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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: this is NOT a sponsored post (no compensation, product, or freebies were offered to entice me to write it), and is neither written nor endorsed by Good Farms. Per usual, the choice of subject matter and all of the opinions here are mine. This is the first of my posts inspired by #ExpoWest 

This weekend was the industry meeting, trade show, and adult trick-or-treating extravaganza known as Natural Products Expo West: a gathering of more than 100,000 people with exhibits/booths for more than 3,000 companies. For 2017, I can’t think of a better find to spotlight than Good Farms. Remember my last post about food waste? I had a lot of conversations around food waste at Expo West (which itself produces quite a bit of waste, but that’s a subject for another time). One of the most promising trends in the natural foods space is using “waste” products instead of putting them in the trash. (All that fancy coconut water people are sipping? Did you ever think about where the rest of the coconut goes?)

Enticed by strawberry juice! Friday morning I made my way to the Arena section, an entire room I missed last year, when I came upon a booth decked out in strawberries with a video slide show. If you know me, you know I’m a total strawberry junkie: I have fond memories of spending a day each summer picking strawberries with my family at Blessed’s Strawberry Farm (“one for the basket, two for me”) and filling the “way back” of the station wagon with berries; when I lived in Oregon I anxiously awaited the annual Burgerville strawberry milkshake season; most recently I wait for the spring farmer’s markets to open so I can buy directly from the farmers. When I saw strawberries, I was drawn like a bee to a blossom and let me tell you–SO worthwhile!

Right,back to the juicy goodness. Good Farms’ cold-pressed, organic strawberry juice is simply wonderful. You can smell the strawberries as the cup nears your face (since the juice is not heated, the volatile organic compounds that create the strawberry’s aroma remain mostly intact). The juice tastes just like biting into a strawberry, minus the pulp and seeds. It is very flavorful–I could see using a few splashes in my fizzy water to make a refreshing mocktail. While I didn’t check the nutrition label, I know it is fruit juice…so I’m glad it comes in 14.5 ounce bottles instead of gallons (as otherwise I’d drain the whole jug much too quickly). If you’d like to get your hands on some, try Costco, Whole Foods, Chick-fil-A, Panera, and meijer. (Note those are the Good Farms partners, not necessarily all of them will have the strawberry juice, which is currently in limited production.)

Boxed berries with a glass of the juice

Ugly reject strawberries make great juice. That’s because there are nothing wrong with the strawberries, which come from organic strawberry farms in Mexico; they simply don’t meet the beauty standards supermarkets set for strawberries. Using these berries instead of treating them like garbage not only results in delicious juice, it also makes sure farmers get paid for their crop, farmworkers can earn a better wage (more sold produce = higher profit = more money to pay wages), and it is a responsible use of the resources that went into farming the berries in the first place (including water, soil/dirt/land, and labor). Finally, it prevents the berries from ending up in a landfill, where they would either remain intact for centuries (as in a standard landfill, where the ever-increasing materials on top deprive those on the lower levels of the air necessary to rot), or decay and produce gases and contribute to climate change (if put onto a dump-style trash pile).

But wait, there’s more! If you’re following along to this point, you may have the same question I had: “Wait, after the strawberries are juiced, what happens to the smushed-up berry parts?” That’s wasted, right? WRONG! At Expo West I had the opportunity to talk to some of the Good Farms project team. The great guys in the booth were kind and patient with all of my questions. They explained that the juice project is currently a small operation–two trucks of berries per week–because it is important to get the process, production, and finished product done well before scaling up. (That way you can scale as time and resources permit, staying true to your original vision.) They are working to connect the farms with secondary markets for the smashed berry parts, such as companies that make all-fruit frozen pops. I imagine those berries would also be useful to companies that make yogurt, smoothies, and dried fruit products.

It’s not just about the strawberries–it’s about the farmers. Every piece of produce has people behind it. In the US, we have typically treated farm workers poorly. While I haven’t studied the socio-economics of why, I imagine the shift from slave labor to poorly paid sharecropper labor (read: racism and the resulting racial and economic inequality) play a role. The framers of the US Constitution were landed, white gentry who definitely thought themselves more valuable and worthy than everyone else (e.g. the First Nations who already lived in the Americas, slaves, indentured servants, women). The Good Farms strawberry farms are in Mexico; in the US the workers who pick strawberries are almost always migrant farm workers, typically without access to education, social services, or medical care. Farm workers tend to move to follow the crops (where the work is), which means children who should be in school may be in multiple schools each school year, every year, making them more likely to fall behind academically and less likely to graduate from high school or pursue higher education. Female farm workers are subject to a high level of sexual harassment and assault, often at the hands of the bosses who are supposed to be protecting them. One report I heard on NPR (morning of 3/13/17) estimated that 45% of the farm workers in California are undocumented, which means they don’t enjoy many of the legal protections that US workers are entitled to, such as minimum wage, rest periods, and meal breaks. It also means that women who are sexually harassed or abused are less likely to seek help for fear of being deported and separated from their children. California only recently (since I moved here in 2008) passed laws mandating access to shade and clean drinking water for farm workers. We’ve got a LONG way to go here.

Good Farms is moving the needle. Good Farms is a stakeholder in the Equitable Food Initiative (EFI). You can read more about EFI on their website, but the basic gist is this: treating workers better (through fair wages and labor practices, access to education, sensible pesticide policies, proper protective equipment and safety protocols) is the right thing to do. EFI goes beyond third-party audits (like when OSHA shows up to spot-check your operation) by creating an on-farm team that is responsible for implementation and maintenance of their program. EFI partners include the United Farm Workers Union and Oxfam America. This is true of all of their farms, not just the strawberry farms. The Good Farms strawberry farms are also fair trade, certified by Fair Trade USA. You probably don’t even consider whether terrorists or slave-labor was involved in producing the food on your plate, but Good Farms does: C-TPAT (Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism) helps them keep terrorists and terrorism out of the food chain by working with companies to protect and secure cargo, and with CIERTO to create transparent, safe labor contracts and help eliminate slavery. (Maybe you’ve heard about child slave labor used to obtain cacao? Slavery isn’t just a chocolate problem.)

I couldn’t capture the entire slide show, but you get the idea

A few other notables. Good Farms works with Feeding America and other food banks to donate produce instead of wasting it (not just strawberries, of course), to the tune of 350,000 pounds in 2016. They have outside auditing for their organic standards (CCOF) and food safety (PrimusGFS). Good Farms helps their farmers in Mexico by partnering with Mexican social responsibility programs that educate workers on their rights and how to exercise them; they help undocumented Mexicans living in Mexico obtain birth certificates (because without them, you can’t fully participate or exercise your rights–yet many economically disadvantaged Mexicans have never had a birth certificate). Good Farms partnered with Costco to provide disaster relief. With IEEA they provide education to farmworkers, by giving children backpacks with school supplies they reduce barriers to childhood education, and by maintaining websites and consumer outreach they teach us how to eat more vegetables and enjoy them.

Food security is a privilege. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you are a lot like me: safe place to sleep tonight, not worried about where my next meal is coming from, enough income from my relatively-cushy job (where I do not perform manual labor in a hunched-over position like the farm workers in this video on the UFW facebook page) to make discretionary purchases, leisure time to pursue personal interests. I’ve never gone to bed hungry because I have always had access to plenty of food. My parents had access to education and paved the way for my life, where I had even better opportunities. Most of the world is not so lucky. I’m willing to pay a little more for a quality product that improves the lives of those whose work produces the food on my table, because I can.

How about you?

 

How much food do YOU waste?

Yes, I agree that “clean your plate” is a dated rule (better option: “watch how much you put on your plate in the first place”), but I’m betting that’s the first thing the term “food waste” brought to mind. Most Americans likely associate food waste with at-home table scraps, or restaurant leftovers that go from plate to trash. The problem is much, much bigger than that. In August 2012, the Natural Resources Defense Council published an issue paper titled Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40% of Its Food From Farm to Fork to Landfill. You read that right, FORTY percent. What I found most shocking is that most of that 40% has nothing to do with throwing out leftovers or not doggy-bagging your restaurant leftovers!

