Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Blue Ridge Marathon Giveaway!!!

Do you want to run "America's Toughest Road Marathon??"  If yes, then the Blue Ridge Marathon is for you!  Boasting over 7000 feet of elevation across 3 mountains in Roanoke Virginia, not only tough but I would say one of America's most beautiful as well.

I ran this race with my husband last year after he won entry from a blogger.  We were on a complete high for weeks after this race.  Blue Ridge changed how we viewed marathons, mountains and running.  We really felt it helped shaped our running this past year.  You can read about our experience here  
and here.

Enter my contest!!! See where it might lead you!!  
And if you aren't up for a full marathon yet, if you win entry you can choose to run the marathon, half or new this year 10K. Something for everyone! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 23, 2013

3 shoes, 3 Reviews

Recently I had the opportunity to test out 3 new pairs of road shoes that are coming out in 2014, Puma Faas, Saucony Mirage IV and Nike Free Flyknit. Here's what I thought!

Puma Faas 500v3

Puma Faas 500v3

The Puma Faas 500v3 is a neutral minimal training shoe.  It has a 4mm heel to toe ratio.  It has a lot of cushioning.  There is plenty of room in the toebox which is nice however there was also a lot of room in the heel.  I felt the heel cup was too big, my feet did not feel secure in the back.  Often times I felt that my heels were sliding up and down while I was running. The shoes felt comfortable when I put them on and I could feel the thick cushioning under my feet.  However, once I ran a few miles in them I began having pain in my feet, knees and hips.  In total I ended up only running about 20 miles in these which were short runs of 4-5 miles because of the pain I was having.  These shoes while very cushioned, were not giving me support in the arch of my foot and they caused me to overpronate.  Another reason I think they gave pain was due to the lack of flexibility and responsiveness in the sole, they felt stiff while I ran.  I also felt these shoes in general felt a bit bulky.  They were not overly heavy especially considering the amount of cushion however I prefer a lighter minimalist shoe.  Overall it's a sturdy, well cushioned shoe with plenty of room that came in a nice color, just not the right shoe for me. 
Pumas for mom and Una

Saucony Mirage 4
Saucony Mirage 4
The Saucony Mirage 4 is in Saucony line of "natural running" shoes.  It is pretty lightweight at about 7.6 oz (women's).  It has a 4mm heel to toe ratio, plenty of cushioning and a nice fit.  I found the toebox and the heel to be perfect in size.  Despite the significant amount of cushion, the shoe is very responsive and flexible.  The shoe did not feel bulky or heavy.  I felt supported in all the right places.  I never experienced any pain during the 20 or so miles I put into these shoes so far.   As much as I love a lightweight, 0mm shoe, I did enjoy running in these a lot.  They aren't quite as light as the kinvara or the virrata however these are a nice smooth, comfortable ride. While I won't race in these, I will definitely keep these around to train in.  And the colors are nice too!

Nike Free Flyknit

Nike Free Flyknit
 The Nike Free Flyknit is a hybrid of two of their running shoes.  It combines the sock-like second skin of the Flyknit and the great flexibility of the Free.   It has a 9mm heel to toe ratio.  When I opened these shoes, I was in shock.  I have never seen a pair of running shoes like these but then again I don't have a TON of experience either.  At first I was worried they were a bit too tight however I was so intrigued by them that I had slapped them on as soon as they came which happened to be the day after my 2nd marathon in two weeks so I'm pretty sure my feet/ankles were a bit swollen ;-)  The next time I put them on to actually go for a run, they felt WONDERFUL.  The fit is very snug around the ankle and foot which takes a little getting used to but it was never uncomfortable.  Due to this "second skin" technology, you can actually run in these without socks which I did for two short training runs.  I had no issues whatsoever but then again I had no issues with socks either ;-)  Additionally, these were designed so that you could also run without the laces.  One less worry during a race, laces coming untied!  I did not try it without the laces yet but may give it a shot.  The actual toebox and heel are good size.  I ended up wearing these for the Rocky 50K so I could get my testing miles in and I did not have a single blister nor did they bother my perpetually black toe.  I love the way these shoes are extremely flexible.  The sole literally wraps around the bottom of your foot.  These are super light (7.6 oz Men) yet very supportive and comfortable.  I was very surprised by this since it is such a light, thin shoe.  I was sure that I would feel every little bump and rock on the road but this was not the case at all.  I really have nothing negative to say about these shoes.  I was convinced that I would not find a another minimalist shoe that I would feel as fast and as good in as the Saucony virratas and that I certainly wouldn't like anything with such a large heel to toe drop not to mention something so close to a barefoot shoe.  Turns out I was wrong! 

