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

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

Psst! Click here to tip off your friends: October is Giveaway-A-Palooza here on the blog.Click To Tweet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the prize!
This is the prize!

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received a pair of Ampla Fly running shoes 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.

The red stripe at the bottom is the edge of the carbon fiber plate
The red stripe at the bottom is the edge of the carbon fiber plate

Introducing: magic shoes! A shoe with a carbon fiber plate in the bottom on purpose? What’s with the funny flappy thing on the bottom? As a runner who usually runs in pretty plush shoes and has the uncanny ability to trip over flat surfaces without assistance, I was a little apprehensive…until I saw that they come in red. Sold! I would just click my heels three times and find myself flying over the finish line, right? Well…not exactly. Ampla Fly is a surprisingly lightweight training shoe designed to encourage efficient use of force while running. It’s not specifically a stability shoe, though based on my experience I think it can help you to develop running habits that will lead you to correct your stride.

First, they FIT. I might seem like a shoe junkie, but that’s just because I can’t find shoes that fit quite right (when I find them, I hoard as many pairs as I can before the shoe maker messes with the model and ruins it). My feet are big (10.5 in running shoes), relatively flat (medium to low arch), and shaped like men’s feet (not narrow at the heel, not narrow across the toes). When I found out I was going to get the chance to try out the Ampla Fly, I crossed  my fingers and hoped they would fit. They did!

Ampla Fly in black (image courtesy of Ampla)
Ampla Fly in black (image courtesy of Ampla)

Interruptus: a little on the technology. Before I get into my experience with them, here’s an abbreviated tutorial on the Ampla Fly (link to the exact shoes I tested is HERE). As the company explains it:

The AMPLA FLY is a running shoe that encourages the efficient use of force and provides the most powerful running experience possible. The full length carbon fibre Forcepower plate technology guides upon foot-strike and releases stored energy at toe-off.

If you compare the construction of the Ampla Fly to your current running shoe, you will immediately notice the difference in design.

Courtesy of Ampla
Courtesy of Ampla

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Yes, the carbon fiber plate feels stiff. (This is a GOOD thing.) When I first put on the magic red shoes, I immediately noticed the soles felt stiff. Very, very stiff. I did a little walking around before I tried to run in them, and it definitely took some time for my feet to get used to the idea of stiff soles. If you run in a stiffer shoe, like Mizuno, you might not notice this; if you run in a plush shoe like ASICS nimbus or cumulus, or Brooks glycerin, you will notice it. (If you suffer from plantar fasciitis, you will definitely need to ease your way into running in these, a little bit at a time, and slowly build your mileage, as well as follow your running with mobility and soft tissue work.) I mention this NOT because the stiff soles are bad–they serve a very specific purpose–but because if you are used to fully articulating through your foot when you run, you might initially find these shoes a big uncomfortable. Trust me, not only does it get better, it’s totally worth it.

Oh, side note: “stiff sole” does NOT mean “hard landing.” There is sufficient cushioning that you don’t feel like you’re running on steel shoes on pavement. The microfiber and mesh upper was super comfortable.

Running in Ampla Fly takes less effort. After I spent some talking walking around, I decided to try running in them. Ampla Fly is aptly named! The shoe is designed to use the force of your foot-strike to propel you forward, so instead of hitting the ground and thinking “push,” as you hit the ground your foot almost feels like it just bounces right back up.

The shape of the shoe strongly influences your stride. The BibRave Pro team was lucky enough to get an exclusive call with the team behind Ampla Fly, and one thing they mentioned was that it is nearly impossible to heel-strike wearing Ampla Fly. Naturally, I had to see for myself, so I tried to run about a half mile while heel-striking. (I’ve spent the past few years training my strike to mid-foot striking, so heel striking is no longer my default; I can generally choose to heel-strike and stick with it though.) It was surprisingly difficult. Heel-striking felt unnatural and strange, as though I was somehow using my feet wrong and the shoes were fighting it. (Because, you know, they were.)

Overall, it seemed that the shoe promoted shorter strides and a quicker turnover (more steps in less time), which will naturally cut down on heel striking. The shoes are definitely neutral.

Ampla Fly over the Alameda bike bridge
Ampla Fly over the Alameda bike bridge

These are definitely road/track shoes. The Ampla FAQ clearly states these are not trail shoes and I already find trail running sufficiently treacherous, so I didn’t even try. My only “off roading” was on the wooden portion of the Alameda bicycle bridge. It’s old and uneven, and as a person who can trip over a totally flat surface I find it challenging even with regular running shoes, but I had to try the Ampla Fly. I wondered if the flap on the bottom would trip me as I crossed it. The running was precarious, but not because of the plate; the main challenge came from wearing a stiff-soled shoe on an uneven surface. The other BibRave Pro Team members swapped notes on our experiences, and the consensus was that these are most suited to road or track running, not for trails, gravel, or the boardwalk.

