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Disclosure: I was able to attend Natural Products Expo West 2018 as Media Support because I am part of the New Hope Blogger Co-op. I paid the going press rate for my conference badge, and received absolutely no compensation (I paid for my hotel, meals, etc.) from New Hope 360, or any other company, in exchange for my attendance or coverage of Expo West. (I only had access to the press room for the blogger happy hour, too.) While I did receive product samples and swag from various exhibitors and companies, ALL opinions are my own. Per my integrity policy, all sponsored content or affiliate links will be clearly disclosed.

100% vegan mochi “ice cream” (and these guys supply restaurants!)

Natural Products Expo West—or Expo West as the insiders call it—is the biggest business to business trade show for consumer products in the “natural” and “organic” markets. (“Natural” is in quotes because it has no legal meaning when used to describe a product, or on a product label, in the Untied States. I opted to put “organic” in quotes because there are several organic standards including the USDA organic label and the Oregon Tilth organic certification, and I’m not necessarily referring to any specific organic protocol. Since too many quotation marks are annoying, just assume I put both in quotes from here on out.)

Attendees include grocers and retail outlets seeking the newest innovative products, marketing firms, businesses with products to sell, businesses still in the development stages, and all manner of business support services from importers and exporters to label makers to packaging companies to product formulators to third party testing laboratories and much more. At the same time, and in the same space, there is a big show called Engredea, where businesses and product manufacturers can learn and do business with the companies that make and process ingredients—literally everything that goes into a product from maple syrup to every kind of oil to stabilizers and emulsifiers and sugars and lentil flour and anything else you can imagine (as well as a bunch of stuff you only know about if you work in food production).

Excited to see this–a blend of apple juice and Gerolsteiner sparking mineral water.

The companies that attend cover the entire range of consumer packaged goods brands. There are nationally-known names like General Mills, Kashi, Bob’s Red Mill, Clif Bar, and Now Foods. There are companies you’ve likely seen on Shark Tank, including Chapul (the cricket protein people), Ice Breakers candy, Jackson’s Honest (potato chips and other chip made with coconut oil), and Brazi Bites (Brazilian cheese bread). There are companies you may not have heard of yet, such as The Nutty Gourmet (they make the very best walnut butters ever—in my least humble opinion), Petchup (nutrition supplements for pets in the form of gourmet sauces), and Frill (a creamy and delicious frozen vegan dessert). There are kombuchas, colas, and coffee; food wraps, no-FODMAPs, and maple saps; pastas, pretzels, and probiotics. The products are vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, and carnivore; fresh, frozen, shelf-stable and every other possible form. As a result, you see attendees wearing attire that ranges from full-on lawyerly suits to shorts and Birkenstocks, polyester to organic cotton, tye-die to spandex.

Pet products are an increasing aspect of ExpoWest. Pets are a $61 billion industry.

The show currently takes up all of the available convention hall, meeting room, and hotel space at the Anaheim Convention Center and surrounding hotels. There are so many attendees that on Friday night Expo West crashed the Uber app, making hundreds and maybe thousands of people late to business dinners, public relations pitches, and social events. This is despite a sophisticated network of (free) busses to transport attendees from the Convention Center to Angel Stadium (there is nowhere near enough parking at the Convention Center, so many attendees park at Angel Stadium) or to dozens of hotels in the surrounding area. Hotel space near the

Birdie is a spray hand sanitizer with wipes hiding in the bottom. Cute enough to put on your desk!

Convention Center sells out within minutes—more than 80,000 people attend the show, and companies often reserve blocks of rooms for those working the show on their behalf—and I met people staying as far away as Newport Beach because they couldn’t find any hotel or even an Air BnB that was closer (and not $1,000/night).

Expo West is broken down into several distinct sub-spaces. This year, Hot Products (meaning new or hot on the market, and not meaning “foods that you eat while they are hot” as I mistakenly believed during my first Expo West!) occupied the North Halls. The Arena, Convention Center Halls A through E, and the third floor had exhibitors, including Engredea. Thursday’s Fresh Ideas Marketplace (meaning innovative products, not salad bars and fresh produce as I thought my first year) is housed in a giant white tent near the Marriott. The main plaza between the Hilton and the Marriott had food trucks, multiple exhibitor booths, a stage with live music, and roaming promoters, while the smaller plaza near the North Halls had a few food trucks and additional seating. Finally, a section of the parking lot between the Hilton and Morton’s restaurant had food-truck style Expo exhibitors as well as a few food trucks, and more tables for lunching.

Outside of those spaces, there are also several other things going on in the Convention Center spaces. There is a pitch-slam where new products can pitch to established brands and companies (think Shark Tank, but without the made-for-reality-TV aspects). One of the medium-sized hotel ballrooms hosts a variety of speakers, including the designated keynote speakers. (This year’s speakers included Jennifer Garner.) The smaller conference rooms host educational sessions on topics from the most recent FDA regulations to the exploding market for CBD-based products, new studies regarding sleep and nutrition, and more. Some of these are sponsored by exhibitors, while others are not. In addition to these session, which are open to all attendees, there are also specialized tracks that serve as a business school crash course for entrepreneurs, and more. There is a sort of job fair too. Other on-site events include sponsored breakfasts, daily early morning yoga, private business meetings, and after-hours parties. I have no idea how much of the rest of Anaheim hosts additional, private/invitation-only events (which cover the range from happy hours to multi-course meals, and even branch out into a 5k race!).

One of my best finds: PORTLAND-based kombucha that tastes delicious! (I find 99% of kombucha tastes like old socks.)

Despite the app, website, and printed brochure, it can be overwhelming to navigate Expo West. It isn’t always obvious which hall a given booth is located in, and travel from Hall D to Hall A can take 30 minutes due to pedestrian traffic—even though they are attached to each other. The scale of this event is so enormous that even if you did nothing but walk the show floors’ spaces—something few people do, due to meals, meetings, appointments, lectures, speakers, and other events—you still couldn’t see everything in the show’s four days. This was my third year at Expo West, and I finally feel like I figured out the best way for me to cover the show as a blogger. (Which included: make appointment with brands I wanted to spend time with, make a list of priorities for booth visits, stick to my top product categories, and get to the Fresh Ideas tent BEFORE it opens.) Over the course of several posts, I’m going to share what I saw, tasted, and learned, with the goal to help YOU live YOUR best life now.

Curious about a particular type of product, a brand, or a trend? Drop a comment or shoot me a tweet, and I’ll make sure to cover it in an upcoming post.

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Imagine The Color Run–self-identified as the happiest 5k on the planet–and a yoga studio had a baby. What do you get? Poof! Black light yoga with freebies and confetti! What The Color Run did for the 5k, Soul Pose yoga (a project of the people that brought you The Color Run) does for yoga. Since I had a good time at The Color Run (see the review linked near the top of this post), I figured I’d try Soul Pose, “the happiest yoga on the planet.” Even though I know I’m an over-educated, slightly anal-retentive yoga teacher, who could resist black light yoga with body paint? After all, it’s good to mix it up every now and then. (Note that some of the events are NOT black light yoga, but are held during the day–see the website for more information.)

Oh hey, a disclaimer here: if you’re a yoga purist, if you get upset that people call a class that is nothing but poses a “yoga” class, if you object to posture practice without meditation and pranayama, if you want to have a dialogue about the Yoga Sutras or the Pradipika, if you want to use every class to debate whether American yoga is cultural appropriation or a new creature, this isn’t for you. You’ll be miserable. If you can let go of your expectations and think of this as a black light party where you do some physical practice stuff, you could potentially have a good time.

Waiting for class to start

Step One: Get On The List. I can’t remember where I first heard of Soul Pose yoga, but I added myself to the mailing list and started following them on Twitter so I could be the first to hear about when there would be a Soul Pose near me. I read the website, which promises that Soul Pose is for everyone, even if you “have never set foot on a mat.” Once the date for the Portland session was published, I waited for registration to open.