sportin the Nike Free Flyknits at the Rocky 50K

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My experience with EnergyBits

I am always seeing EnergyBits all over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  At one point I did google them to see what they were. The website says "Made from 100% organicallly grown spirulina algae and loaded with 40 nutrients, ENERGYbits® algae tabs have the highest concentration of protein in the world (64%) all for just one calorie per tab. They will improve your energy and endurance. Also take whenever you are tired, hungry or don't have time to eat or cook. They are a terrific high protein, low calorie snack or meal on the go."  Since I see posts about them all the time, I was curious how they would work.  Lucky for me @energybits contacted me during a #healthywaymag chat which occur every Monday at 8PM ET.  I mentioned I had never tried them before and next thing I knew I had a tin in my mailbox to try.
My First Bits!
Coming off of two marathons in two weeks I really didn't have any plans for a long training run in the near future however I did have the Rocky 50k.  After asking Jonathan from EnergyBits a few questions I decided to give them a try for the 50k.  I wouldn't normally try something new for a race but since the Rocky 50k was all just for fun, I figured why not?

The instructions for EnergyBits are to take 20-30 pills about 15 minutes before the activity.  Jonathan recommended taking another 20-30 every 45-50 minutes.  Since my tin only had 64, I decided to take 32 before I started and then the other 32 around 45-60 minutes into the run.  That way I would feel what it was like to fuel on EnergyBits alone before having to switch back to something else.  And I was able to stick to this plan.

So what did I think if the bits?  I went into it a bit skeptical.  1. Because I would have to swallow pills while running.  2. Because 30 pills is only 30 calories.  Other fuels that I use are usually around 100 calories a pop so I wasn't sure these would be enough.  Surprisingly, I found that it was enough, at least for the first two hours that I was solely #poweredbybits.  I actually went a bit longer than I typically do as far as fueling.  I ran about an hour off of each serving of bits versus the 45 minutes I usually re-fuel at.  I was feeling good so I didn't feel a need to sooner.  I noticed that I did not get as thirsty as I typically do with other fuels such as gels.  I also think the bits left me more hydrated.  In the end I did drink as much water as I normally would however I feel this was due to switching to gels which make me feel more thirsty.  However, normally, I would not have had to use the bathroom more than once during a 50K.  During the Rocky 50K, I went twice and really had to go again at the finish.  This leads me to believe I was very well/more hydrated despite drinking the same amount of water.  I would be very interested in running a marathon or more solely on bits to see if that would help me not only improve my energy/decrease the amount of times I need to fuel but also decrease my water intake as I always end up drinking SO MUCH.
Rocky 50K

So take home message is Energybits really do seem to give at least the same if not more energy than say gels for less calories.  For those concerned about fueling with non-sugary, more natural substances, bits are definitely perfect.  There's not really a taste issue since the bits are just swallowed and they are easy enough to transport.  The only issue that I'm sure some people would have would be the fact that they are pills that you have to swallow.  It's not a big deal before you start your run however I can see how some people would not want to have to swallow 30 or so pills while on the run every hour or so.  I, however, did not really find this to be a hindrance.

Enter my giveaway below to win a free tin of your own EnergyBits to try!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 16, 2013

It's my Blogaversary, I can blog if I want to

snow running
Rocky Running
Mountain Running
It's been a whole year since I started my blog.  It's definitely been a much different experience than I anticipated.  When Emir convinced me to start a blog, I really thought it would be me writing entries that no one would read.  That it would be more of just my record/memories of things I did, the kids did or we did as a family so I could go back and read it whenever I want.  I love writing so I was totally fine with that.  And in the beginning that's pretty much what it was.  I'm not sure when exactly that changed or what exactly happened.  I do know that Emir (of course) got me into using twitter as a way to connect with other runners, specifically ultra runners which is probably a big part of it.  We chat weekly with our #ultrachat buddies, tweet our running friends questions or jabs and all read each others blogs.  As someone who was not a Tweep and didn't really see the point in it, now I'm total Twerp.  I mostly have to do alot of my running alone so to have all these "running buddies" is great.  I feel like I'm on a team, part of a group.  We all keep each other motivated and "run together."