Some of Hungry Harvest’s offerings

Why you care about food waste:

  • 80% of the fresh water used in the United States is used for agriculture (source) and roughly 25% of the entire fresh water supply is used to produce food that gets wasted (source)
  • roughly 50% all produce in the United States is thrown away—some 60 million tons (or $160 billion) worth of produce annually (source) and up to 1/3 of all food produced world-wide (source)
  • about 1 billion unpeeled/unopened food items are discarded annually in American schools (source)
  • wasted food that goes to landfills–not all of us have access to composting–generates methane (source); food waste has a carbon footprint of 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases, making food wastage the third top GHG emitter after the U.S. and China (source)
  • the United States produces enough food to sustain roughly 860 million hungry people, more than twice the amount needed to feed the true population of the United States (source) yet in 2015 42.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households [that means, roughly, they are not certain that food will be on the table for all upcoming meals] including 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children (source)
  • Food Waste and Hunger Facts

But forget about the doggy-bagging and leftovers, as a whopping 38% (source) or more is wasted before it even has the opportunity to be eaten! Ever wonder why all the apples, in the grocery store are about the same shape and size? Or the carrots are all straight and about the same length? It’s because the nonconforming, weird-looking, too-big, too-small pieces are THROWN AWAY. It’s bad for farmers–they don’t get paid for the goods they grew–and it’s bad for the environment and the planet.

How can YOU reduce food waste?

Easy! Buy ugly produce! In California (SF Bay Area, now rolling out neighborhood by neighborhood in LA!), and UPDATE! Oregon too! check out Imperfect Produce (scroll down to score $10 in free goods!). In Baltimore, D.C., Virginia, Philadelphia, New Jersey and the surrounding areas check out Hungry Harvest (see below for a discount code!). Both are small businesses fighting food waste AND hunger. What do they sell? Hungry Harvest calls their produce “recovered” and explains it this way:

“Recovered” produce comprises fruits and vegetables that are perfectly fine to eat, but would have otherwise been thrown away. Recovered produce is often discarded because of aesthetic imperfections (think misshapen eggplants or off-color apples) or logistical inefficiencies (when grocery stores over-order produce, they can reject truckloads, and that usually gets thrown away).

Imperfect Produce calls their produce “ugly” but wants to assure you it tastes the same:

The produce we source is rejected purely for cosmetic reasons, meaning that taste and nutrition aren’t affected. Common reasons for produce being classified as “ugly” are: too small, wrong color, misshapen. We only source the most delicious fruits and vegetables, and we have strict quality-control measures in place to ensure that what ends up on your doorstep is fresh, delicious, and nutritious. If we wouldn’t eat it, we won’t sell it. We’re redefining BEAUTY in produce, not taste! And if for whatever reason you’re not satisfied with an item in your box, we will either replace it or refund the cost of the box that week.

It’s a win-win-win. Farmers get paid for produce that would otherwise become garbage. You get cheaper produce that may (or may not) look funny. Both companies donate produce to fight hunger, too! It works something like this:

My Imperfect (Perfect!) Experience

My neighborhood’s delivery day is Saturday, so I have until 3:00 Wednesday to customize my box. I get a small box of fruits and vegetables, since I travel a lot and live by myself. The basic cost (if I get whatever was assigned to the box that week) is $11-13 plus a small delivery charge ($2.99). On Monday or Tuesday I get a reminder email to check in and customize my box. (There is an option to not customize the box–surprise!–but since I’m picky I don’t often use that; you can also opt for just only fruit or only vegetables.) One of the things I like is that I can decide how much of something to get, and the Imperfect site tells me why it is “imperfect” as well as where it originated. Right now, Imperfect works mostly with larger family farms in California, but they are also working to source produce from Mexico and smaller family farms. I’m really excited to see what they can do!

Does anything in here look “imperfect” to you?? (My box this week)

My box this week had 1 pound of organic brussels sprouts, a blood orange, 2 pounds of carrots, 1 pound of creamer potatoes, a grapefruit, 1 pound of onions, a 1/2 pound of red bell peppers, romaine lettuce, 1 pound of mangoes (rejected for being too small, I can easily hold one in my hand), and 1 pound of organic lemons. I paid just $15.39, including the delivery charge. There were a ton of other choices, too. Each box also includes the “Weekly Beet,” a card that introduces a team member, gives a quick fact about one of the items offered that week (the asian pears offered the week of September 19th would have been rejected due to scarring and were grown in Kingsburg, CA), and a tasty recipe. Some of the recipes I have received are Blue Cheese and Asian Pear Tartines, Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps, Celery Root and Carrot Soup, Lebanese Pumpkin Hummus, and Fuyu Persimmon Salad. (You can find more recipes at imperfectproduce.com/recipes)

Some of the cards from my Imperfect Produce boxes

The pre-Thanksgiving box included a recipe booklet. Imperfect Produce does fun things, too. Once we got googly eyes in the box to decorate for a contest, and they recently sponsored a contest with Cape & Cowl, donating an additional five pounds of produce to the Alameda County Food Bank for every entry. I can easily set my box to “temporary stop” for vacation. I try to remember to set out my empty boxes Friday night, as Imperfect Produce can re-use them.

To score a $10 discount on Imperfect Produce: when you sign up for your first delivery, put my name (Elizabeth Bain) in the “referred by” box at checkout. (I hope you don’t mind that as an Imperfect Produce customer, this gets me $10 too.)

Hungry (for a) Harvest?

Clearly, I don’t live in Baltimore, D.C., Virginia, Philadelphia, New Jersey and the surrounding areas, so I’m not a Hungry Harvest customer–but if I lived there, I would be! I found Hungry Harvest on Twitter, and I’m thrilled to see there are other organizations doing the work Imperfect Produce does in other parts of the country. (I was extra excited to see they scored a deal on Shark Tank, which also helped fund some of my other favorite small businesses, including Wild Friends nut butters and Bombas socks.)

The Shark Tank set-up

So while I don’t have first-hand experience, it looks like Hungry Harvest shares pretty much all of the characteristics of Imperfect Produce. Delivery days are assigned by zip code, and there is a modest delivery charge. You can even have your produce delivered to your  office! Hungry Harvest also offers add-ons (Imperfect Produce has these on a variable basis). Add-ons include products from other food makers that could go to waste while still being perfectly good to consume: fresh baked bread, coffee, granola, peanut butter, jam, pesto, and produce staple add ons (lemons, limes, etc.).

Sample box from Hungry Harvest

Like Imperfect Produce, Hungry Harvest sources mostly local produce but is also reaching out to prevent food from going to waste, offers organic options, allows you to customize your box (and choose a size), has easy cancellation/temporary hold, and shares recipes to use your yummy produce. For every box they deliver to a paying customer like you, Hungry Harvest donates 1-2 pounds of produce to those in need. Hungry Harvest has a unique partnership called “Produce in a SNAP,” a partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools to bring fresh, affordable produce to food deserts to promote healthy eating and fight hunger. The program allows food-insecure families and individuals who could benefit from affordable produce, including those on government assistance programs such as SNAP/EBT, WIC, and SSDI, to stretch their food budgets and put nutritious produce on their dinner table. (I cribbed that from their website, because I couldn’t say it better.)

Hungry Harvest can’t reuse the boxes, but can pick them up for recycling if you don’t have access to recycling. (No recycling? Seriously, the 1970s called and they want their wasteful environmental policies back.)

To score a discount on Hungry Harvest: enter code TRAINWITHBAIN at checkout.

 

Beyond Eating?

You know you can also support your local farmers’ market, especially if you don’t have an Imperfect Produce or Hungry Harvest nearby. (Most don’t have beauty pageant standards for their produce, so the weirdos can show up there.)

You can commit to less food waste in your household: freeze small amounts of vegetables for use in soups and stews, chop and freeze that onion before it goes bad, share with a neighbor. Compost food scraps using a commercial service if available, or a backyard compost or under-sink worm bin.

Local and state laws have a HUGE impact on how much produce gets wasted. The NRDC report details a few items you might watch for and ideas to reduce food waste. These include tax breaks for farmers that donate produce instead of trashing it, laws that allow individuals to donate produce from their home gardens directly to food banks (this is huge in California, where one lemon tree can shower an entire block with lemons), and changes in food labels’ use of terms like “sell by,” “best by,” and “use by” (currently under discussion at the federal level in the United States).

How do you save the vegetables?

Disclosure: For the past few years I have been a member of the Rock ‘n’ Blog team, the ambassadors for the Rock ‘n’ Roll series. I’ve tried to blog about each of the races I’ve run, but I do have a day-job and there are only so many hours in the day…and thankfully posting about every race is not a requirement. The 2017 has not yet been selected (applications close on February 22nd, so if you are interested click HERE for the application), but I did apply. Just in case you’re not already aware of any potential bias I may have.

In New Orleans, bling happens

Don’t skip this one. I almost didn’t go to Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans due to stress at home and at work (and travel is stressful too) but man I am glad that I did! My flight left Oakland unreasonably early, and I arrived around 1 p.m. Pro Tip: if you’re just jetting away for the race and coming back again, pack light–check the weather first, but always pack something warm and dry in case of rain.

Friday I took a brief nap before my roommate arrived. We stayed at the Aloft, which is within walking distance of the half marathon starting line and not far from the marathon starting line. It was just a short walk to the convention center–and then another 2k to get to the other side of the convention center (it’s HUGE). Just before the convention center we picked up free samples of Monster’s new “Mutant” brand soda. I think this is supposed to compete with Mountain Dew, as it is a citrus-flavored soda in the standard 20 oz. soda bottle and packs 115mg of caffeine. Before cracking the lid I read the label–it also packs 290 calories and 70 grams of sugar! No, no thank you.

Rock ‘n’ Royalty

The Expo wasn’t huge, but it definitely had a New Orleans flavor, and more local participation than I see at many Rock ‘n’ Roll expos. Of course the ubiquitous green, gold, and purple of Mardi Gras featured prominently, and local running clubs and events had booths. I appreciated the healthy New Orleans resources (New Orleans is known for great food, but not necessarily health food), the bakery sampling (looked like King Cake, but was really a tiny croissant filled with cream and covered in sprinkles). As a New Orleans Mardi Gras krewe has its king and queen, so did Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans, complete with a coronation, confetti, and beads.

Missing our Hall of Famer, @matmilesmedals

Following the expo it was time to look for dinner. As I perused Urban Spoon and Google in what used to be the nook where the pay phones lived, a woman interrupted our discussion. “Excuse me,” she said, “are you looking for a place for dinner? Would you like some suggestions?” From a local? In a town known for amazing food? Heck yes!! We ended up at ___, which had a pan-Caribbean menu and everything from red meat to vegan dishes, plus a bar and amazing drink specials.

Like every other runner at Aloft, we too Lyft to the 5k. The location was perfect for a run, but less than ideal for actually getting there. One suggestion I’m sure LOTS of people made: provide transportation from central points in the various neighborhoods to the race start. We arrived as part of a convoy of Lyft and Uber and taxis. The starting line was just a short walk away. Also, it was freezing. I had packed for the weather that happened earlier in the week, and didn’t have an extra long sleeve for the 5k. Oops.

Me and “Gracie”

It was great to have Ann back to announce the races (she’d been out on maternity leave and while the guy who announced in her place was trying and did okay, he just wasn’t Ann). Prior to the race I ran into Derek, a Team RWB member who is continuing his quest to do a 5k every month, and my friend “Gracie” and her husband. The latter was something of a miracle, as we have repeatedly been at the same race but not managed to see each other. In lieu of trying to run any of it, I decided to walk to Gracie so we could catch up and have photographic rvidence of this monumental event. (Selfies or it didn’t happen, right?) The 5k was entirely within the park, whiich is freaking enornmous, The weather warmed up a little, but not too too much–my friends who ran were cold as soon as they stopped. The course passed by public art, a museum, and (of course!) music. I don’t claim to know what “the New Orleans sound” is, but I can tell you what the “I am a tourist here” music sounds like.

Obligatory hurricane in a geaux cup

I took a shower and a nap while my roommate did the swim and bike sections of his triathlon preparation workout, and then we wandered off to grilled cheese and a Rock ‘n’ Blogger meet up. From there I played tour guide–despite the fact I hadn’t been to NOLA since I lived in Austin–and we walked the French Quarter,  checked out the insane line at Cafe du Monde, and gawked at architecture. Tourist day, for certain. There were snacks, some down time, and dinner, and then it was an early night to bed for us.

The next morning came too soon, and it was off to the races–literally. There was what looked like a great turnout for the half marathon, with plenty of silly costumes and Rock ‘n’ Roll spirit. Miraculously, I saw Gracie again, and we started to walk the course together. Since I was still feeling tight and regularly seeing my sports med person, I didn’t want to try to kill it. This means I missed the mimosa “aid stations” but I can’t complain. I decided to Instagram as I walked the first six miles. Perhaps the rest of the story is best told in pictures.

Preventing waffle crush
This was voted “best race sign” by virtue of being all over social media pretty much instantly

 

Stately architecture
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I found Touchdown Jesus!

 

Runner buffet with bloody mary bar

 

Fun fact! Milk punch = milk + half and half + bourbon = no pain for at least 2 miles #questionablehydrationstrategy

 

Mobile bunny-petting aid station

 

HQ for the Mystic Krewe of Hermes, the longest-running night parade krewe

 

Cheer signs both political and traditional

 

Beer and Wieners aid station

 

Bet you didn’t know NOLA has a vibrant Celtic music scene, and many Irish dance schools!

 

Mobile disco party complete with dancers, DJ, and a disco ball!

 

Finish line at the park–check out the tree canopy!

 

Parting airport shot with @funnerrunner (telltale signs of runners: @addaday roller, @sparklysoul headband, matching @runrocknroll shirts)

 

Note: For the 2015 and 2016 Rock ‘n’ Roll series, I have been honored to be part of the Rock ‘n’ Blog team. The 2017 Rock ‘n’ Blog team applications have not yet opened, so I haven’t a clue if they will decide to keep me on. In the meanwhile, I bought a TourPass so I could start to rock my way in the direction of Hall of Fame (15 Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathons or marathons in a single year). Fingers crossed!

Compulsory 5K selfie

It started off quite innocently. At the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dallas half marathon in 2015 I suddenly had a desperate hankering for coffee. Coffee isn’t a standard offering at any race’s aid stations. As I wrote in my race recap, “Around mile 9 I really, really wanted coffee. I’d had my electrolytes, downed my EnergyBits, and my body (even Ouch) seemed to be demanding some caffeination. For the next mile or so, all of the potential coffee-acquisition opportunities were on the other side of the road, across traffic. Cruel world! Then I saw it: Oak Lawn Coffee.”

 

 

 

Overpass detail of local art

Seriously, Oak Lawn Coffee MADE MY RACE that year (and not just because they let me use the bathroom too). I was so happy to have a cup of very yummy coffee in my hands that I finished the race with a huge grin on my face…and made a similar coffee stop at Rock ‘n’ Roll  San Francisco that year. Then I posed at the finish line with the Nestle Quik bunny because a mocha is basically chocolate milk, right? #buildit

(It’s good I’m not a triathlete, as I’m sure this counts as “outside aid” which is strictly prohibited by the triathlon over-see-ing group.)

It continued into the zone of silliness at Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose 2016, where I was really, really hungry by the time I came around the corner to see Five Guys. (Pro tip: don’t order a large fries. For starters, the large is really, really large.) Not only was I laughing that I was walking the last mile or so of the race with a big ol’ french fries in hand, a lot of the spectators and other runners were laughing too. I laughed my way all the way to the finish line. As an adult, I think the ability to amuse yourself is seriously underrated.

Since this is a post about Arizona, here’s a picture of a succulent

Since I don’t run for time, a PR, or to podium in any way, I take full advantage of ways to make the race more fun. That’s why I do races–they are fun. When people ask me what my pace is, I literally tell them, “stop and pet the cute puppies.” If they ask again, I tell them, “approximately three puppies per hour.” (Having fun is serious business, after all.) I stop to take ridiculous selfies, just because I can. I run to the edge of the road and high-five the kids.

(Enjoying this? Why not click to tweet so your friends can read it too?) Red Rocks and Donuts in the Desert: @TrainWithBain does Rock 'n' Roll Arizona 2017 #RnRAZClick To Tweet
A huge part of why I like races is getting to meet new friends

Let me pause for a minute here, and explain WHY I do this. No, it’s not just to annoy the snooty fast runners who dislike that I’m not “racing.” (They seem to forget that the fact that I–and thousands of people just like me–do dozens of races a year, seriously driving up the demand for running events, and as a result there are more races for the fast people to win. Fortunately, most of the runners I’ve met are awesome and are not whining about how “back in the day” we all would have been swept and not given a tee-short.) Sure, in part it is because I can–and the fact that I can amuses me to no end–but there’s a deeper reason: I am a bona-fide Type-A, overachiever list-maker, to-do doer, check-off-the-things person. It serves me well at work (and sometimes when I’m cleaning house), but I know if I applied my natural tendencies to running I would quickly sap every last ounce of joy from running, and instead of relieving stress running would cause more stress. So I have forbidden  myself to get “serious” about running. Running is for fun only. Of course, your mileage may vary–and I do admire those of you who focus on that BQ or PR or other abbreviations.

A slightly blurry pre-5k shot of me and Jackie and flat-Jackie

Back to Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona, since this is supposed to be a race recap. I had flown in late on Friday, so had to pick up my bib at the last minute (aka right before the race). A flock of volunteers were on  hand to assist with this process, there were no lines (did I mention we got there a bit late?), and I was quickly off to the starting line with my friend Jackie, aka my adventure running roommate. Jackie had to head to work shortly after the 5k, so she didn’t run. Of course technically neither did I, as I’d made a deliberate decision to stroll the 5k course and save some juice for the half marathon (remember, I did the Dopey Challenge the week before).

The 5k had a pretty good turnout of runners and walkers of all shapes, ages, heights, intentions, and experience levels. The weather cooperated, and I enjoyed looking at the desert in “winter.” Compared to the half marathon though, it was a much smaller race. For Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona, all of the races finish in the same location.

Question, readers: if you voluntarily, randomly decided to cut two miles from a half marathon by just skipping them, would you still take the medal at the finish line? Would you wear the race shirt? Would you tell people “I did a half marathon” when you only did 11ish miles?

On Sunday, the half and the marathon start in two different locations, but merge just before the very end. The morning of the half it was a little chilly and threatening to rain, but I managed to stay dry. This was my first time doing this course–previously I did the full–and I really enjoyed it. Jackie and I were in separate corrals, so I don’t have any running pictures with her. I do, however, have this picture she took of several people who decided they didn’t want to go up the hill to the turnaround (and it wasn’t even a big hill–and the views from the top were gorgeous–and Jackie asked what they were doing because, of course, maybe they were injured or something, but no, they told her they didn’t want to walk up up the hill); as a result, they cut about two miles off from the course. On the road, as in life, cheaters gonna cheat, and some people are just not willing to put in the effort to actually do the job.

Epic Donut Selfie

I will always do my best to finish the race I set out to run, until I finish, or am yanked from the course involuntarily. (If you find me face down on the pavement, be a dear and pause my watch, ok?) But that’s because I actually like races. Oh, but this is supposed to be a story about coffee and french fries or something.

Last fall several skirt companies put out skirts with donuts on them. Donuts are something of a running joke–like a joke among many groups of runners–and I’ve been known to say #runalltheraces then #eatallthefoods so naturally I needed a donut skirt. (In case you want one too, head to Chase This Skirt on Etsy. Go like ’em on Facebook, too.) This has led to many donut-photo shenanigans because, you know, donuts after a race always seem like a good idea.

Have you every stopped for a snack during a half marathon? Would you? @TrainWithBain has and would!Click To Tweet
Post-race epic donut selfie with @crantina

If donuts after the race are a good idea–and extensive research has definitely confirmed they are–what about donuts during a race? Crazy, right?

That’s what I thought, as I was running down the road in Arizona, when I saw a donut shop right across the street. It was just sitting there, begging for me to befriend it. The open sign was on. I could imagine the scent of tasty donuts. After debating whether I should cross the street and grab a snack for about five minutes (good thing I’m slow, right?) when suddenly there was a  very long break in the traffic. No cars driving by, and no cars about to drive by for miles. Decision made.

I looked both ways–even though this was effectively a one-way street now (thanks, Mom)–and dashed across to Bosa Donuts. About the time I hit the front door a guy and the kid with him arrived at the door. He looked at me, decked out in race garb; he saw the bib, and gave me a quizzical look as he opened the door for me. “Life is short,” I said. “Choose joy! Eat donuts!” Bosa smelled like heaven should smell, and there was no line at the counter. As I politely asked for (runner brain kicked in, what is that thing called, the one there?) “one chocolate coconut donut, please” the guy and the kid arrived at the counter. “I’m buying,” he said to the lady behind the counter, and then turned to me, “get whatever you need.” I smiled and laughed, and explained that I only “needed” one donut. The lady behind the counter handed it to me in a bag.

I knew what I had to do:

Thank you, random Arizona guy!

As I took (much smaller than shown) bites and headed to the door, I noticed the puzzled looks from the folks sitting at the table eating their donuts. “Life is short,” I said. “Choose joy!” as I dashed out the door…and again looked both ways before I crossed the street.

Other runners were totally jealous of my donut (note for next time, I should get some to share) as it never occurred to them to get their own. Poor runners. I spent the next few miles laughing my butt off about my mid-race donut selfie, complete with actual donut. I couldn’t stop grinning. (Again with how underrated the ability to amuse yourself is.)

This is why I run, kids. JOY!

 

 

Happy 2017!! After a holiday season filled with parties, errands, travel, and year-end work-related projects, starting the new year strong can seem like a challenge in itself–what’s the plan?  What workout will you do? What will you eat? While I definitely recommend having a plan, sometimes it can be easier to start out with a ready-made plan.

If you’re ready but not sure where to start, here are a few challenges to start your year. This isn’t an exhaustive list, it’s just what has come across my desk, and it isn’t in any particular order. Some challenges are free, others have a fee; some are just for January, others you can join at any time. There are challenges based on running, yoga, pilates, group ex, or solo workouts. Pick a challenge and get a jump on it!

Note: NONE of the links below are affiliate links.

SweatPink’s #IAMEMPOWERED

Details: FREE. This is a challenge for everyone, at any level, to get more engaged and help build fitness and a support community. Follow SweatPink on twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget the hashtags. If you are a SweatPink ambassador, be sure to login to the FitApproach website. (If you’re a blogger or active on social media, why not apply to be a SweatPink ambassador?)

  • January 1-8: #IAMEMPOWERED Sweat Pink Community Kickoff!
  • January 9-13: #EB2017Goals #IAMEMPOWERED healthy cooking with Eggland’s Best!
  • January 16-20: #BuildYourBestBody #IAMEMPOWERED fitness challenge with Hedstrom Fitness!
  • January 21-31: #IAMEMPOWERED #FFYHIITYOGA 10 days of HIIT Yoga challenge with Flex & Flow Yoga!

The Daily Burn and Spartan Challenge

http://lp.dailyburn.com/spartan/index.html

Details: start with a FREE 30-day trial to Daily Burn. (Using this link also gets you 25% off the next month of Daily Burn, and 25% off a Spartan Race.) This is a new collaboration presenting home-based workouts based on the SGX, Spartan’s official training philosophy.  There are variations for beginning, intermediate, and advanced fitness levels, and membership also gives you access to all of the Daily Burn videos. (Note: I’m in love with the yoga hip sequence!)

grokker’s #BeABetterYou

https://grokker.com/

Details: Sign up to get the month of January for FREE. Once you have signed up, you get to choose a challenge. There are options for a variety of fitness levels. For every workout completed, grokker will make a donation to charity. (After January, a grokker subscription is $14.99/month starting on February 2, 2017; you can cancel at any time).

Buti Yoga: New Year’s Resolution

https://butiyoga.com/collections/buti-new-year/products/30-day-transformation-challenge-bundle

Details: $99 for the 30 Day Transformation Kit (your choice of Buti Yoga DVD set, meal plan, and samples of Golden Ratio protein [not vegetarian/vegan] with a discount code if you decide to buy a canister; one month free streaming access). There are DVD options for beginners and experienced Buti practitioners–check the website for details. Buti is awarding prizes: a ticket to a Buti retreat (not including transportation) and a year-long digital subscription. To enter, finish the 30 days by February 15 and share your transformation story with Buti. Also: Bizzie Gold is running a separate Sustainable Transformation Group that kicks off on January 4.

Experience Life: Strong, Fast, and Fit

https://experiencelife.com/life-unedited/2016/12/13/how-were-getting-strong-fast-and-fit-in-2017/

Details: FREE. Six months of workouts and an optional Facebook group. Their description: “Strong, Fast, and Fit” —a six-part program with multiple, progressive, adaptable-to-you workouts and detailed coaching. This is appropriate for all levels.

Run the Year 2017

https://runtheedge.com/runtheyear2017/

Details: Sign up to run 2,017 miles (solo or with friends—you can sign up and find or create a team later.) The Basic Registration costs $25 and gives you access to monthly challenged hosted by Kara Goucher, weekly prize giveaways, access to a Facebook group for support, and a Mileage Tracker, among other things. Optional swag includes a Run The Year 2017 medal, monthly challenged poster, Milestone yearbook, and Run the Year 2017 shirt. (Wear the shirt to events to meet other participants!)

i love to run’s #2017 Gold Challenge

https://ilovetorun.org/2017-gold-challenge.html

Details: There are two options this year. One, run/walk 1000 miles. Two, run/walk/exercise 100 days. Registration costs vary, depending on which package you choose, and includes an activity tracker (this one allows you to import from apps and trackers like MapMyRun and Strava). There is also a social component, so you can celebrate your progress and cheer on your friends.

Blogilates challenges

http://www.blogilates.com

Details: POP Pilates creator Cassey Ho has a variety of FREE pilates challenges that target different muscle groups. If you’re looking for year-long motivation, sign up for her email list–each month you will unlock a different workout calendar, using videos available online.

YogaDownload’s 21 Day Fit and Fabulous Challenge

http://www.yogadownload.com/Challenge

Details: FREE with optional subscription. YogaDownload describes the challenge: “The challenge is free to join and available to all YogaDownload members, but you can get the most out of the challenge by signing up for one of our memberships which you can order at a discounted price [codes on the website, pricing starts at $12/month]. You’ll get daily emails with your yoga classes, inspiration, an amazing suite of wellness prizes you can win and be supported by a strong community of likeminded practitioners sharing this experience from all over the world.”

barre3 B3AllIn

https://barre3.com/b3allin

Details: this is a guided challenge that starts January 9 (so you’ve got time to plan and get ready!) This four week challenge includes 5 workouts/week, a guided meal plan, and access to the wellness experts (including barre3 founder Sadie Lincoln and Dr. Frank Lipman) in the B3 online community. There is a recommended workout schedule, but you have access to new workouts each week, plus the barre3 online library. Options: do the challenge at your local barre3 studio, OR online. (Subscription prices: $29/monthly, $162 for 6 months; $300/year [$25/month]).

Yoga International’s 30 for 30 in 2017

https://yogainternational.com/guide/2017-30-for-30-challenge-sign-up

Details: FREE. From the website, “It’s a New Year! Let’s use this fresh start to re-affirm our yoga practice. Join us for a brand new 30 for 30 Challenge, where you will receive all the motivation you need to reboot or revitalize your practice. Sign up today and receive a hand-picked 30-minute class each day for the next 30 days, delivered directly to your inbox. These half-hour classes feature a wide variety of teachers, styles, and sequences, and are sure to keep you motivated and inspired to practice each day.” You can stream online, or through the mobile app. Also: Yoga International is hosting a six month meditation challenge for YI members. (There is a free 30-day trial membership available.)

The BeachBody Challenge

https://www.teambeachbody.com/en_US/beachbody-challenge

https://www.beachbody.com/product/fitness_programs/on-demand-workout-videos.do

Details: You’ve probably seen the BeachBody Challenge as part of infomercials for the workouts. Forget the DVDs. BeachBody has a “New Year’s Special” on their streaming service (which is available online and through devices such as Roku); you can get an entire year for under $100. For those doing the math, that’s $8.33/month, aka cheaper than a Planet Fitness membership. That includes access to all existing workouts, and the new ones as they drop. (Entry to the challenge is free and optional.) I am no longer a BeachBody coach, but I’d be happy to answer your questions.

Studio-Based Challenges

If you prefer to get your workouts live, there are a ton of options. (I’m willing to bet your local gym or fitness studio is hosting a January challenge, at a minimum!) Here are a few that I know about that are happening nationwide:

  • FlyWheel is hosting a “FLY into 2017: New Year, Real Results 4-Week Challenge.” The challenge includes 5 weekly credits for Flywheel and/or FlyBarre classes (20 credits total, and the expire at the end of the program!), Early Booking, nutrition plan, home workouts to supplement your studio classes, and community support. (The link is my referral link–it lets FlyWheel know I sent you.)
  • OrangeTheory studios are hosting “The Ultimate Weight Loss Challenge.” To learn more about it, visit your local OrangeTheory or fill out this form online for more details. (If you go, tell them I sent you?)

2017 Road Running Challenges

Prefer to challenge yourself via running events? Check out the Rock ‘n’ Roll race series! Try a “Remix Challenge” by running two events in the same weekend (e.g. a 5k Saturday and a 10k or half on Sunday). My 2016 Rock ‘n’ Blog discount code is good on some 2017 races, so give it a try (code: TRAINWITHBAIN). In California, you can earn some mega-bling through the California Half and Full Series races. Run 4, 7, 10, 15, or 20 series races to score that sweet challenge medal–the more you run, the bigger the bling!

What else?

There are plenty of other challenges out there. Are you signed up for a challenge? Did I miss your favorite? Let me know!

I just love old police cars!
I just love old police cars!

My good friend Tina came to town to run the Golden Gate Half Marathon and when she mentioned it to her friend Jerry, he invited us to the 2016 Heroes Run. Since Tina and I are both fans of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Remix Challenges, we figured we would create our own remix–good friends + good cause + excuse to wear a silly costume = great event, right? Game on.

My very favorite spectator. I even got permission to pet him. Court
My very favorite spectator. I even got permission to pet him. (photo courtesy of the Heroes Run and (c)2016 Photography by Busa)

Good Friends. Tina and I met through Rock ‘n’ Blog, and she met Jerry through some other running-related event. I’ve found the vast majority of runners are good people, in that they are at a minimum encouraging and kind (though of course there are a few duds in every bunch). In general, I’ve found that any friend of a friend is bound to be a friend of mine, and Jerry was no exception. How can you not love a guy who will paint his beard green for a race?

©2016 Photography By Busa
Every Super Hero needs a super villain, right? Jerry, Tina, and I couldn’t resist playing with the photo booth post run! (photo courtesy of the Heroes Run and ©2016 Photography By Busa)

One of Tina’s other friends was also at the race, and we strolled most of it together. I find it pretty funny that I went to a race that’s basically in my backyard and didn’t know anyone, but the girl from Calgary did.

Did you run the 2016 Heroes Run in Santa Clara County? @TrainWithBain did! Add it to your calendar for 2017!Click To Tweet

Good Cause. The Heroes run benefits the Valley Medical Center Pediatrics. You probably think of Silicon Valley as an area filled with over-privileged, wealthy Google employees, but that’s just part of the story. Like San Francisco, Santa Clara County is economically diverse. As the cost of basic living expenses (like rent) rises, it gets harder for those on the margins to pay for basic human needs such as health care, and those that suffer the most are those least in a position to do anything about it: children. As the Heroes Run website explains:

Santa Clara Valley Medical Center is the public, safety-net medical center for Santa Clara County, providing care to all regardless of ability to pay. As the largest provider of health services to low-income children in the region, SCVMC plays a leading role in the fight against health disparities in Silicon Valley.

To the side of the starting area there were several booths with information and treats from local health initiatives, the police and fire fighters, and local ballot measures (this was before election day, last weekend to get out the word). To add to the fun, the Santa Clara County police and fire fighters participate in the 5k run and an obstacle course, and compete against each other. Police and fire fighters stick around to cheer on the kids’ race, pose for pictures with current and vintage vehicles, and otherwise interact with the community they serve.

Captain America arrives by helicopter to start the kids' races, of course (photo courtesy of the Heroes Run and ©2016 Photography By Busa)
Captain America arrives by helicopter to start the kids’ races, of course (photo courtesy of the Heroes Run and ©2016 Photography By Busa)

Excuse to Wear a Silly Costume. Costumes? Count me in! While I might not have the time to create elaborate outfits from scratch right now, I’ve got the basics in my costume boxes. Item, one bright red cape (originally created for a Thor costume, has also served as a skirt), plus a Superman tech shirt, plus my bright red shoes, and I’m a superhero!

Princess Leia, one of the walkers, would go for a block and then "leia" on the ground for a nap. (photo courtesy of the Heroes Run)
Princess Leia, one of the walkers, would go for a block and then “leia” on the ground for a nap. (photo courtesy of the Heroes Run)

Great Event! The day actually featured multiple events. The 5k wound through the neighborhoods filled with gorgeous autumn trees (about time, since it was November already), and accommodated both serious runners (there were awards) and walkers.

My superhero twin, taking a "paws" in the proceedings.
My superhero twin, taking a “paws” in the proceedings.

While there were plenty of kids seriously running with their parents, or walking the 5k, there was a separate kids’ dash for the smaller kids. That event ran around the edges of the park block, and took place after the main 5k. It was great to see so many kids out dressed as superheroes, and I really loved some of the mashups.

The start for the kids courtesy of ©2016 Photography By Busa
The start for the kids’ race (courtesy of the Heroes Run and ©2016 Photography By Busa)

There was also an inflatable bounce-house type of thing, but it was extra large and had inflatable obstacles, like a wall to climb over and a bunch of tubes to push through. It reminded me of American Ninja Warrior for kids. As I mentioned previously, there was also an adult obstacle course.  The main race had a competition between the police and the fire fighters. This appears to be a new feature, with a travelling trophy to the winners.

A few of the heroes, sporting their team's medallions (courtesy of the Heroes Run and ©2016 Photography By Busa)
A few of the heroes, sporting their team’s medallions (courtesy of the Heroes Run and ©2016 Photography By Busa)

Overall, it was a really fun event. It was all-inclusive, with plenty of room for spectators, and friendly to people and families of all ages. I wasn’t in it to run the fastest or win a prize, but to have a good time (and pet the cute puppies, of course!). While I know the money went to a good cause, what I appreciated most was seeing so many parents and older siblings encouraging little kids to run, play in the inflatable obstacle course, and otherwise be active. It is the main reason I enjoy these community events so much.

How about you? What’s your favorite local 5k?

Disclosure: I received a pair of Legend Compression socks for testing purposes 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.

If you’ve been following along, you know that socks are my jam. Even before I started running, I had two large dresser drawers filled with socks. (With the addition of compression socks, they have now spilled into a third drawer. Clearly it’s time to get rid of some t-shirts so I have more room.) Naturally I leaped at the opportunity to try Legend Compression socks.

Fresh out of the package and ready for testing--instructions included!
Fresh out of the package and ready for testing–instructions included!

By the way, if you want a concise, bullet-pointed, reader friendly review (plus pictures of the cute yellow socks!) you’re in the wrong place. Try BibRave Pro Casey‘s review instead.  (BibRave Pro Janelle also did a less verbose review, but she picked the same aqua color that I did.)

See how those socks are leg-shaped and not tube-shaped? Yeah, that’s the mark of a quality sock right there. (Otherwise how could the compression be graduated?) They have the size marked on them, which initially made me worry I had two left socks. Nope! While I’m on the topic of shape, the “Wear 101” card that came with the socks is helpful in case you’ve never tried compression and I’m surprised other brands don’t include it. Basics: to put them on, bunch up the sock and get your foot in there first, toes then heel; then begin to pull them on from the bottom (as opposed to pulling on the top edge of the sock). To take them off, reverse the directions (don’t just yank on the toes!). Store flat with their friends. I’m used to struggling with compression socks, like they are a girdle for your calves, but Legend isn’t like that. BibRave Pro Chris also loved how easy they were to get on and off.

The first try-on! NO seams. Wraps around the arch of the foot without squeezing. Cushion in the toe and heel. Sweat-wicking too!
The first try-on! NO seams. Wraps around the arch of the foot without squeezing. Cushion in the toe and heel. Sweat-wicking too!

Legend is based in North Carolina. All of their compression performance socks, leg sleeves, and recovery socks are made in the USA. That by itself is a huge plus for me. Even better, the founder, John Thomas, spent 30 years working in the medical industry (where compression products are tightly regulated, unlike the sports products on the market) and ran the largest compression manufacturing facility in the world.

Compression socks are like a happy little hug for your legs. But don’t just take my word for it; BibRave Pro Chadd is also a compression lover, as is BibRave Pro Christine. Check out his blog for pictures of these unisex socks in black. BibRave Pro Nora is also a compression fan (she opted for a classic white, since Legend was kind enough to let us choose colors, while BibRave Pro Jen picked classic black.)

They are not just “tight socks” however. Think of how your blood circulates in your body, with arteries taking fresh, oxygenated blood from your heart to your muscles, and veins bringing back the “used up” blood. Veins are closer to the skin and less muscular than arteries, so they are more susceptible to a hug from a nice sock. Since the veins in your legs are helping to move blood back to your heart, they are working against the pull of gravity. When you work out or run, your muscles need more oxygenated blood (hence your pulse speeds up and your heart works harder), which means your muscles produce more de-oxygenated, used-up blood, and those little veins have to work harder. The theory is that giving those veins a little hug helps to give them a leg up (you know I couldn’t resist!).

Look, I'm on a roll! I crack myself up, but really, compression plus the Nano Roller is the best!
Look, I’m on a roll! I crack myself up, but really, compression plus the Nano Roller is the best!

From personal experience, I can tell you that compression also helps reduce the amount of movement in your legs. Okay wait, let me explain that… If you are a woman, you’re familiar with the difference between a good sports bra (keeps your breasts from bouncing all over the place) and a bad one (lets your breasts swing from side to side and bounce up and down); if you’re a man, you may have similar observations from seeing female runners. Compression socks basically do the same thing as a good sports bra, hugging your muscles and other tissues a little tighter to the bone, reducing the amount of bounce. I have big ol’ soccer player calves (they are strong and muscular, and while they prevent loads of cute boots from fitting, I love them for their strength), so I am a fan of compression.

The amount of compression in a sock is measured in millimeters of mercury. Legwear sold as medical grade compression is tightly regulated (no pun intended!) while the “recreational” flavor of compression is not regulated the same way. This is one of the reasons it matter that Legend founder John Thomas has a background in medical compression. (Think about it; if graduated compression helps, what if the compression is reversed or otherwise messed up? #BadNews) Legend Compression Performance Socks are 15-20 mmHG of graduated compression.

Other benefits of the Legend compression socks (the performance socks!) include:

  • UV protections
  • cushioned toe and heel
  • moisture wicking material
  • breathability

I have really weird feet, so I prefer to run in double-layered socks and compression sleeves for long runs, but the Legend Compression Performance Socks were delicious for 5k and 10k.  BibRave Pro Brie wore hers for trail running, where I’m sure I will also love them. I specifically appreciated the seamless toe construction (seams give me blisters). I also loved them for recovery. (Legend does make a separate compression sock for recovery.) Legend also touts greater power input (makes sense to me, since there is less jiggle!), increased oxygen levels and blood circulation, and reduced muscle fatigue. I don’t have a way to measure these items.

Legend Compression Performance Socks were great on my runs, and I loved them for recovery. (Cute, fit well, great for hopping on a plane a few hours after a half marathon.) Right now, you can get a discount on Legend compression wear from BibRave!

Click here to share the discount with your tweeps! bibsave15 scores you 15% off, courtesy of Legend Compression and BibRave!Click To Tweet

When you order your first pair, be sure to check out their sizing guide. BibRave Pro John agrees with me that they fit true to size (per the guide on their website). Don’t rely on sizing guides from other brands–I have a size 10.5 foot and wear a medium in another brand, but the large Legend socks were perfect for me.

Clean, dry, and ready to go!
Clean, dry, and ready to go!

Oh, final note: compression isn’t just for running!  BibRave Pro Haley likes to wear hers when she lifts. Same benefits–increased circulation, “fresh” legs, comfort–plus they make a nice shin guard for your deadlifts. (I’m looking at you, CrossFitters.) Legend comes in lots of fun colors (BibRave Pro Jessica picked purple!) so grab more than one pair!

Have you tried compression socks?

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.)

If you love your tweeps, click here so they can enter to win lunch/dinner from Luvo too.Click To Tweet

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

 

 

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary entry to City to the Sea half marathon 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.

Wine tasting with Outcast wines? Don't mind if I do!
Wine tasting with Outcast wines? Don’t mind if I do!

This is a gorgeous little race! I’m surprised it isn’t bigger, but since no one has heard of it–seriously, when I checked into my hotel and asked for a late checkout because of the race the hotel staff said, “oh, there’s a race this weekend? What race?”–I thought the race was relatively new, like just a few years old. I found out after the race that this year was actually the 21st anniversary of City to the Sea. Pro Tip: go run it NOW before the entire world learns about it!

This is pretty much everyone who ran the half marathon. Not kidding.
This is pretty much everyone who ran the half marathon. Not kidding.

Pre-race communications. There were plenty of  pre-race emails with information about race day and about San Luis Obispo. There is so much to do–wine, history, sports, beach–that I figured a ton of people probably chose this race specifically for a destination getaway. There is even a section on the race website called “Getaway Weekend.” If you’re looking for a couples’ trip, a family trip, whatever, there are plenty of options. I wish I had more time in SLO to explore. Maybe next time? Pro Tip: aim to spend Friday night and all day Saturday in SLO so you can check out some of the area’s other goodies.

Super cute cotton shirt, plus a Buff I bought for myself as a birthday present--it's ocean-themed!
Super cute cotton shirt, plus a Buff I bought for myself as a birthday present–it’s ocean-themed!

Travel & The Expo. Initially I thought I’d fly, but Southwest does not fly into the SLO airport, so I decided to drive. It should have taken me about 4 and a half hours to drive from Alameda to San Luis Obispo, but there were three sets of funky traffic, including one along the 101 where I was driving 10 mph for almost half an hour, so I barely made it to the expo/packet pick-up. It turns out that was a good thing. First, I wasn’t in the registration system (and I’m honestly not sure if that’s my fault–I remember making an attempt to register but couldn’t find the confirmation email). No worries, one of the registration volunteers got me signed up.

Second, I didn’t have to wait to exchange my t-shirt. The women’s shirts are Next Level–a brand notorious for running small–the men’s shirts ran large. Next Level basically uses junior sizes (think middle school and high school girls) not adult women sizes, so I needed an XL and even so, it’s kinda tight. Tight enough that I’d have taken an XXL if it had been available. Hopefully I will still get some wear out of it, since it is a cotton shirt in a super cute color, with just the race logo on the front. Pro tip to all race directors out there: let a woman who is a runner order the shirts.

Third, I realized I had forgotten to pack socks, despite literally making a list and checking it twice. Oops. Running Warehouse was right there, and they had my beloved Wright’s Double Layer Socks. I also indulged in some run-treats for the race: Honey Stinger’s caramel waffle and cherry cola chews, and a Hammer gel in hazelnut chocolate.

‘Twas the night before… In the ideal world, I would have had Monday off from work–it is a federal holiday, making it the perfect weekend for a three-day racecation on Calif0rnia’s central coast–but I did not. So I had to cram my entire experience of the town into Saturday night and Sunday after the race. I chose the Courtyard Marriott for location and because I am a slave to my Marriott points, and they took great care of me (even though they didn’t know there was a race going on). Saturday night they had live music and a wine tasting with Outlaw wines. Hooray! I met up with SLOluckyruns for a pre-race pizza and catching up, made a quick trip to the treehugger grocery store by the pizza place for supplies and treats, and managed to get to bed somewhat early (after obsessing about parking and figuring out how long it would take to get to the start, setting an alarm…)

Flat Bain. Hey, if you know how this flat runner "selfie" got started, drop me a line, eh?
Flat Bain. Hey, if you know how this flat runner “selfie” got started, drop me a line, eh?

Pre-race routine. So glad I bought the socks–true story, there were none in my bag. (Somehow I also didn’t pack my RaceDots, even though I stared at them on the fridge and decided to put them in the bag with my snacks.) I also totally forgot that I’d packed a banana and peanut butter, so ended up not eating them, but I did remember to coat myself thoroughly in sunblock before heading out to the race.

Members of the BibRave Pro team goofing around pre-race. (You can tell which one of us is the old lady who hasn't mastered selfies.)
Members of the BibRave Pro team goofing around pre-race. (You can tell which one of us is the old lady who hasn’t mastered selfies. #doubletriplechin)

Parking. I followed Google maps, which gave me the same directions as were on the City to the Sea website. Unfortunately, neither warned me that Marsh Street would be closed, and both explicitly instructed me to exit on Marsh Street. Fortunately Google maps is pretty quick to re-route. There were three parking garages identified in the pre-race information, but I couldn’t actually get to any of them from where I ended up. On the bright side, street parking is free until 1 p.m. so I just pulled into the first spot I found. Turns out I was one block from the start!

My favorite on-runner sight at City to the Sea!
My favorite on-runner sight at City to the Sea!

Race Start.  My first impression was surprise at how small the race field was. Looking at the finisher results, there are times for 1352 runners (and 73 runners listed with no finish times, so I can’t tell if they are DNS, DNF, or timing chip malfunction). I was expecting more like 5000-6000 runners, not including the 5k (which started from another location). The results also list the town for each runner, and the vast majority came from right in the San Luis Obispo area, or within a few hours’ drive.

The start area of this point-to-point course had the typical amenities: bag check, information, and a giant row of porta-potties (plenty for all the runners, lines were short). The pace team was appropriately spaced leaving plenty of room for runners to self-seed. The race started about five minutes late (which was fine with me); I’m not sure if they had a sound system issue, but it was difficult to hear the pre-race announcements, and my corral did not hear the first half of the National Anthem. I thought the announcer said they would be starting the runners in waves (presumably based on the pacers), but the entire field started at once without any breaks. This meant that initially we moved forward towards the start line and then ended up in a stand-still clump waiting to pass over it, but that turned out to be fine as we had the entire street to ourselves.

The Best: The Course! Since I have a half marathon every weekend in October and most of November, with the Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank half marathon next weekend, I was not out to set a PR on this course–but I’m pretty sure I could have. Add in my still-creaky hip and something funky going on in my left ankle, and my goals were simple: have fun, enjoy the course, finish without getting swept or injured.

Perfect weather for race day!
Perfect weather for race day!

As a point-to-point, there were not too many turns on the course, making it pretty speedster-friendly. The first stretch ran down Higuera Street, through and out of San Luis Obispo, and we had the entire street to ourselves. As we moved from downtown Higuera Street turns into more of a highway, even though it isn’t actually a highway, and we had half of the road (the other half was open to traffic). This was fine, as there was still plenty of room for all of us. The course runs parallel to the 101 for a time, then underneath it and through a greenbelt and park, eventually on to Shell Beach Road. It’s one of those courses where even though you know there is a road right next to you for most of it, it feels quiet, peaceful, and far from traffic. The last bit runs along the oceanfront (but it’s up–the ocean is like 20′ down from where you are running), then through some neighborhoods, and into the finish line and park.

I really enjoyed the downhill between the beginning and mile 7. The hill at mile 7, okay, that was okay. The big hill at mile 10, and the final hill at mile 12? Those were just a little too mean for my currently wimpy ankle. (Though really sincerely, if I had trained to run this for a PR, anticipating the hills at the end, it would have been d0-able since there was a long, slow downhill.) I was pleased to feel my hamstrings and glutes engaging–proof the focus I’ve put on training the back line of the body is paying off–though maybe taking an Orangetheory class (endurance day, surprise!) on Saturday morning wasn’t my best plan ever. Meh. I felt strong on the initial hills, but by the time I hit the last one at mile 12 my body was done with it.

Neighborhood dolphins, decked out for Halloween!
Neighborhood dolphins, decked out for Halloween!

The Best: The Volunteers!  Every aid station was well-stocked with everything promised, including a bunch of friendly volunteers. There were volunteers at the few possible places you could have made a wrong turn, which I expected. There were also volunteers on the longer stretches who were just there to cheer–which I did not expect but found delightful! I’m told that California has a mandatory community service requirement to graduate from high school and that is why it is so easy to find volunteers for races here. (It might not be state-wide, it might just be certain schools. I’ve not investigated this.) One of the coolest things at City to the Sea is that every volunteer was engaged and IN the race. I didn’t catch any bored teens rolling their eyes while scrolling on their iPhones. There were cheers, high-fives, signs, costumes, instead. I can’t say enough about how great the volunteers were, in every way. I kinda wish I’d taken a picture to put here, but that might have seemed stalkerishly weird.

There in the distance, the finish line!
There in the distance, the finish line!

Race’s End. All good courses must come to an end, and while I did love the seaside finish I was ready for the course to end after the hill at mile 11. At the finish line every finisher received their medal, some decals, and a pint-glass sized cup from Running Warehouse (presumably for use in the beer garden).  The race finished in a small park overlooking the ocean, and even though it was not a huge finisher festival, there was plenty to see and do.

The park has a built-in playground structure that is dinosaur-themed, so there’s that. To foster a more family-friendly vibe, the race also had a pretend obstacle course where a group of kids could race each other by jumping over “fire,” for example, and eventually going through a standing hula hoop. It was adorable, and the kids were LOVING it! (Again, it would have been stalkerishly weird to take pictures of others peoples’ kids to use in a blog post, so imagination will have to suffice.)

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The finisher festival was set up mainly around the edges of the park. Cuesta College Athletics, the beneficiary of the race (which is reason enough to go run this!), had a booth. There were tables with chilled water and Fluid‘s electrolyte beverage (which is how I used my cup). Two local LuLaRoe dealers had set up a booth (but none of the Halloween designs I’m stalking).

Until race day, I didn't know "Fluid" was a brand name (and not a generic for "some type of electrolyte beverage"). Post-race, I sampled the cinnamon vanilla recovery beverage--it is vegan and soy-free--and let me tell you, it tasted like chai. #nomnom
Until race day, I didn’t know “Fluid” was a brand name (and not a generic for “some type of electrolyte beverage”). Post-race, I sampled the cinnamon vanilla recovery beverage–it is vegan and soy-free–and let me tell you, it tasted like chai. #nomnom

Due to the usual state and local laws regulating alcohol (sigh), the beer garden was fenced off and had volunteers checking IDs on the way in. I didn’t go in–I went over to the massage and recovery area to borrow a chair and sit a bit–but that’s also where the band was. No problem though, you could hear the band just fine throughout most of the park. Also, the band–Makeover–was really good! It was an 80’s pop music cover band, and they sounded great. Everyone was really enjoying the music.

Foam rollers front and center, ice bath to the right!
Foam rollers front and center, ice bath to the right!

There was one area that needs improvement, as the corporate annual reviews would say, at the finisher area: food. Leading up to the race, each email had this in it:

race-ad

I know it is a little fuzzy (it didn’t blow up well), sorry. Anyway, I was really looking forward to the breakfast burritos. Even though the burrito provider is clearly Central Coast Meats, the pre-race emails promised a vegetarian option too. My favorite post-race things are chocolate milk, champagne, and breakfast tacos (though obviously not mixed together). If I can’t have breakfast tacos, a breakfast burrito will definitely do. I’d been eyeing the tab on my bib for breakfast as I cleared the last few miles, so after checking out the beer garden, I went to look for the breakfast burritos. Only there weren’t any. I don’t mean there weren’t any vegetarian breakfast burritos, I mean there were no breakfast burritos at all. In fact the area where they had been handing them out was packed up and it took me a few passes to figure out that’s where the burritos used to be.

First, I feel compelled to point out that it is not my turtle speed that caused me to be deprived of a burrito. On the bus back to the start someone walked on with a breakfast burrito in her hand and offered it to anyone who wanted it. (It was pretty big, too. Not like an overstuffed Chipotle, but like a reasonably decent sized meal of a burrito.) Immediately all the women sitting around me remarked that they didn’t get breakfast burritos either. Curious, I asked when they finished–because at that point I assumed they packed up after 3 hours, which was the official course limit–and found out many of them finished around 2:40 or 2:45. Several told me that they were standing in line for a burrito when the burritos ran out.

Second, lest you think there’s no way you’d eat a burrito after all that finisher chute food, there was no finisher chute food. The breakfast burrito was not in addition to bagels, bananas, salty snacks, etc. but instead of them. No burrito, no food. Given that Cuban food isn’t exactly vegetarian-friendly by nature (though I did check the menu board), no on-site breakfast for me.

Transportation. The race entry fee included transportation back to the starting line (very important for a point-to-point course!). Unlike the San Francisco courses, this was part of the registration, not an added fee. Both a coach-style bus and a limo-type “short bus” transported runners back to the start. This ran seamlessly, with runners lining up to board as they were ready. The ride back was comfortable and climate-controlled, and the drop off was just around the corner (literally) from the start.

Post-race stroll. Since I had secured a late check-0ut from my hotel (shout out and mad props to the very nice people at the Courtyard by Marriott San Luis Obispo), I decided to walk around the area immediately adjacent to where my car was parked. First I went to LUSH, with the idea that I would buy a shower bomb (since my room had a super awesome shower, but no bathtub). Denied! Turns out LUSH only sells those shower things online, though I could have bought plenty of other goodies. Nope, I wanted Up The Wooden Hill. From there I went to Phoenix Books because I am a book junkie. (One entire wall of my living room is the library, and I have three piles of books in the bedroom.) I couldn’t find a website, but if you are in town you should visit! This is the book lovers bookstore, with used books packed onto shelves, lining the stairs, and in piles on the floor. I found a few gems to take home, and decided I should exit before I found more.

After a lovely shower at the Courtyard, a bottle of Gerolsteiner, and that banana and peanut butter I had forgotten to eat, it was time to check out. I decided to spend a few hours exploring SLO before the drive home.

Lunch! #nomnom
Lunch! #nomnom

I had a filling, delicious, vegetarian lunch at Bliss Cafe. It had the “hippy dippy” attitude and menu I expected–lots of explanations about Ayurvedic food, delightful art with Krishna on the walls–and my lunch was delicious. Bliss shares a building entrance with a few other shops, so I took time to explore them. First I bought some handmade earrings at the art gallery, and then I purchased some perfume from the hippy/pagan clothing/etc. store in the same arcade. (It’s not on Google Maps and I didn’t note the name–sorry!) Finally I went to Cowboy Cookie where instead of birthday cake I had a sprinkled sugar cookie bowl filled with birthday cake ice cream.

The last hour or so of my time in SLO, I strolled the rest of the street and took a look around. Sunday evening there were plenty of shops open, and plenty of things closed.

My favorite cow!
My favorite cow! 67 Cowlifornia Republic

San Luis Obispo has a CowParade going on, which I love. (I can’t remember how this started, but I’ve seen cows and other animals on parade in various cities I’ve visited over the years. I think the first one I saw was Chicago?) You can’t see it, but the sign has a hotline to call to report injured cows. You can see the 120 cows in this parade–which are all over the cownty, not just in the city–through April 2017 and vote for your favorite. I also stopped in to browse multiple art galleries and shops.

I knew about the one in Seattle--which Google says is coming down???--but not this one!
I knew about the one in Seattle–which Google says is coming down???–but not this one!

Bubblegum alley had plenty of people taking pictures, so I had to wait my turn. Also, it’s a teeny bit gross…but the fifth grader in me was secretly pleased it exists. I really wish I’d had more time to explore (and a bigger stomach), but all too soon it was time to drive back home.

If you’ve run City to the Sea, why not take a moment to review it on BibRave.com? You know how great it is, and how much potential it has to be a huge destination race!

Parting words of wisdom
Parting words of wisdom