Step Two: Register! Registration for a Soul Pose event includes a yoga mat, a sweat towel embroidered with the Soul Pose logo, a “namaste” bracelet, a confetti pack, and access to paints before the session. (More on these perks later.) During the first week of registration (September for a December event) there were also extra gifts, depending on which day you registered. I’m a bit of a sucker for hoodies, so I registered the day the gift was a zip-up Soul Pose hoodie. My co-worker T wanted a mat bag, so she registered on a different day. We had a choice of four different sessions in Portland (8:30, 11:30, 2:30, 5:30), which is something of a yoga mecca–seriously, there are as many places to do yoga here as there are in San Francisco, which is ground zero for yoga in the United States. Registration was around $20 plus a registration fee from Active.com (but since I am an Active Advantage member, those fees were waived as a perk of Active Advantage membership). Pro Tip: If you run any races that use the Active.com platform, it’s probably going to work out in your favor to join Active Advantage. The annual membership is like $70, but includes a refund of registration processing fees for events that use the Active platform (up to $10 per event), a refund of the cost of your fifth event of the year, a free pair of Pro Compression socks (value $50), the opportunity to win free race entries and monthly gear giveaways, and more.

Step Three: Hurry Up And Wait. Then, the wait. In between registration and the event, Soul Pose sent out a couple of offers, like a Black Friday/Cyber Monday special. In addition to the events, you can also purchase Soul Pose gear, from my hoodie to yoga blocks to water bottles and other clothing and props. I think I got a reminder email, and just before the event there was an email with an event guide, basically laying out what to expect, when and where to arrive, etc.

The “namaste” bracelet from Soul Pose: a cute momento, reminds me of the friendship bracelets of my youth.

The Happy Day! While lots of event guides advise you to arrive early, and it seemed a little extreme to arrive an hour early to check-in for a yoga class, I managed to get my butt (and a minimal amount of stuff–the Event Guide told participants to bring a water bottle and not much else, due to space limitations) on MAX early enough to arrive about an hour early. There was a HUGE line, stretching well outside the venue and it was cold. (Portland-cold, not Midwest-winter-cold, but still.) Given the space they rented, they could have arranged the line so more of it was inside if they had shifted the footprint of various booths. While waiting I checked out the line. It was largely composed of stereotypical American yoginis–thin, female, white, well-dressed–including a higher-than-average number of containers of kombucha. I saw exactly zero men. I did see some not-thin yoginis which made me feel better (I think yoga is for every body, not just waifs), and some moms who had brought their kids. The line did keep moving, and once I got to the front it was one quick scan of my ticket (scanner = iPad mini, ticket = email on my iPhone) and I was handed my hoodie, towel, and bracelet; with a quick “your mat will be waiting inside” and a welcome, it was off to find the paint.

The green was deceptive–it looked like kelly green outside–as was the pink, which turned more orange in the black light.

Body Paint Was Limited: Bummer. I wish I had known that there wouldn’t be very many paint markers, and that many of them would already have run dry or dry-ish after the first session. The white should have really popped under the black lights, but it was so dry that I had to kinda stab myself with the marker to make it paint, and the color was washed out. The green one worked pretty well, but two of the markers I grabbed were so dry that they didn’t produce any paint at all–and there had only been one session before the one I attended. Pro Tip: Plan ahead, especially if you are in a later session. Buy a set of day-glo poster paints and some brushes, and bring them with you. (Poster paint is non-toxic and washes off with soap and water. The day-glo colors super pop under black light. You could paint yourself at home, but you run the risk of smearing it, or having it dry and flake off before you arrive.)

Tights were a good plan because it was cold. Pure white ones would have rocked.

Venue: Adequate, Not Great. Soul Pose took place at the Portland Expo Center. Initially I was pretty excited, as I was thinking about all of the external bits: plenty of parking, easy access to public transit, big indoor space. I hadn’t thought about the yoga practice itself. While the room was big enough–our “sold out” session had room for at least another 50-75 people in it–it wasn’t a great space for yoga. The biggest issue for me is that the floors are the kind of polished concrete that you find in every convention center and were not at all compatible with the “yoga mats.” I had to put that in quotes because yoga mats ordinarily have a slight component of padding, and a somewhat serious component of traction. This is why yoga mats used to be called “sticky mats,” and why many modern yoga mats are made of, or surfaced with, rubber. Unfortunately, the Soul Pose mats are very lightweight, stiff, thin foam. They have no traction at all and slid on the polished floor. During the practice my mat also puckered up when I stepped my foot from place to place. Pro Tip: Skip the Soul Pose mat entirely. Bring your own mat. If you’re afraid your body paint will mess up your mat–and it might–or you want to paint your Soul Pose mat, bring a regular yoga mat to put under your Soul Pose mat. It’s likely going to make the balancing poses harder due to the squishiness of the Soul Pose mat, but it will keep your mat from sliding around.

What is @SoulPose? @TrainWithBain tried it out, and she's spilling the dirt (and the confetti!). #yoga #blacklightClick To Tweet

Another thing that bears mentioning: the temperature. It was cold inside that expo room, and the room had a polished cement floor (which you touched during parts of the practice). Cold! The organizers should have warmed the room up better, whether by space heaters or the heating system, as even a “warm-up” doesn’t keep the body warm when the ambient temperature is cold. I get that it is hard to manage temperatures in rooms filled with people, as I’ve been to a million and one conferences and convention centers, but I hadn’t expected the bare room and the cold floor. Oops. Pro Tip: wear long tights/pants and light layers. If I had known the room in advance, I would have brought toe-less socks  and arm warmers to start class. I probably would have done the entire class in long sleeves if I’d had the option.

A pre-class shot of the lights from the main stage. Definitely wear white!

The Rig: Festive and Theatrical. While I found it a little weird to make a human tunnel to “run in” the instructor (like a football team running a cheerleader gauntlet on the way into the stadium), but whatever, okay. There was a small, round elevated stage for the instructor; when we entered the room the mats were arranged in circles around the stage. There were white party lights strung from the stage to several points outside the circle of yoga mats, and multiple black light sources that hit most of the yoga mats with almost full coverage. Honestly, it was kind of a fun set-up for the instructor (versus rows of mats with the instructor in the front) and the black lights did their job. Pro Tip: wanna glow? Wear white or day-glo colored clothing. Make sure your body paint is solidly colored-in, too. Other good options are things that have lights, or those snap bracelet glow-sticks. Need extra help or an example of the poses? Get as close to the stage in the center as you can.

The inside of the paper holding the Soul Pose mat in a roll made for a nice take-home handout, but is not a substitute for in-class instruction.

Instruction: NOT For Beginners. I only went to one of the four sessions, and each had a different instructor. I’m likely biased because I’m an instructor myself. I don’t know how many people were in the room, but it was definitely over 100. There was one instructor, and one assistant. This was inadequate coverage for the number of people in the room who needed help. When I say “needed help,” I don’t mean “man, their poses were lame.” What I mean is that I observed several things that were potentially catastrophically unsafe (like “do it this way, and you’re 80% likely to sprain that joint”) and that a tiny bit of assistance could have made much safer–and much more comfortable!–for the participants and their knees and ankles. (Especially since the mats were all sliding on the floor.)

There was no instruction as to how to get from one pose to the next, which concerns me as an instructor because most yoga injuries that are not catastrophic (think falling on your head), or long-term-misuse injuries happen during transitions. For example, to safely transition from a right-sided Warrior I to a Warrior II (and avoid tweaking a knee, etc.) you not only turn your hips to the left, but also step your left foot towards the right long-side of the mat (which gives your pelvis the room to move). It’s important to keep your right knee over your right ankle (as if you let it slide further forward and you lose your balance while moving that back/left foot, you could mess up that knee). Yet the instructor just said “Open up to Warrior II.” There was no instruction on the things that tend to bother beginners the most, such as what to do if your wrists are sore from so many downward-facing dogs. There was no instruction on where to point your toes, which is one of the most basic points for any pose. (For example, I saw a dozen people doing a right-foot-forward Warrior I pose where the right foot was turned in such that the right toes were pointing to the left corner of the mat or rotated even further.) I was also confused when the instructor talked us into what she called “Pyramid Pose” because that’s what I did–following her instructions to face both feet towards the front of the mat–and everyone around me was doing a wide-legged forward bend!

My guess is that the instructors (all of whom were drawn from the local CorePower studio chain) had only done the CorePower 200-hour training, had no specific teacher training on how to teach basic yoga to beginners (honestly, this topic is almost completely ignored in most 200-hour teacher training programs), and lacked extensive experience teaching to raw beginners. I’d love to see Soul Pose run a continuing education class for teachers who want to teach for Soul Pose, focused exclusively on clear instruction for those who have “never set foot on a mat” as their advertising said this would be a great experience for them, yet didn’t cater to that level of inexperience at all.

Pro Tip: don’t expect to be taught how to do yoga at Soul Pose. Ask a more experienced friend to come with you, or at least to review some of the basic yoga poses before you go: downward-facing dog, cat-cow breathing, warrior I and II.

Mid-class shot for posterity. The little dots are the sad white paint marker. See how it does not pop under the black light?

Instructor Positives! The instructor did a good job creating a chill atmosphere. She reminded everyone to have fun and enjoy the practice, which was definitely keeping with the “happiest yoga on Earth” vibe. Everyone was reminded to take child’s pose whenever they wanted to, and there were a significant number of breaks where we stood in mountain pose (tadasana) to breathe, which is kinda refreshing. Also, unlike the “spiritual sandwich” model of yoga class–you know, something heart-felt and mushy at the beginning and the end without much besides posing in between–our instructor did a good job of weaving positive messages throughout the class. She had a great personality for teaching, and seemed genuinely grateful for the opportunity to teach with Soul Pose. Pro Tip: show up with an open heart and an attitude of gratitude!

If you’re an experienced yoga practitioner, and don’t need much in the way of alignment instruction, you’re going to be fine. I can’t say you’ll be challenged or get an “intensely physical class” as promised by the website, but you’ll likely get your sweat on and have a good time.

The “Block Party.” The Event Guide and the emails mentioned a Block Party, which I figured was going to be like a typical “yoga mall” with vendors trying to sell everything under the sun that might be tangentially related to a (western) yoga (posing only) practice. Instead, it was a curious mix of sponsors and other vendors. There was a Soul Pose boutique (selling the same things that are on the website), a vendor selling what I think were Christmas ornaments, and one with yoga-themed headbands. The Bakery on Main had gluten-free granola to sample. La Croix handed out ice-cold cans of La Croix (and I’m a huge fan!). White Claw hard seltzer (yes, that does mean alcoholic) was there sampling their three current flavors. Overall it was very low-key.

If Soul Pose asked me for tips: I’d advise them to (1) pick a venue where the floor had carpeting (like a hotel ballroom) or a texture to keep the mats from slipping; (2) bring in another 10 assistants per session who have experience working with first-time-yoga-class-attendees; and (3) select a teacher who is skilled in teaching to beginners and not just in keeping the vibe. Also, why are you calling the bracelet a “namaste” bracelet when it’s like a Pura Vida style bracelet that says “Soul Pose” (not “namaste”) on it? Oh, and a coat rack would have been really helpful too–December in Portland is chilly!

Would I do it again? Sure! Who doesn’t want to drop a squat into malasana and then throw confetti?? (Okay, so it was a wee bit annoying to be picking confetti out of my bra after class, but hey–the risk-reward analysis says when in doubt, throw the confetti.) I’m pretty sure this was the first Soul Pose yoga event in Portland, so just like an inaugural race there are some kinks to work out. Next time, I’m taking my own pro-tips (see above) and especially my own body paint.

Following last year’s smash hit catalogue of deals to support your sweaty and fit life, I’ve decided to reprise the original post. These are listed in approximately alphabetical order. (Last year I categorized them all, and that was a pain in the butt.)

Here’s the scoop:

I’m reporting the deals as I learn about them, which is primarily by email and social media–reach out if you’ve got scoop that I don’t! My goal is to include the what (what’s the deal?), the how (how do I get in on it?), the where (what’s that website again?), and the when (how long until it expires?). Not every deal is providing me with that level of detail, of course. Assume that (1) all the information below is all the information I have on the who, what, why, where, when, how; and (2) I am relying on the accuracy of information reported to me by others. It’s highly likely I will update this page multiple times between now and Giving Tuesday, November 28, 2018.

Affiliate links, if any, will be clearly indicated per my Integrity First policy. TrainWithBain has sole authority to determine what to include on this list (though suggestions and comments are welcome).

If you happen to live in Portland, Oregon (or be shopping there), download the Little Boxes app and check out pdx.shoplittleboxes.com for information about all things local!

Psst! Why not click here to let your Tweeps know I gathered up all the deals for runners and others who sweat? I'll keep adding, you drop comments! #TeamWorkClick To Tweet

Here are the deals:

100 Half Marathons Club. Lifetime membership for $50. Open to new members only, no discount code needed. Good through Monday, November 27th. http://100halfmarathonsclub.com/

22 Days. Vegan meal delivery plans. 30% off with code YESPLEASE. Restrictions apply, deal ends November 27. https://www.22daysnutrition.com/vegan-meals 

Aaptiv. Fitness workout app with music-driven, trainer-led workouts. 50% off a year of unlimited access ($49.99 total). http://aaptiv.com 

Aftershokz. RSVP to http://exclusive.aftershokz.com to get in on the deal. AfterShokz will send you an invitation link, only valid for the first 1000 orders! #GiveGoodVibes

Amino Vital. Pre-workout, hydration, and recovery beverage mixes. Save 30% off site-wide with code HOLIDAY through November 27. http://www.amino-vital.com/store

Amrap Nutrition. All AMRAP products are 50% off. http://amrap.us/50offAMRAP

Apera. Bags for sweaty and fitness types. Spend $175 and save 30% through cyber Monday. Spend less and save 20%. http://www.aperabags.com

ASICS. Running shoes, athletic shoes, clothing, and more. 30% off select styles with code BLACKFRIDAY.  http://www.asics.com

B Yoga.  Yoga clothes, mats, and props. 30% off, no code needed. https://us.byoganow.com

Barre3. Books, subscriptions, clothing and more. Sale prices listed on website–includes Handful bras, and some DVDs are just $3! Ends Monday. https://shop.barre3.com/collections/sale

Bay to Breakers. May 20, 2018. Special pricing through Monday. Adults: $49.99; Child (Under 18): $24.99; Centipede (Groups of 13 or more): $5 per person discount; VIP: $119.99; Breakers Bonus – $10 add-on this weekend only (normally $20 – that’s 50% off!) Register here: https://events.racepartner.com/baytobreakers

Best Damn Race.  Use code BLACKFRIDAY2017 to save on any race in Jax, Safety Harbor, Orlando, or New Orleans. Expires November 26. http://www.bestdamnrace.com

Beverly International. Nutrition for athletes and bodybuilders. Discount code BFAB. (1) 25% off any order up to $100 at regular price; (2)  30% off if your order total is from $101 to $150; (3)35% off if your total reaches $151.00; (4) 40% off if your total reaches $200.00 or higher before applying your discount code. https://beverlyinternational.com/store/

Blue Ridge Marathon. April 21, 20178. This *is* “America’s Toughest Road Race.” I had a glorious DNF last year when the race had to be black-flagged due to weather and it was one of the best races I had all year. Score 20% off the price (but not the elevation change!) using code RUNBLACKFRIDAY.  http://www.blueridgemarathon.com/

Bombas. Great socks that give back (for every pair you buy, a pair is donated). I’m personally a huge fan and have these in my sock drawer and have given them as gifts. If you haven’t looked lately, they have  expanded from the original lineup of cotton “sweat sock” styles and now have dress socks, more colors, and wool. Get 20% off with code HOLIDAY2017. Combined with the box/set/pack discounts, you could save 35%. https://bombas.com/

Brooks Running. Shoes and clothes. Various specials, like 45% off Glycerin 14, 35% off sports bras, and free shipping. http://www.brooksrunning.com/en_us/offers-and-promotions.html

BUFF. If you read the blog you know I’m a huge fan and own a BUFF wardrobe.  Now through Cyber Monday, all sorts of things are 50% off.  http://buffusa.com/shop-buff/sale.html

Buffalo Marathon. I highly recommend this race! (Check out my review and review and review.) $10 off the half or full, May 27, 2018 with code BLACKFRIDAY. Offer expires Friday, November 24th at midnight. https://www.buffalomarathon.com 

Bumbleroot. Baobab-based hydration powder. 25% off orders over $40 with code 25THANKS; 30% off orders over $75 code 30THANKS; 40% off orders over $100 with code 50THANKS (yes, the email said 50 on the code…) https://shop.bumblerootfoods.com/

Bunny Butt Apothecary. I’m a fan of this small business that makes soap, body cream, and other body care products. The Whipped Cream in ‘Let Them Eat Birthday Cake’ scent is my favorite. You can shop at https://bunnybuttapothecary.com/ or shop their Etsy store. 25% off your order at either location through Cyber Monday, with code BLACKBUNNY17.