Philly & NYCM
This first year of blogging went from random running/life entries that probably only Emir read to actual race reports that lead to being asked to be an official Blue Ridge Marathon Blogger, to a few offers to test gear and write about it and now coming soon I will get to host a couple giveaways.  
Bear MTN
Blues Cruise
 Now I feel like my blog isn't just for me and turns out it is mostly about running ;-)  In the beginning it was going to be about life with a little running.  But as my life has turned into a lot of running, so has my blog.  I actually have a number of people that read it :-0  And people actually write responses, give me feedback and like to read what I thought about a race or a piece of running gear, weird right?! I'm completely blown away how interactive all of this has become but I'm loving every minute of it.  Just as never in a million years did I envision becoming an ultra runner, I also never envisioned people wanting to read what I write about running.  I'm looking forward to heading into my 2nd year of blogging.  I can't wait to see what's in store for this year!!
International Running

Ps I will be giving away a free entry to the Blue Ridge Marathon the week of Dec 30th!!!!!!!  Blue Ridge is "America's Toughest Road Marathon" (7430 feet of elevation change) but it's also the best!!!  Check out my race report. 

Pss As soon as I get my butt in gear and finish writing my review on Energy Bits, I will be hosting an Energy Bits giveaway!! 
Most Importantly, MY LOVES!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Yo People Read This! -- Rocky 50K

In South Philly ready to start the Rocky 50K

Yo!  That was the best freakin run I've ever done!  When can we do it again?!

I just can't stop smiling and feeling so happy thinking about this past Saturday.  And then looking at everyone's posts, pics and videos, I know they all feel the same way too.  We were all part of something special.  Something that we all know is going to become a tradition and only get bigger every year.  We were the first ones, we paved the way for this crazy, awesome event.  And we loved every mile, all 31 something of them. 
some creepy dude kept chasing me for 31 miles all around Philly

For those who may not know the background for this run.  I will give a brief explanation.  This guy Dan McQuade wrote an article outlining the course that Rocky would have had to run in order to make sense of the running montage in Rocky II.  It's pretty illogical and ridiculous when you look at it on the map plus when all totaled it was 31 or so miles.  As Dan wrote in his article "I don’t recommend anyone try it."  Emir had sent me this article the morning it posted and was all fired up about how cool it was.  I supported his excitement and found it interesting however I have never actually watched any Rocky movie, EVER.  Yes, I know what kind of Philadelphian am I?!?!  I've lived here my whole life well just outside the city my whole life.  However, my parents were not the city going type.  I actually never saw city hall or the liberty bell until college when Emir's family was visiting from Bosnia and we took them downtown to see the sights, hehe.  I did however drive past center city countless times on I-95 growing up going to/from Phillies games, that counts right?!?!  ;-)  I've seen enough pictures, clips, etc of Rocky to appreciate the importance to Philly  so that's the most important part.  Next thing I know, I'm getting tweeted by our #Ultrachat buddy who also lives in Philly, Rebecca Schaefer.  She's asking if Emir and I would be interested in running this 31 mile route that "Rocky ran".  Ummm duh, what kind of question is that Rebecca?!?!  She said she was going to try to organize a "fatass style" run for sometime in December since we were all doing the Philly Marathon and most other runners also had big races in October and November.  And that she did!!!!
Geno's. mmmmmm

Over the next few months, Rebecca created the Facebook group and website for the run.  If you aren't familiar with the term "fatass," it refers to a race that has no fees, no aide stations, no official timing and no frills. So really not a race, just a fun run. Lots of people joined the facebook group and the excitement was off the charts.  As it grew closer to time for the run, there were various articles written about it including one from the Philadelphia Inquirer last week that even Emir and I were mentioned in and the run was even mentioned on the local news.  We were pretty pumped. 
City Hall
 My sister had agreed to stay over Friday night and watch the kids.  We left our house a little after 5, hit up DD, parked at my work (used the potty there) and hopped on the subway to South Philly.  We might have looked a little strange riding the Broad Street Line at 6 AM.  Me dressed in running pants, gray hoodie with "Yo Philly" taped across my chest, orange sweat band, orange gloves and my hydration pack.  Emir didn't go for the sweats but he had a orange headband, total pedophile mustache, hydration pack and a sign across his chest reading "Women weaken legs."  Probably not something the fine folks of North Philly are accustomed to seeing on the subway.  Eventually as we got into center city a few other "Rockys" entered the subway which made us really excited.  There was hundreds of people in the Facebook group, but really this being a sort of all of the sudden event and a 50k fun run, we really had no idea what to expect as far as number of people who would show up for the run.  In our eyes it was a no brainer to run but we were thinking with only a couple months notice there would be a lot of people who were interested but felt like they didn't have time to prepare to be able to complete 31 miles.
150 runners ready