Wait, where have these been all my life? If you’re a youngster, they’ve been in development. Ampla Fly’s design elements are courtesy of David (he previously worked in innovation at Nike) and Dr. Marcus Elliot (a sport scientist who tests and trains top-notch athletes at the P3 Sports Science Institute in Santa Barbara). Originally Quicksilver funded these as a dark project during research and development, but when Quicksilver filed for bankruptcy in late 2014, Ampla was basically frozen–even though it was ready to launch.

How do I get my feet into Ampla Fly? You go to the website and buy them. Ampla is a direct-to-customer company, you can’t get them in stores (though you might luck out and find them at a race expo). The entire company is run by six people (Rob, Charlie, David, Jessie, and Jayme). The direct-to-customer model means two important things for you as a runner. One, you save because Ampla isn’t dealing with distributors and individual stores, and you don’t pay the markup involved with a distribution system. Two, every customer has a one-on-one relationship with the company. If you email them, you get a reply from a stakeholder–yup, co-owner Rob Colby actually answers emails. There is a 30-day, no questions asked, return policy.

Ampla Fly at rest
Ampla Fly at rest

 

To find out more about Ampla Fly, head to their main website, or directly to the FAQ. You can also follow Ampla on Twitter and Instagram.

Want to read more about the Ampla Fly? Check out additional reviews from the BibRave Pro Team:

Disclosure: I received an original Buff® 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.

The genuine article has the Buff logo on it--proof of quality and brand!
The genuine article has the Buff logo on it–proof of quality and brand!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Buff®

Okay, maybe you already knew this. If you’ve been paying attention to my blog, or have seen me at any races, then you probably know about my love affair with Buff® products. I use the UV half Buff® as a hat liner when running, which keeps my bangs out of my face and covers my ears (which never seen to get sunblock on them for some reason). I’ve used UV Buff® in the full size as a hat replacement/”do-rag,” to keep my neck warm during the pre-race chill in Arizona and Nevada, as a sweat mopper during races, and as a combination hat liner and ice holder during the 2016 Buffalo Marathon. As I started to figure out just how useful Buff® is–and how each variety (e.g. UV, infinity scarf, merino wool) is multifunctional–I could kick myself for not grabbing a drawerfull earlier. Given the chance to score a Buff® I will always be interested, and I’ve purchased quite a few for myself, friends, and family. Since I love Buff® products so much, I’m thrilled that BibRave and Buff® have an ongoing partnership!

Sweaty post-race selfie at Rock n Roll Virginia Beach
Sweaty post-race selfie at Rock n Roll Virginia Beach

It’s local.

Betcha didn’t know that! (Okay, local to me…) While the parent company (Original Buff®, S.A.) is in Spain, Buff® Inc. (the U.S. subsidiary company) is located in Sonoma County, northern California! No wonder they are a sponsor of the Levi’s Granfondo in Santa Rosa.

On my wrist to mop sweat (Half Buff)
On my wrist to mop sweat (Half Buff)

Don’t be a Pirate.

Buff® is a Brand Name that Indicates The Real Deal. Just like Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Clinique, and Nike, the term Buff® is a registered trademark. (Through the magic of WordPress I have found the ® symbol!) Unfortunately, just like you can buy knock-off Fendi and Gucci out of some dude’s trunk in many cities, there are imitation/fake/imposter Buff® products out there. (Note that it is absolutely 100% fine to sell a multi-functional headgear, headwrap, tube, etc. but calling it a “buff” when it is not a Buff® is misleading and a violation of trademark law.) For example, at least two race series I know of advertise that runners get a race-themed “buff” with registration, and the Marathon Maniacs and the Half Fanatics sell a club logo “buff” in their member stores. This isn’t just bad news for Buff®, it’s bad news for you.

First, you’re not getting a real Buff® when you buy these products, but you’re probably paying the same price–or more! When I order a Buff® or am promised a Buff®, I expect the real deal. The real original Buff® is made from a soft technical fabric that dries quickly, wicks sweat away from you, and is treated with Polygiene to prevent the build up of bacteria in the product. (The UV version blocks at least 93% of harmful UV rays, there is a reflective Buff® for low-light safety, and Insectshield® has a built-in repellent that lasts through 70 washes.)  The fabric has been tested and is warranted to meet several international standards including Oeko-Tex Standard 100 (which prohibits the use of certain types of chemicals that are known to be harmful to humans or the planet). Fake “buff” products–at least every single one I have seen–are generally made of cheaper fabric that holds the heat in, doesn’t dry quickly, and has no UV protection.

Second, you’re hurting Buff® when you buy fakes. Genuine Buff® products are reasonably priced, and there are great sales (be sure to get on the mailing list!). There is no reason for any race or club to offer a fake “buff” because Buff® offers custom products (here’s the U.S. site!) and has a low minimum order requirement (25 pieces!). Buff also supports numerous international charities with custom designs, including UNICEF, Walking With The Wounded, and World Horse Welfare. (In the U.S., charity designs include The Breast Cancer Fund, and Buff® USA sponsors the Marine Corps Marathon.)

Finding this interesting? Why not Tweet it to your peeps so they can learn about Buff(R) too? Click To Tweet

Buff® isn’t just for running!

Last year I bought a super cute Buff® headband after trying it out at a race expo. (Most headbands go shooting off of my head like a slingshot. Insert joke about having a big head here.) My intent was to use it during yoga and group ex classes to help keep sweat from my head/hair off of my face. My body is very efficient at cooling itself, which is to say I sweat A LOT during workouts. It did a great job of keeping my bangs from dripping sweat into my eyes, and further did a great job of keeping adjacent hair from sticking to my face, but there was still the issue of my ponytail whacking me in the face during sun salutations.

In addition to my large melon, I have baby-fine, stick-straight hair with zero texture. If you put a clip barrette into my hair, it will slowly slide right out–same with most hair elastics (unless applied super duper tightly)–and the giant claw-clips tend to wobble unless held in place with something else (like a shower cap) and are impractical for yoga classes. During this round of BibRave testing, I opted for a full Buff® from the National Geographic collection. (The design I picked was so awesome that it is now sold out.) At first I tried wearing it foulard/do-rag style (see the “How to Wear” video on the Buff® website). While that kept more sweat off of my face and kept all of my hair from sticking to my face, it had the unfortunate effect of letting my ponytail turn into a giant dreadlock.

The finished look, from the top
The finished look, from the top

So I messed around with it more, and came up with a solution. It’s not in the video on the website, so here’s how to do it:

  1. Pull Buff® over head and all the way down onto neck, pattern side out. (Like the neckerchief in the video)
  2. Pull top edge of Buff® up over head (temporarily covering face) until bottom edge of Buff hits chin. Ponytail should be inside (not below the bottom edge). (This is like foulard/do-rag in the video.)
  3. Scrunch and/or roll bottom edge of Buff® up to hairline; multiple layers of fabric should be at the hairline. (I put it behind my ears, which I know looks dorky, but my goal was “effective sweat and hair control” and not “fashion statement.”)
  4. Grab ponytail and twist a few times, making a faux bun right next to head; using one hand to hold ponytail, grab free edges of Buff® with the other hand. (It helps to bend over a little bit while you do this.)
  5. Grip opposite sides of Buff® (it’s a tube, so anything approximate will do) and tie a single, firm overhand knot.

BOOM! Hair and sweat control in one! I used this method in multiple deep-flow style yoga classes that included inversions and plenty of movement, as well as a Lagree Method class. Gravity was no match for this baby.

Post-sweaty yoga selfie--hair intact, no sweat in eyes
Post-sweaty yoga selfie–hair intact, no sweat in eyes. (When all else fails, through a filter on it.)

 

Do you have a favorite Buff® product?

Disclosure: I received a pair of Aftershokz 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.

During September and October, Aftershokz has a limited edition Trekz Titanium in Pink! Building on their brand’s signature feature–headphones with uncompromising sound quality that allow you to remain aware when running–Aftershokz has partnered with Bright Pink. If you haven’t heard of Bright Pink, they are a nonprofit with a great mission.

Bright Pink is on a mission to save women’s lives from breast and ovarian cancer by empowering them to live proactively at a young age.

We now know enough about cancer to know that even young women in their 20s can develop breast and ovarian cancers, yet doctors and society still see these cancers as diseases relevant to older women only. Bright Pink wants to change that. Not only is early detection the key to surviving cancer, young women can reduce their risk of developing these cancers through an active lifestyle and proactive measures (such as quitting smoking and avoiding exposure to second-hand smoke). You need to know your risk to do what you can to reduce it, so Bright Pink has a risk assessment tool on the website. But let’s get back to Aftershokz for a moment.

Slack for iOS Upload (4)

The first time the BibRave Pro Team partnered with Aftershokz, I was intrigued about how they work. Instead of earbuds sitting inside your ear and projecting sound into your ear canal, Trekz have “transducers” that sit in front of your ears. (Surprisingly, this does not make your tunes audible to your fellow runners.) These transducers work on something called “bone conduction technology.”

Graphic from the Aftershokz site to explain how they work
Graphic from the Aftershokz site to explain how they work

Initially, this kind of freaked me out. I was in an accident that left me with extensive damage to the right side of my face, including bone and nerve damage. My right cheekbone and eyesocket are largely wrapped and lined with titanium mesh, held in place by titanium plates and tiny titanium screws. (Sadly, this did not confer any bionic powers. Also, it is 2016, so where’s my flying car?) I didn’t ask to try Trekz because of the description of how bone conduction technology works:

THE AFTERSHOKZ WAY

Bone conduction is a natural part of the hearing process—sound travels through our eardrums and bones simultaneously. We’ve taken the concept to the next level through development of a suite of proprietary audio technologies and design patents. The result: headphones that deliver unrivaled situational awareness and comfort.

HOW THEY WORK

Transducers guide mini vibrations through the cheekbones to the inner ears, delivering sound without plugging or covering them.

Changes in atmospheric pressure sometimes make my face hurt, so I was reluctant to taunt my bones with “mini vibrations” from something named titanium!

Trekz_Titanium_Pink_2

But then the #AwareWithPink campaign came along. For every pair of Trekz Titanium Pink sold, AfterShokz will donate 25% of proceeds to Bright Pink; every time #AwareWithPink is used on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, AfterShokz will donate an additional 25 cents to Bright Pink to extend the awareness. Testing these headphones would give me an opportunity to help do a lot of good, particularly by raising the profile of Bright Pink. Most of us only have to look to our own families and friends to find breast cancer or ovarian cancer disrupting lives; I can point to my best friend’s mother, Judi; my grandmother; two of my favorite elementary school teachers; women I know from the running community…I bet you’ve got a list too.

Send this tweet using #AwareWithPink to donate a quarter to Bright Pink right now. Click To Tweet

So here I go, testing the Trekz Titanium Pink limited edition.

Trekz Titanium Pink: Party In a Box!
Trekz Titanium Pink: Party In a Box!

Guess what? It turns out my fears were totally unfounded. I’ve used them on all of  my runs since they arrived, and I’m loving them!

Initially, I was trying to wear them a little too high
Initially, I was trying to wear them a little too high

The transducers sit in front of your ears (but not near the tops like I first tried them!). You can control the volume with the buttons on the headset, or you can use your phone. They also have a built-in mic so you can take phone calls (but frankly if you call me while I am running I’m going to ignore you, so I haven’t tested that part). The sound quality is great and I love that I can still hear my surroundings. When you’re out running, that’s a critical safety factor, whether you’re running on a bike path, the road, or at a race.

Sweaty post-race selfie at Rock n Roll Virginia Beach
Sweaty post-race selfie at Rock n Roll Virginia Beach

The two most important factors for me–beyond safety–are battery life and sweatproofness. Trekz recharge using a mini USB to USB cable (included) and the charging port has a rubber plug to seal it shut. On the most recent charge, I’ve run for over six hours (a few short runs plus a half marathon). Since I usually forget to charge them unless there’s a big race coming up, the long battery life is a bonus. As for sweatproofness, I was initially concerned that my body’s ability to very efficiently cool itself would somehow end up hurting Trekz. Nope! Even at Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach–which was humid and warm–they did just fine.

After the race my friend Ezra tried them out. First he just put them on and took them off. Then he asked to try them on again and jumped up and down and shook his head really hard a few times. Trekz stayed put. (I wasn’t clever enough to snap pictures of this.)

If you’re in the market for a great pair of wireless headphones that will support a great cause, head over to the Trekz Titanium Pink site. From September 1 to October 31, 25% of the proceeds goes to Bright Pink! If you use code PINK when you purchase, you will also score a bonus travel case. (There is enough room inside for the headphones, cord, softcase, and a few more essentials. I put my RoadID in mine.)

BibRave Pro Abbie took this picture, which shows off the case
BibRave Pro Abbie took this picture, which shows off the case

Even if you are not interested in new headphones, I’d like to encourage you to go to the Bright Pink website and learn what you and your friends can do to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Tweet your favorite facts using #AwareWithPink to donate a quarter to Bright Pink!

Don’t forget to join the BibRave Pro Team and other runners for #bibchat on Tueday, September 6th. (I’ll be tweeting from an airplane!) Aftershokz and Bright Pink will be our guests.

Slack for iOS Upload (3)

Unless you are brand new to the blog, or have been living under a rock for the past few years, you know I’m currently a proud member of the BibRave Pro Team. (The “currently” should be read as “let’s hope they decide to keep me”!) Sure, getting to test sweet new running gear and scoring comp entries to races is cool, but what all of us love most is the BibRave community. Most of us have Tuesday night’s Twitter #bibchat penned into our calendars (that’s every Tuesday at 5 pm Pacific), and we love those race meet-ups with people we only “know” online.

The Ampla Fly is my current gear-testing assignment
The Ampla Fly is my current gear-testing assignment

For this post, I’m pleased to announce the newest addition to the BibRave community: The BibRave podcast! You can find the show notes here, but I really encourage you to subscribe to the podcast in iTunes and leave a review. (Both of those things tell iTunes “hey, we like this!”) While you’re at it, why not do the same for the podcast I co-host, Runner of a Certain Age?

To celebrate the inaugural BibRave Podcast, co-founder Tim Murphy agreed to a brief interview.

Julia and Tim, mugging before the last recording session
Julia and Tim, mugging before the last recording session
Bain: Why did you start BibRave? 
Tim Murphy: The inspiration came from a race where my wife, Jessica (co-founder), spent a ton of time, money, and energy training and traveling for a marathon in Washington, DC (which no longer exists, BTW). [Bain’s comment: I can guess why!] The race was a total disaster and we kept saying, “I wish there had been a place to read about this beforehand, or to let other runners know about it afterward.” That was definitely a key moment for us. And since then we’ve had so many GOOD race experiences that we were like, “OK, there has to be a place people can learn about the good ones and the not-so-good ones.”
 
Bain: I can definitely identify with that! (Haven’t we all run a race where the advertising sounded great but the race was…not so much? Or a race where the timing was right and that’s the only reason we signed up, but it turned out to be incredible?) What role do you see the BibRave community playing in the running community? 
Tim: The BibRave community has become an incredible source for information about all things running and racing–events (good and not-so-good), electronics, nutrition, hydration, headwear, footwear, eyewear–the list goes on. That info is valuable to new and seasoned runners alike.
 
Bain: Why a BibRave podcast?
Tim: I’ve personally been listening to more podcasts lately, and the medium is at a good place with growing mainstream adoption. Podcasts have been around forever, but I feel like they’ve really hit critical mass in the past few years. I actually wish we would have started one sooner!
Additionally, I like the idea of having a place where BibRave can join in on the content side of things. We host #BibChat every week, which is a ton of fun, but we don’t create much in the way of longer-tail runner content. We can’t let the BibRave Pros have all the content creation fun!
Bain: Thanks for your time, Tim. I look forward to more episodes of the podcast.
By the way, if you want to hear more from Tim and Julia (the community manager and Pro Team wrangler), check out Runner of a Certain Age Episode 75, the I’m a Raver Edition! Show notes are here. Don’t forget to subscribe to the BibRave Podcast in iTunes (something to listen to during your next run?) and join us for #bibchat this Tuesday. For more information on joining the BibRave Pro Team, check out the application and information page.
Obligatory Action Shot!
Obligatory Action Shot! (But where is the coffee?)
Don’t forget to follow me on BibRave.com (I’ll follow you back because I’d love to hear about your races) and review all of your races to help other runners.

Disclosure: this post is not in any way sponsored, endorsed, or otherwise connected with Monthly Java. I paid for my own subscription. I chose to write about the Arizona Monthly Java because I love coffee, not because Monthly Java paid me. (Though if they wanted to pay me to write for them, I wouldn’t be opposed!) If you check out Monthly Java, would you let them know you found them through my review? They might not notice, but it can’t hurt to let them know, right?

Don't be afraid to climb out of bed--coffee is waiting!
Don’t be afraid to climb out of bed–coffee is waiting!

Have you heard the good news about coffee?

While procrastinating–wait, I mean researching!–on social media, I happened to run into Monthly Java. It’s a subscription coffee box and like other subscription coffee boxes, it sends you coffee each month. Unlike other boxes, a Monthly Java box contains coffee from local roasters (not big, well-known ones), and each box has two bags from different roasters in the same state. The roasters package the coffee, so it comes to your house in the same packaging as if you’d bought it directly from them (not in some Monthly Java branded package). That means you might get a pound (16 oz) or you might get 12 oz (which seems to be the most common package size on shelves right now), depending on how the roaster packages their beans.

Monthly Java, revealed
Monthly Java, revealed

My first box had two coffees from Arizona roasters. Also included were two bookmark-sized brief dossiers on the roasters, some supplemental material from one roaster, and a handwritten thank you note. I liked the low-key, no-fuss packaging. (Hey, I subscribed for the coffee. I don’t need or want ridiculous packaging–I want my money going into the coffee.)

Cartel's beans
Cartel’s beans

Cartel Coffee Lab

The Roaster. Funny thing, I was already familiar with Cartel, a roaster based in Tempe, AZ, because they have a cafe in the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. (Thank god they do. The first time I flew through Phoenix there was literally NO coffee in the nearby terminals. While there’s a Starbucks in the airport now, I prefer the Austin/Portland model of putting local businesses in the airport.) Cartel included the “Cartel Coffee Lab Brew Guide” which lays out the optimal amounts of coffee and water, as well as the process, for making coffee in the Aeropress, Hario V60, Clever, or Chemex. (I have a no-frills $10 4 cup and an Aeropress, but didn’t get around to trying it in the Aeropress.) The website contains all sorts of information about Cartel and coffee in general. Cartel also included a decal, because they think I’m cool enough to have something to put decals on.

The Cartel Package
The Cartel Package

The Facts. The bookmark dossier indicated this Cartel coffee came from Coban, Guatemala from a farm at an elevation of 1400-1600 meters. (It’s not in the online store right now, but other beans are.) The beans were processed using the “washed” process. Since I had no clue what that meant, I visited the Cartel site for an explanation: “Washed coffees are popular where there is an abundance of fresh water. The cherries have an outer layer mechanically stripped off and the inner pulp is allowed to ferment for a prescribed time. The fermented pulp layer is then removed with fresh flowing water.” During my time in Guatemala, I’m pretty sure I saw the residents of El Durazno using this method on their small family plots; they had received clean water only a few months before I was there, and had previously used water carried by hand from a river.

Appearance. Cartel’s beans came in a lined brown bag with a card of coffee info held to the front of the package with a rubber bracelet type thingy (which, it turns out, was just a bit too big to be a bracelet–but it worked great for holding the info card to the mason jar I stored the coffee in.)

When I opened the package and took out the beans, the first thing I noticed is that the beans were a lighter shade of brown than most beans I buy. In addition, the beans had a dry, not oily, appearance and feel. When I put them in my coffee grinder, a few pulses revealed an even lighter interior bean color.

Taste. The bookmark’s tasting notes said “dark chocolate & cranberry.” I’m not sure I got the cranberry, but the aroma was definitely chocolate. I used my usual five scoops per pot (four cup pot, so 1 scoop per cup + “one for the pot”) method. Unadultered, the coffee had a medium level of intensity, and low-to-no feel of acidity. If you are a coffee purist you could drink this straight and be happy. If you are a coffee snob (like me) but like to mess with your coffee (say, by adding milk and a smidge of high-quality hot cocoa mix), that works out very well too.

 

Peixoto's beans and coffee
Peixoto’s beans and the coffee package

Peixoto Coffee

The Roaster. I had never heard of Peixoto Coffee before, and the bookmark only told me that they source beans from a family farm and are the fourth generation in their coffee-growing family. (How cool is that?) So I went to the website, which has gorgeous pictures of the coffee fruit, and the story of the Peixoto family legacy. (Side note, ye gods do I love the internet. I can get a DIY PhD in coffee right in my living room.) One of the benefits of buying from a family operation like Peixoto Coffee is that the supply chain is short–they grow, roast it, and sell it. That means all of your dollar is paying for the coffee (and the work it took to produce it), instead of intermediate distributors, warehousing, etc. Any coffee Peixoto roasts that doesn’t come from their own farm–such as their Ethiopian beans–is Direct Trade (which is sort of like Fair Trade but with higher standards). Like Cartel, Peix0to also has retail locations, and you can buy online.

The Facts. This particular Peixoto coffee is the yellow catucai, from the Peixoto family’s coffee farm, Fazenda Sao José da Boa Vista, in Alta Mogiana, Brazil. The website has some pictures to give you an idea of what the farm l0oks like, and one of the sliding header photos on the main page shows yellow catucai–the coffee fruit is actually yellow!  The beans were processed using the “natural” process. Since I had no idea what that meant, I relied on the Cartel site’s description: “Natural coffees do not use any water and are therefore associated primarily with producing regions that tend to be dryer. With naturals, the fruit is left to shrivel like a raisin before being removed through milling.” Hm, maybe this is the process I observed in Guatemala?

Peixoto peeking out of the box
Peixoto peeking out of the box

Appearance. Most notable to me, the beans are irregular sizes. You know when you open a typical bag of coffee, all the beans are basically identical? These beans are a mix of the size you expect to see plus all sorts of smaller sizes. I didn’t even need to put them through the grinder to see they had a lighter interior than many beans I use. They had a medium brown external appearance, mostly dry but with a little bit of oiliness. (The oiliness is evident in the empty bag.)

Taste. The bookmark’s tasting notes say “chocolate, mandarin, hazelnut” (the package says “sweet, milk chocolate, hazelnut”). I can definitely understand the milk chocolate–both from the color and the scent of the beans–and the nuttiness. I’m not sure I get “mandarin,” as I didn’t detect the tart citrus taste I expect to go with that word. To the extent “mandarin” is supposed to mean a very slightly sweet, “bright” note, that I do get. Unadultered, this coffee was medium in terms of color (using the exact same process I have described above). It wasn’t 100% acidity-free, as it did have a little citrus-like aspect to it, but the brew also wasn’t so acidic that you could feel it in your teeth. (Monthly Java does advertise that it chooses light to medium roasts, so if you fear the dark, you can still enjoy Monthly Java.) If you’re a purist, this is a fine choice all by itself. It also made a great base for my preferred coffee drink.

The beans, side by side; can you tell which is which?
The beans, side by side; can you tell which is which?

What do you think?

Have you tried Monthly Java or another coffee subscription service? (If not, would you?)

I’ll be the first to admit that a Monthly Java subscription isn’t cheap. Pricing for a single month is $48, paying three months at once brings the cost to $46.56 per month, and the six month plan works out to $45.60 per month. Yet even on the most expensive plan, I would save money–$48 would maybe cover a venti Starbucks mocha for ten days, yet Monthly Java brings me two bags of beans for that cost. Even adding in the most decadent cocoa mix I might use (approx. $10, lasts a month) and the cost of milk, making my drink at home still puts me ahead.

 

Coffee is love
Coffee is love

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

You are just a big bag of water.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Five Tips for Building Your Hydration Strategy

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

Enter (to win) the Amphipod.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Selected References:

 

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Disclosure: I am a member of the 2016 Rock ‘n’ Blog team. As a member of the team, I receive entry to Rock ‘n’ Roll races and other perks. This post is not sponsored, edited, or written (in any way) by the Rock ‘n’ Roll series or Competitor Group. All opinions are my own.

Most of the Rock ‘n’ Roll races are on Sundays. When there is a race on Saturday, ordinarily it is a 5k or 10k as part of a “Remix Challenge” weekend. Seattle is a different story: the main races are on Saturday. There is NO RACE ON SUNDAY. Since this is my third year running RnR Seattle, you might think I would have that figured out in advance. Or have, you know, looked at the date on the website or something. Big bowl of NOPE. (I even wrote it into my calendar as taking place on Sunday. #fail)

Who cannot remember which day the race is? This runner!
Who cannot remember which day the race is? This runner!

Most of the time when I travel for a Rock ‘n’ Roll race, I will stay all weekend, Friday to Sunday (or to Monday, as is my plan for Vancouver this year). Due to the amount of travel I’ve had lately both for work and for personal, the fact that my 19-year-old kittyboy now turns into Angry Kitty when I leave, and my general desire to have a day before the end of the month to do laundry and clean the house, this time I decided to just stay overnight, run, and go home. “When are you flying into Seattle?” Briana asked me. “Probably Saturday afternoon,” I wrote back, “I’m super busy and I think one night is better for me.” “Really?” Briana replied, “Um, you know you’ll miss the race if you do that, right?” DOH. Briana then reminded me that I made the same mistake last year (thinking the race was on Sunday). (She got it right, per usual. Check out her event review on Mat Miles Medals.)

This year I also made a brand-new mistake: I bought two sets of plane tickets for the same trip. After Briana reminded me I’d better make my trip Friday-Saturday (and not Saturday-Sunday) I hopped over to Southwest to make a reservation. It wasn’t until I went to the website to check in for my flight that I discovered I had apparently already purchased a Friday-Sunday ticket. Oops. Thankfully, Southwest has an awesome policy where they will hold funds for you from nonrefundable tickets, and I know I’ll be flying again, so no harm, no foul.

Thursday night I stayed up later than planned for a variety of reasons, but also managed to not pack for the adventure because I was pacifying Angry Kitty (who does not like it when I move things in and out of The Ominous Things On Wheels). Hey, he’s 19 years old and has put up with a lot throughout our 15 years together, so the least I can do is let him snuggle into my lap and snore, right?

Shoe game--on point--packed in Eagle Creek gear
Shoe game–on point–packed in Eagle Creek gear

Up at 4 a.m. to put things into the weekender. One of my top travel tricks is that I have a TSA-friendly ziploc bag filled with the overnight essentials (e.g. shampoo, toothpaste, lotion) that I never unpack. I also have a toothbrush in a travel case, a detangling comb, a pair of old prescription bottles (the orange-ish see-through kind) with the labels removed that are now filled with cotton swabs and cotton balls, and a travel-designated bath pouf that live inside the suitcase. When it’s time to pack, I just have to check that the essentials are all there (and not empty) instead of repacking. Eagle Creek was nice enough to give each of the Rock ‘n’ Blog team members a few bags that make my racing travel easier–a shoe locker for the shoes and small things, a gear locker for my clean clothes, and a fold-over for the dirty clothes–and I’ve got packing the things down to a science. (For the curious, this is the Pack-It Sport line.) Off to the 6: 30 a.m. flight at 5:30, and I was the last person to board the plane.

How tired was I? I was very excited to find a mini-sunblock spray to pack. For a race in Seattle.
How tired was I? I was very excited to find a mini-sunblock spray to pack. For a race in Seattle.

Two hours is barely enough time to catch a nap. I tried.

One thing I love about Seattle is there is pretty much no need to rent a car for the race. LINK light rail goes right to the airport, and downtown is criss-crossed by a variety of bus lines. I bought a reloadable Orca card (the better to not have to worry about keeping cash on hand for bus fares) and stuck $20 on it. It was a short LINK ride to Pioneer Square, which is exactly one block away from the Courtyard Marriott on Second Avenue (aka my Seattle home away from home). This is the second year I’ve stayed there, and I really love the x02 rooms (702, 802, etc.) because they are quiet and have a ton of space. Of course when you show up at 9:15 they don’t have your room ready, but they will store your luggage.

I hopped a north-going bus to meet up with Lillie Goker, a running buddy of mine who lives in Seattle. (We conquered Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco together in 2014.) She and I had brunch at this great breakfast place called Roxy’s Diner. I tried to find it on Google Maps, but it isn’t there. (Instead, look for Norm’s Eatery & Ale House, which is right next door.) After a night of really no sleep, it was great to relax over an eggy scramble with tater tots and a bottomless cup of coffee. We don’t get to hang out nearly enough, either.

Big race, big expo
Big race, big expo

Lillie lives nearby, and after a quick tour of her new digs, and a brief stop to hack some Ingress portals, she drove me over to the race expo. If you park in the parking structure, you end up entering the expo from the back, as opposed to entering where bib pickup is like you do in other cities. So we wandered through a little of the expo before we got to registration. The patterned totes from the Edmonton marathon were super cute, so I accepted one even though I’m unlikely to run it this year. (The race calendar is full. Maybe in 2017?)

The booth featured the same graphics as the tote
The booth featured the same graphics as the tote

Then Lillie helped me take a selfie (which I guess makes it not-quite-a-selfie?) with Elba Benzler, race director for Blooms to Brews (and a guest on Runner of A Certain Age, the podcast I now co-host, for a pre-race interview).

In case you missed it, I ran Blooms to Brews this year and LOVED it!
In case you missed it, I ran Blooms to Brews this year and LOVED it!

He’s also got a new event cooking, the North County Wine Run (first running: September 24, 2016). The medal is gorgeous, epic, and functional–so naturally I asked for a demonstration!

Have you ever seen a race medal that does THIS??
Have you ever seen a race medal that does THIS??

After picking up bibs and shirts, Lillie decided to call it a day and headed off to whatever it is that people do when they are not fixated on running. I stayed behind to wander the expo a bit before teh 3:00 #werunsocial meetup. (Actually, first I cased the joint to find an outlet to charge my phone.) Because I had decided that I was NOT going to buy anything at the expo, Nuun had to go and have a Seattle-specific water bottle. Guess who bought some more Nuun? I know, I know, way to stick to my resolve, but it’s something I use regularly, and it isn’t like it will spoil quickly. Besides, I was running low on cherry limeade. Then I came across the CEP booth, which tempted me with a good sale (I resisted) and a $10 copy of Meb for Mortals (I caved).

Seaplane, Space Needle, Guitar, Skyline...and green! How could I resist?
Seaplane, Space Needle, Guitar, Skyline…and green! How could I resist?

The #werunsocial meetup was a great time, as always. I am always glad to see Briana, Carleeh, Sarah, Carlee, Brian, Linzie…you get the idea. I remember I was so nervous at my first meetup that I forced myself to go talk to everyone about Run 10 Feed 10, and i was so nervous doing it that I accidentally gave the same spiel to one group of people twice! D’oh! Since then I’ve figured out that the cool kids are really nice, and I’ve made a bunch of friends. It makes travel to races even better, because I can always look forward to “running” into at least one of them. Pro Compression sponsored the meetup and donated some prizes, and after we took all the selfies there was barely enough time for me to hit my hotel for an all-too-brief nap.

Post-race, rocking my Pro Compression socks in BibRave Orange with A Major Award!
Post-race, rocking my Pro Compression socks in BibRave Orange with A Major Award!

I capped off the evening with dinner at Buca di Beppo, a pretty standard pre-race carb-fest for sure. This time the dinner planning landed in my lap, and I kept changing the number of seats on the reservation. In the end we had more seats than people (though in San Francisco it was the other way around, so I never know how it will shake out). I was quite happy the bus landed just a few blocks from the restaurant, as it started to drizzle as I was leaving the restaurant. Once I hit the hotel, I’d love to say I slept like a log for the few hours I had left to sleep. I didn’t. I’d love to say I love it when I’m sleepless for two nights in a row before a race…

Flat Bain, pre-Seattle
Flat Bain, pre-Seattle

All good Seattle stories end with coffee…and in the second half of this race review, you can enter to win some of your very own!

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

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

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

set up for tasting
Set up for a recent skyr tasting

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

pasteurized skim milk,

peaches,

cane sugar,

fruit pectin,

live active cultures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_0821
As seen in my local grocery!

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

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

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

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

The fine print: There is ONE prize, which consists of coupons for free siggi’s. If you eat one a day, it’s a 30-day month’s worth. After I contact you, you’ll have seven days to claim it; at that time you must provide your mailing address so I can send it to siggi’s and they can send you the prize!
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