Buti Yoga. Pre-order the new Buti Sculpt DVD for $29.99 (regular price $39.99) and receive a free digital download if you order by 11/24. Sculpt DVD ships 12/5. Black Friday only deals include 20% off clothing, discounts on certifications, and more https://butiyoga.com

ChiRunning and ChiWalking. Take 25% off the online store (excludes workshops and events). Use code THANKS through Monday. https://www.chirunning.com

CLICK. Coffee and protein! 15% off all merchandise (Click and swag), with code BlackFriday17. https://www.drinkclick.com

The Clymb.  Gear for sports and other adventures. 25% off site-wide with code SAVE25 https://www.theclymb.com

Colorado Threads. Mrs. Claus yoga pants are on sale for 35% off with code HOLLYJOLLY.  https://coloradothreads.com/collections/holiday/products/mrs-claus-yoga-pants-special-order

The Color Run. Up to 50% off, plus spend $30 and get a free pair of mint party shades or spend $50 for the sades plus free domestic shipping. https://store.thecolorrun.com

Dean’s Beans. Great coffee from a company that works with coffee farmers, and works on community development projects in coffee country. Also connects people to their coffee farmers via internships and the Java Trekker programs. Deals on Cyber Monday ONLY, 10-50% off select items. http://www.deansbeans.com

Detroit Free Press/Chemical Bank Marathon. Gear on sale through Sunday, November 26th. Free shipping through November. The less they have, the less you pay. Get ready to register for the race on December 4! https://playmakersfit.com/collections/detroit-marathon

Detour Bars. Protein bars. Detour will donate one bar for every bar purchased through Cyber Monday. 30% off everything. https://www.detourbar.com/view-all-products/

Dona Jo. Really cute, colorful women’s workout wear. I haven’t tried it yet, but the skirts and tights look adorable and comfortable. 40% off with code thanks40, only on Friday. https://www.donajobrand.com

Dream Water. Dream water, creators of a bottled “shot” that is supposed to help your sleep better, now have a powder you mix yourself (less waste, etc.). Subscribe to the sleep powder auto-delivery for 50% off, for up to a year. Ends November 24 at midnight. https://recurringcheckout.com//s/dream-water-usa/checkout/recurring_product

EBoost. Hydration and nutrition products. 40% off with code CYBER40 ends on Monday. https://www.eboost.com

Elliptigo. Long stride, stand-up, elliptical cycles for cross-training. Various sales and markdowns, and flexible financing.  https://www.elliptigo.com

Enell. 30% off sports bras that keep the ladies locked and loaded. Code ENELL30. Ends November 27.  https://enell.com

Feetures. Athletic socks from a family owned company right here in the US. Some of the stripey new line are cute enough to wear to work! 25% off all orders over $35 with code CYBERDEAL.  https://feeturesrunning.com

FitBit. Save up to $50 on select models (ends November 27), some accessories on sale too (ends November 29). http://www.fitbit.com

FitBook. The best fitness tracker out there, and cute and functional accessories and clothing to support your fit life. Discounted bundles. 60% off the “this is my happy hour” fit mats with code BLACKFRIDAY. Friday only. https://www.getfitbook.com/collections/black-friday-1

FitFam. Virtual races with cute medals. Head to their Eventbrite page for 15% off.

Fit (ish).  Fitness and leisurewear apparel. 50% off and free shipping with code BF2017   https://fitishapparel.com

FitTour. Home-study fitness certifications. The first 100 certifications purchased for $39.99. While supplies last. http://www.fitour.com

Glukos. No coupon necessary to save on running fuel. 40% off, ends Friday.  https://www.glukosenergy.com

GoPro. $50 off the HERO5 black plus a free accessory pack. https://shop.gopro.com/cameras/hero5-black/CHDHX-502-master.htm

Gu Energy. 20% off store wide. https://shop.guenergy.com 

Hammer Nutrition. Friends and family sale. 15% off fuels, 20% off supplements, 30% off clothing, 50% off  clearance.  http://www.hammernutrition.com

Health Warrior. Save 40% on everything with code CHIAHOLIDAYS. I highly recommend the sea salt caramel! http://www.healthwarrior.com 

Hot Shot. Recovery drink. Buy a 12-pack, get a 6-pack free with code HOTDEAL. https://shop.teamhotshot.com

IDEA Health and Fitness Association. 40% off site-wide on Friday only. Some exclusions probably apply, but it seems to cover the main conferences, continuing education for fitness professionals, and merchandise.  http://www.ideafit.com/black-friday

i declare! Charms and jewelry for runners. 30% off the entire site Friday only.  Use code BLACKFRIDAY30 http://www.ideclarecharms.com

ilovetorun. Apparel, gifts, and running challenges on sale. https://ilovetorun.org

Ink ‘n’ Burn. 30% off everything, Friday to Monday. http://www.inknburn.com 

Inside Tracker. Blood testing and recommendations for athletes. Check it out and wait for the pop-up on the website. $200 off the Ultimate plan. https://www.insidetracker.com/

Intelligent Change. The Five Minute Journal (love it! I have the app) and The Productivity Planner. 25%-40% off of your order, based on the number of items you buy. Stock up, or buy for your entire team. Through Monday. https://www.intelligentchange.com/products

Inversion Junkies Apparel. Use code HOLIDAY50 to get 50% off. Expires November 30. https://inversionjunkieapparel.com

JNL Fitness. Workouts by fitness model Jennifer Nicole Lee. 30% off streaming workouts,  coaching, and more with code ITSREDHOT http://www.jnlgym.com

JasYoga.  Yoga for athletes who don’t necessarily “do yoga.”  15% off with code GIFTLOVE and free shipping. Now through November 27. https://www.jasyoga.com

Julep. Nail polish (and makeup) specials, with free shipping on orders over $10. http://www.julep.com/holiday-gifts/black-friday-2017.html

Jumpsport. Save $80 off of an elite trampoline with code JOLLY80.  (Other discount codes available on the website. http://www.jumpsport.com

Kill Cliff. Endurance and recovery drinks,  as well as apparel and accessories. $16 off all 24 packs, 30% off apparel and gear. No code necessary. http://www.killcliff.com

KIND Snacks. Save 25% and get free shipping on orders over $25 with code Snacksgiving. Ends November 27. https://www.kindsnacks.com

Kurma Yoga. Yoga supplies like yoga wheels, mats, and blocks. 20% off with code BLACK.  https://www.kurmayogausa.com/

Lebert Fitness.  $50 off all fitness equipment with code BLACK50.  http://www.lebertfitness.com/Products/Promos/BlackFridaySale.aspx

Life Aid. Nutrition beverages. 25% off everything and 50% off your first month of BevBox monthly delivery service with code BFRIDAY17. Black Friday only. https://www.lifeaidbevco.com

LifeBeam. The Vi trainer–AI run trainer–for $139 (regularly $249). I just bought one of these and I’m loving it. Monitors your pace, heart rate, etc. and integrates with Strava and other platforms. Stream music via Spotify or the app of your choice. http://share.getvi.com/x/lfFSmr (this is an affiliate link; if you use it, we each get a $25 gift card)

Livermore Half Marathon. March 4, 2018 in Livermore, CA. (I’ve run this race at least twice and recommend it for the great after party and the views on the course–check out one of my reviews here). Save $15 with code THANKS through midnight on Monday, November 27th. https://www.motivrunning.com/livermore-halfmarathon/

Lorna Jane. Fitness apparel. 30% off online and in store. https://www.lornajane.com (When you sign up for the email list you get a discount…it’s unclear if this is stackable, but you might try it.)

Lucy. Active wear and yoga clothes for women. Currently 30% off of select tops. It appears the deals may be rotating or changing during the weekend? The email isn’t clear about that…  http://www.lucy.com

Manduka.  Yoga mats, straps, blocks, props, and clothing. 25% off site-wide, some products excluded.  https://www.manduka.com

Melt Method. Self-myofacial release education and tools for pain-free living. Free shipping on orders over $150, and $250 off select trainings. More to come on Monday. http://www.meltmethod.com

Mizuno. Running shoes and more. 25% off and free shipping. Code MIZBFF1120. Exclusions apply.  https://www.mizunousa.com

Motiv. Fitness, heart rate, and sleep tracker wearable that is a ring, not a bracelet or a watch. Save $30 when you order through their instagram link (going directly to the Motiv page doesn’t provide the $30 off). Save $20 when you buy two or more.

Natural Vitality. Vital Calm magnesium supplement, 40% off AND get free shipping with code FBSALE. (It appears code CALM-FALL will give you the same deal). http://naturalvitality.com

Newzill. Compression socks. This post isn’t going to make it in time for today’s deal, which ends at 8pm CST. (Psst! NZTHANKS for 30% off on Friday.) Check them out on Amazon (where today’s deal happened), or at http://www.newzill.com

No Meat Athlete. A bundle of resources for those eating more plants with cookbooks, menus, bodybuilding guides, seminars, a vegan challenge, and more. Special collection only available through Tuesday.

Noli Yoga. Yoga and activewear.  30% off with code BLACKFRIDAY. https://www.noliyoga.com

Nox Gear. Visibility for runners and other people who need to be seen at night. They make the Tracer360 visibility vest. Save $25 and get free shipping.  http://www.noxgear.com/landing/T3BF.html?T8_BF=1

NuuMuu. Dresses  and tees for running and sport. 20% off everything with code THANKYOU. Ends on November 28. https://nuu-muu.com 

Nutcase Helmets. Protect your head. Helmets for cycling, skateboarding, and other things that might crack your skull open. Sale collection: https://nutcasehelmets.com/collections/sale

The Om Collection. Yoga activewear. 30% off with code YOGIAPPROVED30 https://www.theomcollection.com

Oofos. Footwear with OOfoam impact absorption technology. 20% off with code BF20.  https://www.oofos.com/

Orange Mud. Hydration and gear packs for running, transition seat wrap, and other running accessories. 15% off. Use code BF2017 to get a free water bottle and head wrap added to your order. https://www.orangemud.com

Out of Africa. Shea butter body care products–I really, really like their body moisturizers. Save 20% with code THANKSGIVING2017. Expires Monday, November 27. http://www.outofafricashea.com 

Ozone Socks. All sorts of socks. Site-wide sale, no code needed, through Monday only. Save 50-75%! https://www.ozonesocks.com

Powbab. Superfruit baobab chews, body care oil. 25% off purchases through November 27 with code HAPPYFRIDAY. https://www.powbab.com

The Phoenix Marathon. February 24, 2018. Use code BFRIDAY2017 for $20 off the full and half (not valid on the 10k). Expires November 29. I herd a rumor that a bunch of the #RunHeiferRun people will be there… https://thephoenixmarathon.com

Physiclo. Compression gear with resistance built in to challenge your muscles. Save 25% and get a $10 gift card for every $100 spent. Use code BF2017. https://physiclo.com

Pitaya Plus. Dragonfruit products up to 40% before. https://www.pitayaplus.com

PLNT BSD. Apparel for a plant-based life. 20% off everything with the code HappyTurkey at  https://www.plntbsdapparel.com

PopFlex. Cassey Ho’s athletic clothing line. 30% off with code HAPPYFRIDAY and a free magic scarf if you spend $100. https://www.popflexactive.com/

Portland Running Company. Save 15% on all in-stock items, up to 65% off some items, 25% off trail running shoes, and free shipping on all purchases over $50. If you’re in Portland, shop in-store starting Friday and socks are buy one, get one free! Otherwise, use code WINTERWONDER  https://shop.portlandrunningcompany.com/

Pro Compression. Up to 55% off of select styles with code FRIDAY. Put $75 of merchandise in your cart, add the code and press apply. Ends midnight, November 23. https://procompression.com/collections/black-friday-special-collection

Quest.  Through Monday, 20% off orders over $75 but under $250. https://www.questnutrition.com/

Reebok. 50% off the Black Friday collection, 30% off yourreebok custom designs.  https://www.reebok.com/us/black_friday

Revel Race Series. Most merch on sale. https://www.runrevel.com/merch

Road ID.  15% off site-wide. Ends Sunday. https://www.roadid.com

Road Runner Sports. VIP saves 25%, everyone else saves 15%. Through November 23.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Oaxaca, Mexico. April 28, 2018. Technically not a Black Friday deal, but a half marathon for $50? Yeah, baby! 10k $30. While supplies last.  http://www.runrocknroll.com/oaxaca/register/

Roka. Sunglasses, triathlon gear, wetsuits, and more.  Up to 60% off, see website. https://www.roka.com

RooSport. Magnetic pockets for your workout gear. 25% off and free shipping with code Thanks17. http://theroosport.com

Run Far. Run-inspired clothing, 30% off with code BLACKFRIDAY. All proceeds purchased from http://Run-Far.org go to the Sgt. Sean Northcutt scholarship which provides assistance to children of veterans and active service members that have taken their own life as a result of PTSD

Run Gum. Caffeinated gum. Chew a piece or two for an energetic boost–all new formula launches today. 25% off site-wide, plus an extra 5% off the starter bundle. Use code HOLIDAY17 at the website https://rungum.com/pages/2018-black-friday-cyber-monday

Run Heifer Run. Free Heifer Belle with any apparel purchase. http://www.runheiferrun.com

Run Ink Designs. Cool race-specific artwork and runner’s maps. 20% off with no code needed. Ends Monday at midnight. (I got my USA map with half marathon and marathon stickers last year!) https://www.runink.net

Run Smart Online. Workouts designed by a physical therapist for faster running and fewer injuries.  50% off all downloads through Saturday with code RUNSMART50.  https://runsmartonline.com/shop/black-friday-sale

Salomon. Up to 25% off for a limited time on the Salomon website.

Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon. May 12, 2018. Save $10 with code THANKS.  Through November 28. https://www.motivrunning.com/santabarbara-wine-country-halfmarathon/

Sara Haley. Workout DVDs and digital downloads. Friday only, get a free baby onesie and a free copy of the Sweat Unlimited DVD with any DVD purchase (while supplies last). http://sarahaley.com

Saucony. 25% off select originals with code FAVORITE25; 30% off select sale styles with code TURKEY30; 40% off full price apparel with code THANKS40. On the Saucony website.

SCW Fitness Education. 20% off all memberships through November 30.  Use code BLACKFRIDAY.  https://scwfit.com/store/product-category/memberships/scw-membership/

Scottsdale Half Marathon & 5k. December 10, 2017. Prices good until Monday, use code THANKS. Half marathon $70, 5k $35.  More information on the races at http://thescottsdalehalfmarathon.com/ Register using athlinks.

She-Fit. Hands down, my favorite sports bra. I wore it once and immediately bought two more. (review forthcoming). Customize the fit! 25% off every bra through Monday. Actually you can save off the entire site, but you want to get this bra first: https://shefit.com/products/shefit-ultimate-sports-bra

Skratch Labs. Hydration, fuel, energy. Get a $100 gift card for $80 with code SKRATCHGIFT. While supplies last. https://www.skratchlabs.com 

SKINS Sportswear. 30% off of everything. https://www.skins.net

SLS3. Compression gear and more. 50% off select styles. Use code BF2017 on Friday only! http://www.slstri.com

Sparkle Skirts.  MONDAY ONLY up to $12 free shipping with code FREESHIP2017 https://sparkleskirts.com

Sparkly Soul. Glittery no-slip headbands with no black elastic in the back. The whole store is 50% off or until the style runs out (limited number of 50% off headbands available). http://www.sparklysoul.com/

Spartan Races. Up to 50% off Spartan gear at the shop; 30% races with code BLACKFRI30 https://shop.spartan.com

SPI Belt. The original small personal belt. I love these, I’ve owned three. 15% off with code HOLIDAY through Monday, November 27. https://spibelt.com

Surf City 10. Save 10% (or $20…I got two different emails with the same code) on your 2018 entry through Monday, November 27th at midnight. Use code THANKS. Races are October 13 & 14, 2018 in Huntington Beach, CA–definitely a surf city! https://www.motivrunning.com/surf-city-10miler

Suunto. 30% off Transverse Alpha http://www.suunto.com  Other models also on sale–the Ambit3 models are down to under $150 (without the HR strap and functionality) and the Quest model is just under $125. This is a great opportunity! http://www.suunto.com/en-US/Product-search/Sale

Sweaty Betty. 25% off of the sweat-wicking leggings until Monday. http://www.sweatybetty.com

Sweet Spot Skirts.  Neat snap-shut skirts to wear over tights and leggings; durable enough for athletic wear, cute enough to stand alone. Double-sided, so you get two designs. They sell some leggings snd such, but the cool item is the skirt. 25% off with code THANKSTOALL2017 through Monday. Small business, owned by women. https://sweetspotskirts.com

Swiftwick. Athletic socks, work socks, dress socks. 20% off site-wide. https://www.swiftwick.com/shop

Thorlos. Save 50% on select sizes and colors of Thorlo Experia socks.  https://www.thorlo.com/blackfriday

Tiux. Compression socks. Up to 60% off with code BF2017. Valid through Sunday. http://shop.tiux.co

Toe Sox. They are socks. With toes. Some have the little sticky bumps that help you in Pilates and barre classes. 30% off site-wide with code HOORAY.  http://www.toesox.com

Todd Durkin. Fitness books, apparel, and wrist bands; coaching and inspiration; and more. Code GIVING20 for 20% off all online purchases. http://toddurkin.com 

Ultima Replenisher. See my review of their hydration products. 15% off their Amazon store today only.

Tentsile. Need a tent? Tentsile makes tents for camping in trees! 20% off all tents through Cyber Monday. Tentsile is donating to save the national forests, too. https://www.tentsile.com

TRX. $50 off all TRX trainers, and 30% off all gear, plus free shipping on all orders. https://store.trxtraining.com

Training Peaks. 25% off of Training Peak Premium annual membership (plan your season, build structured workouts, analyze fitness trends, see progress) with code cyberpremium25; 25% off WKO4 software for cyclists to optimize your training with next level metrics and insights including individualized training levels, optimized interval targeting, and advanced run and pedal metrics with code cyberwko25. https://home.trainingpeaks.com

Trigger Point. Tools for self-myofascial release. The new Vibe roller is my favorite–totally amazing–but the Performance Kit is a must-have. Save 25% on Friday only with code BF25. https://www.tptherapy.com

Vega. Plant based protein powders and other nutrition products. 30% off for Black Friday and a gift until November 26. https://myvega.com

Vegan Proteins. Save 30% on all Clean Machine vegan supplements through Friday, November 24.  Use one of the following codes to support your favorite vegan athlete:
kstcm (Korin Sutton)
jmtcm (Jehina Malik)
mctcm (Mindy Collette)
jctcm (Joe Monk Coleman)
kbstcm (Kileigh Rousey Smith)
nmtcm (Natalie Matthews)
dttcm (Derek Tresize)
jjtcm (John Joseph)
emtcm (Erika Mitchener)
allietcm (Laura Dennis)
cbtcm (Chad Byers)
plantstrong (Fraser & Lauren)
gftv (Jeff Morgan)
Vegan Proteins is also offering discounts on the Clean Machine line stacks. Check them out at http://www.veganproteins.com 

Vi. See entry for LifeBeam, above.

Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon. June 2, 2o18. Save $10 with code THANKS through November 28.  https://www.motivrunning.com/virginia-wine-country-halfmarathon

Whoop. Strain, recovery, and sleep tracking device. Think like a Fitbit on steroids. Buy one strap, get one free. (I am not making this up. I need a friend to split this deal with!) Expires November 27. Put two straps in the cart and use code THRIVE.  https://get.whoop.com/products/whoop-strap

Wild Fang. Fashion with a feminist slant, some of which is great workout wear. 25% off site-wide, plus other discounts. http://www.wildfang.com

YogaClub. Subscription box for curated active wear. Save 30% with code YOGIAPPROVED30. https://yogaclub.com

Yoga Download. Streaming yoga subscriptions. Select membership plans 50% off. http://www.yogadownload.com

Yoga International. Streaming yoga practices and classes. First four months for $7.99/month. Black Friday only. https://yogainternational.com/register/digital/9/blackfriday/midnight

Yoga Today. Streaming yoga service. 14-day free trial (all the time). Friday through Monday, 25% off an annual membership with code CYBER25. (Valid for first time members only. Regular price $9.92/month billed annually, or approx. $120)  http://www.yogatoday.com 

YogaU. Save up to 50% off yoga education classes–aimed at teachers, but very useful for the seasoned yoga practitioner. Use code BF40 for an additional $40 off. http://www.YogaUOnline.com 

Yogi Approved. 50% off all yoga classes and packages with code BF50. https://www.yogiapproved.com/yourstudio/

Yoloha. Cork yoga products. Up to 40% off and free shipping, no code needed. 50% off any cork yoga mat bag or strap with a yoga mat purchase, code CARRY50 https://yolohayoga.com

Zumba. Up to 75% off Zumba Wear, daily deals, selected bottoms and tights are buy one get one. https://www.zumba.com/en-US/shop/US/tag/black-friday-week

What did I miss?

Did you find deals for the sweaty life?

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
Enjoying this? Why not share with friends. 'Did you see these highlights at #RnRNOLA? @runrocknroll and @trainwithbain rocked it!'Click To Tweet
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)

 

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 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

 

Yes, I’m really about to have another birthday. (Hey, it beats the only alternative, right?) The big day is October 9th, same as John Lennon, but of course I’m going to celebrate all month–pumpkin spice all the things! Trick or Treat! The beginning of soup season! In many non-California parts of the country this is also the beginning of race season. (California doesn’t really have a race season, and I’m pretty sure I could run at least one race every weekend without driving more than two miles from my house.) Naturally, I think you should celebrate my incarnation “with” me by running a race.

Invite your friends to celebrate my birthday by running a race--click here to tweet!Click To Tweet

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If you actually want to run in the same physical location with me, come out to City to the Sea in San Luis Obispo, where I will be running the half marathon as a BibRave Pro! This will be my first time running the race, and my first time to visit San Luis Obispo as well. The race features a mostly downhill point-to-point course, and I understand there may be breakfast tacos at the finish line. Check out all the perks and details on the race homepage. If you’re feeling less adventurous–maybe you’re celebrating my birthday on Saturday night?–there is also a 5k option. You can still use citytotheseabibrave to save $10 on your registration, but hurry because the race is this weekend! This is the link to online registration.

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Naturally as soon as I committed to run City to the Sea, Represent Running set the East Bay 510k for the same day. This really bummed me out because this is my first year as part of the Represent Running team, and I wanted to run all of the races in person, though there is a virtual option so I can still earn the mega-bling. (Of course there is mega-bling!) It’s not to late for you to sign up, however, and if you use code REPRESENT2016ER you can save a few bucks for a post-race celebratory beverage. This year there are pre-race packet pickup events in San Francisco and in the East Bay. Head over to the registration site or to the race website for more details. While you’re there, think about how much you want that trifecta medal and register for next year’s San Jose 408k. See you at the Mariachi Mile!

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If trails are more your jam, I highly recommend checking out the Honey Badger at China Camp State Park in San Rafael. (In fact if I had not already committed to City to the Sea, I’d be out on the trails with cowbells cheering you on and pointing you in the right direction.) You can choose a half marathon, 10k, or 5k trail party. Keep your eyes peeled for the hidden woodallions along the trail because if you find one you could score a sweet prize! (Past loot has included trail shoes, cases of beverages, headgear, and running supplies.) If you’re one of the first ten people to enter code BAIN, you also score $10 off your registration. All the details are over here.

Finally, however you choose to celebrate, keep an eye on the blog (or follow me on twitter) because giveaway-a-palooza continues all month. I’m a little behind on my ambitious goal to get 31 prizes up for the 31 days of October–right now you can enter to win The Long Run and Trailhead–but they are all coming. Future prizes include more books, race swag, charitable and sweet-smelling soaps, and goodies from IDEA World BlogFest and Natural Products ExpoWest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the prize!
This is the prize!

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

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

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Disclosure: 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: I received a free entry to the Buffalo 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.

I had a PLAN. (Then I had another plan.)

Leading up to the Buffalo Marathon, I had BIG plans. The universe pointed and laughed.

Buffalo Theatre District
Buffalo Theatre District

When I first heard that the BibRave Pro Team members would have the opportunity to run Buffalo, I figured I would run the half marathon. The half marathon is my “safe” spot, a distance I have done many times (like 80), and knew I could finish at around 3:00 even if the conditions are less than perfect, faster if I pushed myself. Then we had our first team call with race director Greg Weber. After enough jokes that the rest of the BibRave Pros were convinced I was going to get a pony, I was positive that I was going to run the full. I had a full already on calendar (Dopey Challenge) and plenty of time to train. Game. On.

I didn’t exactly run the marathon I’d planned at Disney World, in part due to my inability to plan ahead (read: failure to submit proof of time so I got placed in the last corral). Sure, I got to take plenty of pictures and I finished, but the “balloon ladies” got MUCH closer than I’d planned on. Whatever, I was tired, and by then I had signed up to run the Sedona Marathon for the BibRave Pro Team.

As you may have read–or can go read now–the Sedona Marathon didn’t go as planned either. (Something about how I live at about 10′ above sea level.) I took a little time off to rest my poor lungs, made a training plan on the ASICS running website, and endeavoured to plow forward. If I just followed that plan, I could break 6:00 (my goal, since the finish line deconstruction happened then). Onward!

This time, the universe cackled.

The Universe? Had a different plan.

After Sedona, every long run left with me really sore hips. Both sides. Work took me to places where running was a questionable idea. Eventually I was back to running, mostly well, just with somewhat sore hips after long runs, and I thought that a flat course might be reasonably do-able. After running Revel Mt. Charleston I developed a crazy knot in the spot at my glute-hamstring tie-in. (Turns out I needed my chiropractor to reset my pelvis; it had canted such that my left hip–the one that was trying to kill me–was pressed forward and higher than the right one. Trust me, it was super muy no bueno, and I was kicking myself for not finding a way to get to the chiropractor earlier.) Not much running happened. I looked into dropping down to the half–the glute-hamstring tie-in was quite painful still–but I’d missed the deadline and actually not been injured until a few days afterwards.

Team RWB raises the flags at the starting line
Team RWB raises the flags at the starting line

The Race had a plan!

Then the pre-race emails started coming: Buffalo was expecting a heat wave. Since I’m a delicate little flower who comes from two long lines of pasty white people from very northern climes, this did not bode well for me. I packed more than one option–Mother Nature is fickle and loves to see runners arrived over/under dressed. I packed my Orange Mud single barrel hydraquiver so I could carry Nuun on the course (for a supplement to the race-provided hydration options), as well as an extra Buff (to dunk in water to assist with cooling by evaporation).

Heat so nice, they warned us twice
Heat so nice, they warned us twice

One of the pre-race emails was “Racing When It’s Warm/Hot” by Steve Gonser from runsmartonline. (Steve also gave the course preview, including course-specific tips on heat, during the pasta party.) On the 27th, all participants received an email with details on what the Buffalo Marathon heat plan included, again with tips specific to running in the heat. The heat plan included:

  • Contact with the weather service monitoring the predicted temperature pre-race
  • 6000 pounds of ice distributed throughout the course (in two formats: bags of ice intended for runners to take away in cups, and tubs of ice and water with washcloths to take away for cooling/evaporation)
  • Additional fluids distributed on the course, including an aid station every mile after the half marathon split
  • Mobile water delivery, including both trucks with bottled water and bicycle course monitors carrying bottled water.
  • Putting water supply trucks on standby to insure aid stations do not run out of water (because we’ve all been to a race where that happened, right?)
  • Adding gel and bananas to more locations on the course
  • Nurses at 7 aid stations
  • Cooling vans (air conditioned vans/buses for runners to take a little break and cool down, or sag out, if necessary)
  • Buffalo Fire Department opened some fire hydrants along the course, added more than the originally planned number of EMS stationed around the course, and added misters at the finish line
  • Rural Metro (the ambulance service) added more ambulance stations
  • Pre-race, Buffalo Marathon used the media to ask residents and businesses on the course turn on their sprinklers (so runners could use them to cool off)
  • The Buffalo Convention Center lowered the temperature inside the building to provide a post-race cooling zone.

Since running the 5k had given me a taste of what the heat was going to be like on the back half of the course, I was a little bit worried, but between the Buffalo Marathon’s preparations and my own experience with heat, hydration, and electrolyte balance, I crossed my fingers. Yes, I was injured and had a great “excuse” to drop out at any time, but I’m a little stubborn and didn’t want a DNF. (Besides, the medals were awesome.) Recommendations for runners, applicable to any hot race, included:

• Slow down. (Listen to your body, run conservatively.)
• Start the race well-hydrated. (Drink before the race, take fluids early and often during the race).
• Consider carrying a bottle. (Option to toss it at an aid station if it turns out you don’t need it.)
• Wear a hat. (Keeps sun off face/head; soak in water and add ice beneath at aid stations to cool.)
• Sunblock. (Sunburn taxes your body’s resources.)
• Chill out pre-race. (Stay horizontal and soak up the AC.)
• Know the warning signs. As the email said, “Heat exhaustion can be dangerous. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded or disoriented, stop running. Ask for help from a race volunteer who will help you to a medical tent.” (This communication included a link to signs of heat-related illness, which you may recalls I once wrote about on this blog.)
• Carry salt packets and/or drink Gatorade. (Sweat depletes electrolytes.)
• Stay positive. Visualize success.

As a side note, what constitutes a “heat wave” for running purposes depends on the location of the run and the typical experience of a high percentage of the pool of runners. Several races in the Northeastern states were black-flagged or cancelled pre-race due to the heat. These are tough decisions made by race directors in consultation with local EMS, water, and other authorities. What is normal for one location may be a potential disaster for another. I was really disappointed after the weekend to see runners talking smack about the choices some races made. Sure, maybe YOU are used to running in 90+ degree temperatures in full sun, maybe that wouldn’t be cause to shut down a race in Atlanta, or Houston, or Phoenix, but it’s not normal for most of the rest of the country.

Any idea how this flat runner thing got started?
Any idea how this flat runner thing got started?

A woman, The Universe, The Race, and the plan.

On race morning I suited up and headed out to the starting line. There were exactly zero people complaining that the race started at 6:30 a.m., and I was actually wishing we started an hour earlier since there was no pre-race chill. First we covered some of the same road as the 5k, which was partially shaded by trees and dotted with old brick buildings. The next section was through a gorgeous neighborhood with a lush green boulevard/park in the center of the street. There were a ton of families out, some with their sprinklers on and turned towards the streets. It was only mile 3ish at that point, but the sprinklers felt good. Despite the abundance of cute dogs, I knew I was going to slow down substantially on the back half of the course so I didn’t stop. I stuck as strictly as possible to 1-1 run-walk intervals and tried to cover as much ground as possible.

Running through one of the beautiful Buffalo neighborhoods in the first half of the half
Running through one of the beautiful Buffalo neighborhoods in the first half of the half

The course headed back through the downtown area, and then west through another residential area. I think it was around mile 6 or 7  when I was offered my first cup of ice, which I split 50-50 between my mouth and my sports bra. Just before we headed down to Lake Erie we passed by what I assume was a condo association or planned community, where they had recently laid down cedar shavings/bark on the landscaping. It was exceptionally stinky, and I could feel the heat and wet coming off of the adjacent lawns.

Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park
Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park

Running along Lake Erie let me see the Buffalo waterfront from a different perspective than canalside (at least until we ran up to that point). As we ran through the marina area, various landscaping sprinklers had been adjusted to mist up and out away from the lawns and onto the runners. At this point I was still feeling pretty good and pacing a 6:00ish marathon.

This ones not a bison, but a Buffalove!
This ones not a bison, but a Buffalove!

After passing through canalside, I got to say hi to Mr. Horton again on my way to the hockey arena. Dad had gotten up and taking the trolley down to that area to say hello as I ran through. By that point I had passed mile 11, it was past 8:00ish so the sun was up and shining, and the next stretch had no shade. A small section of the pavement was a bit torn up, so I proceeded carefully around that block, past The Buffalo News, and back over to say hi to Dad again before aiming for central downtown once more.

The real Tim Horton. Thanks for the coffee and donuts!

The mile 13 marker was mentally challenging. The vast majority of the people around me turned to take the half marathon finish, and I could hear all the cheering and crowds as I ran through. Crowds of folks with finisher medals were heading back to their hotels as I ran around the back side of the Convention Center and headed up to Linwood Avenue. I started to encounter the soft-re-opening of the course, and at one point was the only runner in my sight for at least three blocks. I could feel my pace starting to slow and while mentally I was pushing to keep the run intervals as fast as possible I was trying to balance that with the desire to not burn out before mile 16. I stopped briefly at every aid station to drink something, grab ice, splash water on my body, and refill my Nuun (the tube fits neatly into the slim pockets on the back of the Orange Mud).

I plodded onward along the Forest Lawn Cemetery boundary, and kinda wished the race ran through it. (I love cemeteries. They are some amazing green spaces and hold a crazy amount of history.) As I turned into Delaware park I stopped to pet the first dog of the day before tackling the loop around the golf course. About a half mile in, I saw a few other runners. Aha! Future road kill! I was going to pass someone!

Wherein one of us abandons the plan.

I pulled up alongside this runner and determined she was in the marathon. (There were some extraneous walkers/runners in the park as well.) She seemed overheated, so I gave her the rest of my ice, and then some tips on where to put it/how to use it (since thirst was not the issue). I pulled ahead a little bit for a short time, and then hit the back side of the park where there was a mini-aid station with bottled water and snacks where she caught up with me again. We started away from the aid station together. I’m going to call this runner “Vanessa” (that is not her name). She asked if she could “try to keep up” with me and as soon as I learned this was her very first marathon and she was by herself, any plan I had for my finish time evaporated. I thought about my Marathon Maniac angel Dexter, who pushed me through the last lap of the New Year’s Double Marathon in the cold and wet, and there was pretty much no choice but to pay it forward.

As we wound through the neighborhood behind the park, Vanessa and I got to know each other. This was her first marathon and she had trained for it, but heat wasn’t her jam either. She had finished multiple other races, including some half marathons. Vanessa raised two fine kids as a mostly single mom after growing her self-esteem and booting her now-ex-husband. (I know they are fine kids because Vanessa bragged on them a little, but also because she was a great human and so she must have pretty fine kids too.) Neighbors left sprinklers out for us to run through, and one guy was outside of his house with a table of oranges and other snacks, as well as a hose to spray us down. We grabbed ice at every opportunity. I poked Vanessa to carry a bottle and sip from it every now and then even though she didn’t “feel thirsty.”

Buffalo is filled with interesting details
Buffalo is filled with interesting details

After we exited the park, there was a tricky stretch towards Buffalo State College and down to mile 22. Every half mile or so, I’d convince Vanessa to take a “run break” (which is like a “walk break” but running). While she had definitely put in the miles and stuck to her training plan MUCH more faithfully than I had, there were many things she didn’t know about running that I had learned as much by trial-and-error as by exercising my extremely nerdy streak. Vanessa encouraged me to keep yapping to distract her from the pain–if you’ve made it as far as mile 20, you know what we were feeling there. When I ran out of running topics, I told her all about my cat. (Yes, I’m THAT runner.)

By this point the trucks had come to sweep the course, take down the aid stations, and re-open the roads to traffic. Multiple vehicles–including an ambulance–slow-followed us and called out to make sure we were okay, ask if we needed more water, and make sure we understood we were being officially moved to the sidewalks. It was pretty awesome course support, since at that point the race organization was 100% within rights to sweep us to a DNF. Vanessa was starting to dog it a little bit and I as my own dogs were barking (the sprinklers felt great on my body, but had soaked my shoes and socks) and hatching blisters. I promised her that she was crossing that finish line if I had to drag, pull, or push her over it. Vanessa steeled her nerves and dug deep, and we pressed forward.

Wherein the three of us hatch a New Plan.

Down Bidwell, onto Richmond, we started to pass some outdoor parties (it was, after all, Memorial Day weekend). Each time we passed a party people would clap and say encouraging things, and I’d bust out with “FIRST TIME MARATHONER! KICKING BUTT!!” and point to Vanessa. While she got a little shy whenever I did that, she also got a little more confident in her forward strides, so I hammed it up big time. Our running breaks got shorter but more frequent.

By this point there were zero directional signs left (though there were some cups of water left on tables at what was left of the aid station, and we had plenty of fluids with us). I whipped out my iPhone, low on battery from streaming Rock My Run tunes but still alive, to check the course. A few more blocks, and then to North. I may have lied slightly about how much course was left to go…and I didn’t stop at the Humane Society picnic in the park even though it was chock full o’ cute doggies. Around this point we came across another runner. Her name was not Jennifer. Vanessa and I introduced ourselves and the three of us continued to inch towards the finish line.

Jennifer was also running her first marathon. Unlike Vanessa, she hadn’t run a full training plan. As Jennifer explained it, the whole thing was her boyfriend’s idea. He read about the Buffalo Marathon, decided to do it, and enlisted Jennifer to help. (Note: said boyfriend was NOWHERE to be seen until after we crossed the finish line!) The way she tells it, they went out and ran 15 miles and that felt pretty good, so they showed up at the starting line. The three of us brainstormed what Jennifer should ask the boyfriend to do as payback and continued to take run-breaks.

Brick construction, showing evidence of past additions and deletions
Brick construction, showing evidence of past additions and deletions

Around mile 25.5ish, Vanessa’s triathlete friends appeared on a corner. Vanessa hadn’t wanted to “ruin” any of their races, and encouraged them to go forth and kill it, which I suspect they all did because they were wearing medals. They offered to carry all of her gear, handed her a cold water bottle, and otherwise did all the good things.

I knew we were close, and I started to push the trio faster and closer to that finish line. Jennifer started to wonder if there would even BE a finish line, as official course time was 6 hours and we were well into the seventh hour. She was honestly a little worried that there wouldn’t be anyone there to give her a medal. Since I knew how much Greg Weber, the Race Director, was invested in making this race a runner’s race, I promised both Jennifer and Vanessa that if we got to the end and there were no medals, I would personally call up Greg and ask to get them medals.

We hit Niagara Square and the 26 mile point. I was hot and disgustingly sweaty and tired, but I was so incredibly proud of how hard Vanessa was pushing herself to finish, and the dedication Jennifer had to persevere even though the boyfriend was MIA.  We navigated around the roundabout (Niagara “Square” isn’t very square) and turned on to Court Street. I knew there was just one more turn to go.

Just before we came to Franklin Street I yelled to Jennifer and Vanessa that there was just half a block left to go, and they’d better run the instant we turned that corner. As the three of us turned on to Franklin I dropped back and yelled, “Go! Go! You’ve got this! Run! Finish strong!” and chased them to the finish line. Or rather where the finish line used to be. The last portion of the barricades were still up, though the finish line itself had been disassembled for about an hour.

Eyes on this prize!
Eyes on this prize!

Volunteers were waiting with medals and bottled water. Jennifer’s boyfriend appeared and I laughed a little inside as I thought about our semi-delirious race-brain suggestions for how she should exact her revenge. Vanessa’s friends were waiting for her, cheering up a storm and patting her on the back. Due to some minor glitch in the tracking program, Dad wasn’t at the finish line yet, but John (my Runner of a Certain Age co-host) was headed in my direction. I turned around in time to see Vanessa burst into tears, and I was so happy for her that I had to choke back a few myself. She ran over to give me a big hug. “Thank you,” cry hug cry, “thank you SO much!” Aw shucks. I didn’t even do half as good a job as Dexter did when he pushed me to that finish line. “YOU did it,” I whispered, “it was ALL. YOU.” I gave her a big squeeze, hoping that through a hug she could feel how proud I was that she kept on going and finished what she started.

(Almost) The End.

Vanessa’s friends spirited her away, and I’m really hoping Jennifer was chewing out her boyfriend for his incredibly stupid idea. Dad, who had sensibly only run the 5k (I say that because one, he wasn’t trained up to run even a half, and two, his wife Ellen would have killed me if I’d let him join me for the marathon, which thankfully was sold out when he went to register) was running down the street to meet up with me.

I chugged water. I hugged Dad, who is my hero, always. I admired the beautiful Buffalo Marathon finisher medal. Note that at that point, the finisher party was still raging on inside the Convention Center (which I know because I watched video of the final finishers an hour or so behind us), but I looked around and saw nothing outside, and just wanted to hang out with my Dad.  It wasn’t until I saw the videos several hours later that I was like, wait, I missed the party?

I earned this one. Is it ironic that it is long-sleeved?
I earned this one. Is it ironic that it is long-sleeved?

(The final night and day in #Buffalove Part 3. Also, free coffee.)