We got off the subway in South Philly and started following the other "Rockys" I really had to use the bathroom as I was unsuccessful at my work, of course.  This was the only part that made us nervous about this run was the fact that there would be no pottys.  No water, no food, no fuel no problem. As ultra runners, we are used to training really long runs without support.  We just carry it all in our hydration packs.  However these runs usually end up at some point in wooded areas, nature's potty ;-). We came across a diner.  I decided to give it a shot.  The people who worked there were staring at me and I assumed I was about to get told to get lost as I wasn't there to eat.  However they broke into huge grins and said "bathroom is over there."  That really set the tone for the day.  Not everyone we encountered knew what we were doing but a lot did and were so happy to see us and offer support.  Those that didn't, would ask what we were doing and once they found out, encouraged us on.  After the diner we headed towards the start.  At first we didn't see anyone then we went around this bend and there were tons of people!!  Wow!  And so many in gray sweats or headbands or both! We were so excited!  Reports are that 150 people started the run.  Another great advantage to a fatass run is that people can do as much or as little as they want which allows for more people to be able to participate.
Emir's "women weaken legs" sign

Our fearless leader Rebecca gave us a brief safety talk, thanked everyone, gave a few words of encouragement and off we went.  
Rebecca addressing the Rockys

The first couple of miles just looked like a sea of runners taking over South Philly.  Everyone was kind of sticking together and didn't seem like they wanted to get left behind which caused a few issues at traffic lights but overall no big deal since it was 7AM.  After that people started settling into their own sort of pace groups.  Runners also started making stops to take pictures at some of the sights from the movies, at coffee shops, stores and even the casino to get drinks, food or use the facilities.
South Philly
 It really was just a fun run.  No one was concerned about their time.  Everyone was super relaxed and just taking in the sights and sounds of Philadelphia.  I actually felt so relaxed about the whole thing that not only was I wearing a sweatshirt to run in but I was wearing my brand new Nike free fly knit shoes that I am testing and I used energybits during the run for the first time ever.  Not things I would typically do for a 50K! I will review these in separate entries coming soon. The highlights of the run included South Philly of course especially the Italian Market with flaming barrels, different sections of center city especially by city hall and of course the finish up the Art Museum steps.  I'm not going to lie there were plenty of less desirable neighborhoods but hey Rocky didn't discriminate and some of those areas and people proved just as interesting and entertaining.
Delaware Ave

Center City

City Hall

Italian Market with flaming barrels

Emir and Rebecca are so fast you can barely see them blur by!
Running a "fatass style" 50k that was not a multiple loop course through a major city certainly proved to be a very interesting time.  Most of the time in fatass races there are multiple loops so you can either stop at your car or meet your support team each loop.  This run was perfect in terms of being able to buy extra water or food that you needed along the way.  Also surprisingly restaurants and stores did not seem to care about runners using the bathroom so that was never an issue.  The thing that turned out to be the most challenging about this fatass race which you wouldn't normally encounter in other races was the traffic lights especially the last 5-6 miles that took place through the heart of Center City.  There are traffic lights pretty much every block and yes we hit almost every red light.  Every intersection that we stopped our legs would start killing us, we just wanted to keep going!  As frustrating as it was at times, definitely an added challenge that you wouldn't normally encounter in a 50k  so in the end I liked trying to overcome my legs screaming in agony ;-)
Rebecca jumping the bench like Rocky


Thanks for the water!

Kelly Drive by Boathouse Row

Making my way up the steps
I want to thank Rebecca.  Even though she did not come up with the course itself, she is the reason this event took place and was so amazing.  I don't know anyone who could have put together something like this in such a short period of time. Her idea of making it a "fatass" event so no one had to pay anything was perfect and just adds to the "this is just for fun" vibe.  Her crazy enthusiasm and excitement for this event is why so many people came out, got dressed up like Rocky and ran 31 miles for fun.  I know that she's also the reason that some people who weren't running came out and had a few makeshift aide stations and why these people in a van with a disco ball wearing Rocky outfits kept randomly popping up throughout the course blasting the Rocky theme and "eye of the tiger."  And she's the reason this run had the best finish I've ever seen.  No matter how bad your legs were hurting, every single runner booked it up the Art Museum steps and jumped up and down at the top to the Rocky theme and everyone on the steps was cheering.  I can't wait for next year!

Here's to many more runs with these two!

Here's the Wall Street Journal article covering the run and some of the best pics posted: