a total snugglepuss).

 

Kitty wants a belly rub
Kitty wants a belly rub

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The 5k had us up earlier than I like to be up, but not “Disney early” (which is around 3:30 or 4 a.m.). We’d decided to use this as a stroll; no need to over-exert or tire out before the marathon. The morning started out chilly and windy, but warmed up by the time we meandered across the finish line.

 

 

 

 

After collecting the 5k medals we had the opportunity to meet and greet some running greats. The Rock ‘n’ Roll series has had Meb running with us in various races through the last year, and this year even more racing greats are joining the races–with meet and greet opportunities before and after some races. Here’s just one:

Ryan Hall, aka the Surfer Jesus Runner
Ryan Hall, aka the Surfer Jesus Runner

Every good event ends with food, so we went to Snooze for brunch. (Read about them at http://snoozeeatery.com) The menu had so many tasty-looking options that I probably could have eaten there for a week. Sadly, I had but one brunch to eat. If you’re in the Phoenix area, you’ve got to try their Huevos Rancheros. Also, coffee. OMG, the coffee.

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I met a Box Troll! Who knew they liked road races??

From there we attempted to make the #RocknBlog #TweetUp. Unfortunately, since we’d enjoyed brunch for a little longer than maybe we should have, and decided to change into fresh clothes and throw on a little makeup so we didn’t scare people, we missed the whole thing. (We were only 45 minutes late…)

After fondling the new Heavy Medals, we headed over to the Arizona runner-bloggers meet-up. While I’m not sure about living in the desert–the morning-freezing to noon-frying to night-freezing temperatures might just be a bit much for me–I know I’d love to run with this crowd! After some initial meet-and-greet there was a raffle with some awesome prizes, from Nuun, SunRype, Girls Run Fast, StartLine Racing, and local yummy real food tasty treat HuppyBar. I scored $25 to Fleet Feet Sports Scottsdale, one of the generous sponsors of multiple #RunEatTweetAZ meet-ups.

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Winners of the Fleet Feet Scottsdale gift cards. Image courtesy of Run Eat Tweet AZ.

Then groups of us headed off to lunch at the surrounding restaurants. The tweet-up had too many people to head to one place, so we split up a bit.

I feel like I spent Saturday eating…we got back to the house just in time to laze about a little, eat some dinner, and head to bed early.

Marathon morning came too soon (it always does!). There was an impressive amount of traffic trying to park at the finish line (which I think was also the start line for the half marathon), so much that the freeway was at a standstill. We opted to park a little further out, near one of the light rail stations. (I do have a major soft spot for quality public transportation.) The marathon start was MUCH smaller than I’d expected. I’m used to Rock n’ Roll events having thousands of people at the starting line, and volunteers trying to make sure you get into the right corral. The marathon starting line was very tiny, and there were basically no corrals. I was somewhat amused to see a runner in front of us wearing full make-up reapply her lipstick (really?) as we waited. It was chilly, and I had borrowed a toss jacket to keep warm.

Initially, I figured Jackie would finish about 90 minutes before me. The plan had been for her to take off and see what she could do, and for me to slug along with my 1-2 intervals. Only I left my Bia in California (so I had no interval timer or even timer-timer). Oops.

Photo of the next day’s newspaper

The race started off with music, cheering, signs, and all the crazy you’d expect for a marathon. The first few miles had a lot of people cheering, which surprised me since it was pretty early. Overall, given the smaller number of runners and the early start time, I’d say there was a decent spectator turn-out for the parade. One unofficial stop had some kids handing out chocolate, super cute! I stopped to pet a few dogs, and otherwise just kept motoring along. This was my second marathon in my Marathon Maniacs singlet, and I was thrilled to have so many fellow Maniacs pass by! (Part of the reason I bothered with Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs is that once you are a member, you’re never really alone at a race.) I also got several shout-outs to Orange Flower, which at least one person on course had seen both in Texas and at Disney.

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Orange Flower wears the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll medal

Around mile 12 or so I started tagging along with a runner whose watch was beeping intervals. The sun was up and so was the temperature! It wasn’t unreasonably hot–I mean, I knew I was going to run in the desert and all–but the ice at the aid station was a welcome sight. We chatted as we ran. Part of the fun of running is all the neat people you get to meet! Turned out I was tagging along with a runner chasing the 50 States Marathon Club–she’d already done about half of them!Somewhere around mile 18 or 20–let’s face it, all the miles around there are like the same mile over and over again–we ran into Jackie, who had found and befriended the sarcastic runners’ posse. She joined us for some miles of intervals (oh right, we were doing 25-55) and then we passed the unofficial beer aid station (two dudes, a cooler, and a sign that said “free beer”…bet you wish you were there, eh?). The intervals continued until…I’m not sure where, when we were temporarily too pooped to run as the beep went off. We shouted our goodbyes and continued rambling.

Per usual, somewhere between mile 22 and mile 24 I was 100% over this marathon. It was starting to get hot enough to feel hot, yet still not totally oppressive. What was totally oppressive was the hill that jumped into the course somewhere around mile 25. I’m not a fan of hills at any point, but it seemed really obnoxious to “hide” one right near the end!

Eventually we got over it.

The first of the four Rock 'n' Roll Arizona puzzle piece medals
The first of the four Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona puzzle piece medals

The finish line still had a cheering throng, even though all of the half marathoners had long since finished and the crew was already packing up some of the post-race festival that had been going on in the park. (I’m NOT slow, I’m cheap; I had totally maximized the value of that entry fee, thanks!) It was great to hit the finish line and collect a marathon medal! Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona did a great job with the finish line food, and there were still plenty of bananas, pretzels, water bottles, Gatorade bottles, Power Bars, fruit cups and other treats. If you are a speedy runner, you probably find this is always the case, but for those of us who have a more leisurely pace, we sometimes find the finish line food gone; at one race after I went through the chute and found nothing but bananas, I saw a runner who’d clearly finished quite some time ago with an entire backpack full of finish line food. Not cool. Don’t be that self-centered guy!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHappy to have some snacks, it was on to collect the bonus bling: the Arizona Remix medal for each of us, and the last Desert Double-Down for me (since I ran Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas). Then we collected the marathon finisher jackets. These are lightweight, mesh-vented warm-ups, maybe even subtle bragging wearables for a summer evening with a mild breeze. I think it is a great touch.

The Remix medal is a spinner
The Remix medal is a spinner

 

After dogging it over to the light rail and shuffling to the car, we headed straight to In and Out. A milkshake and some french fries (aka salt transport devices) make the perfect marathon chaser!

 

 

 

 

 

Overall I really enjoyed the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona marathon experience. I would definitely do it again–well, since I am thinking this marathon experiment is over, maybe I’d stick to the half. If you’re thinking of a trip to Arizona to run, this was a great time of year to be there. Nights and early mornings were chilly, but the days were not disgustingly hot. If you go, be sure to check out Fleet Feet Scottsdale, and hook up with the #RunEatTweetAZ community. It seems like there are a lot of running events even in the summer (just those start earlier or much later!).

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P.S. January is also the month of Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans! I didn’t get to run NOLA (this year, anyway) but here’s a great review from another member of the 2015 Rock ‘n’ Blog team: Through Heather’s Looking Glass

 

uforia opening

Uforia Studios is opening a shiny new studio in San Francisco, California TODAY!

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Not only are they hiring for the concierge team (see picture, above!), uforia is holding an all-weekend rock your sweaty socks off opening weekend party AND I’ve got a giveaway! Now that I’ve attended a class, I can tell you the word “concierge” is not just being tossed around here. Each guest tonight was met at the door, checked in via ipad, and personally escorted on a tour. I arrived late (remind me to pretend there isn’t ever parking in the City, okay?) and not only did I get help getting into class, the staff filled my water bottle so that I wouldn’t have to miss one more minute of class.  Cool right?  Oh and the best part was after class: we finished our cool-down, and in comes a Uforia Studios concierge with a tray of chilled, damp towels! It felt delicious to wipe the salty sweat off my face right away.

But back to the studio opening.

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Special discounts for Uforia Studios’ guests (and truffles!)

 

For starters, there is a special schedule for opening day, March 5, 2015. I’m going to I went to the 6:30 Hip Hop Club class. If you missed tonight’s classes, you can check out the rest of this weekend’s opening classes HERE. You might have missed the boat though–classes tonight were very popular!  Good thing the party continues during opening weekend, March 6-8. Did you know Friday has a class with a live DJ? True story.

 

 

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Revolutions ride at night

 

 

Test-drive the new Uforia Studios with not one but TWO FREE classes but you have to claim them during opening weekend, March 6-8! Use code TRAINWITHBAIN-FREE when you sign up. The schedule has a variety of Uforia offerings, including Revolutions, Hip Hop Club, and one of their signature sweat-fests, GRIT. Rumor has it they’ll have lots of treats, including shirt screening during the weekend, and I bet some of the Sweat Pink Ambassadors will be there checking it out.

 

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Cute right? (True confession: I have a water bottle collection.)

The studio has cycle shoes you can borrow, and promises to be fully stocked up on towels (which I can no confirm YOU WILL NEED). Pack a water bottle, or hope that they have enough on hand to sell you one. You’re going to need it. During my Hip Hop Club experience I guzzled my way through the bottle I’d brought and will definitely pack a larger one for next time.

#EmbraceTheSweat

 

 

 

 

Locker area, includes the loaner cycling shoes
Locker area, includes the loaner cycling shoes

The studio has lockers for your stuff (tonight, guarded by those concierges, since not all of the locks were installed). In addition to the FOUR separate bathrooms (nope, no lines!) Both levels (Hip Hop Club was in the main floor studio, Revolutions was downstairs past the lockers) had plenty of space for chatting before and after class, so you don’t have to worry about being packed in sweat like an oversalted sardine. Since Uforia’s Nob Hill location is still in build-out phase, the lobby and locker areas don’t have seating….yet. It’s coming.

Pay no attention to the sweaty woman in the mirror.
Pay no attention to the sweaty woman in the mirror.

Another nice touch: a vanity stocked with the things you desperately need for class, but will probably forget at least once. I try to keep a package of the towelettes you use to clean your face and remove makeup in my gym bags, since I tend to hit my workout after work. If I ever forget, Uforia has me covered. There are also cotton balls, deodorant (the spray kind, so sharing isn’t gross), q-tips, and hair ties. Don’t stress, just go get your sweat on!

After you try out Uforia (with one of those free classes I mentioned!) why not treat yourself to a class pack? For a limited time you can get a single class, 10-pack, or 20-pack for 50% off. Yes, you read it right, HALF OFF. This is the very best discount out there–even better than the pre-opening promotions, so feel free to spread it around. I’ve been warned that code expires on Monday (March 9) so don’t wait!  Just use code TRAINWITHBAIN when you purchase. (It’s easy to remember ’cause it rhymes. Need to get moving? Join the motivation TRAIN WITH BAIN. See?)

Uforia shirt

The welcome email I got reminded me to wear clothes I can bust a move in. (Let’s hope that moves are all I bust, since I’m pretty sure I will be your comic relief in that Hip Hop Club class!) I picked a tank top and capri leggings, but there were all manner of fashions in the room, from gorgeous leggings with shiny print to the kind of clothes I leave in the trunk of the car just in case I forgot my gym bag. Don’t worry, it wasn’t a fashion show (though I do wonder how our rockstar instructor was not drowning in sweat–he danced wearing a hat, long pants, and a jacket!!) If you’re in the market for some new workout duds, you can be among the first to peruse Uforia’s signature gear. Since you live in the Bay Area, you know you need some layers–summer’s coming up.

A few other tips about attending your first Hip Hop class:

  • Don’t wear the loosest clothes you own, you might shake them off! (That’s what they told me, I swear!)
  • Don’t be afraid to push the envelope, wear a hat, bandana or something that makes you feel a little more bad ass. (Now that I’ve tried it out, I can say you WILL feel bad ass at some time during class. There are floor to ceiling mirrors in the studio, and everyone spent class checking out how they were doing.)
  • Don’t hide near the back of the class, the best way to learn is when you can see the rockstar instructors in full view. (Yup, Uforia hires rockstars! I’m willing to hang out in the front where I can see my designated rockstar, I just worry about crashing into my classmates. Did I mention I have a hard time keeping right and left separate??)
  • Do smile while you sweat, and you will sweat–so don’t forget your water bottle!
  • Do harness your inner Beyonce – feel free to wear things that shimmer. (There was impressive shimmer on one guest this evening!)
  • Do wear your most comfortable shoes, high tops help to complete your look if you have them!  (I don’t…but I will be rocking some studio trainers again when I go back. Avoid running shoes if you can, especially if they have a thick heel on them; running shoes are meant to prevent side-to-side movements, and I’m anticipating we’ll be doing some in class.)
  • Finally, a very important tip: DON’T FOLLOW ME!!

If you are intimidated by a class called “Hip Hop” anything, here’s my advice: just go! Class starts with a warmup, and then you will gradually learn a set of steps. Gradually means you get ONE new move at a time, and repeat the sequence over and over again before you get another move. There was one step I left out about 80% of the time, but no one really noticed, and I was having so much fun I didn’t care. The play list for class was varied and high-energy. I asked my friend S what she thought of class, and she said she was surprised how much she enjoyed it, “it wasn’t like classes where you keep checking to see if it is over yet.” I agree. Even though I was terrified to be the stiffest, whitest-moving woman in class, I had a great time!

Checking out the schedule after class with Sierra
Checking out the schedule after class with Sierra

Speaking of signature gear–right? I was talking about clothes before I got distracted by Hip Hop tip tops and recaps?–to celebrate the opening of Uforia Studios’ Nob Hill location in San Francisco they are treating ONE lucky Train With Bain reader to a swag pack! The Uforia Swag pack includes: Uforia Studios signature gear, a Uforia Studios water bottle, and a FREE class for you and a friend. Giveaway only eligible to Bay Area residents. 

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