ShoeKicker! Because every runner loves a good discount.

 Be honest, how tired are you of shelling out 100’s of bones on running shoes every few months, only to find that the proverbial, “They”, have changed your model? And, the “old” version is either the same damn price as the “new”, which you really don’t care for, or it’s only few stinking bucks off? That’s if you can even find the damn sneaker in the first place. Tell me. How tired are you?!?!  

I’m exhausted.
Broke.
And clearly, in the throes of an existential running shoe crisis. 

Wwwhhhyyy?!?!

That was, until I was told about my soon-to-be be favorite website. I first heard about ShoeKicker through Imran, the site’s founder and friend of my favorite running apparel company, Janji. Faced with the same running sneaker frustrations as most of us, he decided to create a site where runner’s can search for the best price on the Internet for their favorite sneaker. Old model. New model. Whichever. Think of it as a Kayak for running shoes. GENIUS. I told him I was bummed I hadn’t thought about it. Smarty pants.  

  
As simple as the site is, is as easy as it is to use. Enter your favorite shoe. Pick the model. Chose your size and gender and PRESTO! The best price for your kick! Easy peasy. I beta tested the site a few weeks ago and this is what my order looked like:   

Hello, Savings!

  Cool, right? The site also lets you:

  • Create a price alert. 
  • Share the link to your deal with your running peeps. 
  • Search for multiple models of your favorite brand. 

Click the ‘Get ’em’ button and you are directed to the website to purchase them directly. I also scored free shipping. Happiness. I will say, that I usually support my local running store. However, much to my dismay, they were out of my model.  A stressed out girl training with Hansons Marathon Method has got to do what she’s got to do! And in this case it was two pairs to rotate through. Because miles. Two pairs were STILL less than the price of one. Not bad at all. In fact, it’s fantastic.

Click HERE to give ShoeKicker a whirl. Nothing like a Sunday evening shopping spree to keep a runner happy! The site goes live on August 10th. Let me know whatcha think! 

What’s the most you’ve spent on running shoes? Do you purchase them online or locally? 

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Walking on Sunshine? Try Running on Clouds!

A few months ago, my amazing local running store – The Authentic Athlete in Fairfield, CT (seriously, stop by if you are ever in the neighborhood- these guys know their stuff) – introduced me to the On Cloudsurfer and told me I’d love it.

They were (as usual) right.

DISCLAIMER: Like every other running apparel company in the world, On has no idea who I am.

MORE DISCLAIMER: Authentic Athlete knows I’m the spaz who comes in and buys running shoes a lot and tripped up their stairs a few months ago, but that’s the extent of our relationship.

I just like to pass it on when I find something I love.

The unique thing about On shoes is their “CloudTec” technology. The sole of the shoe is covered in 13 firm rubber “clouds” that are intended to help you land softly (by absorbing both vertical and horizontal impact) yet take off powerfully (like a barefoot runner).

My funky kicks.

My funky kicks.

I don’t understand all of the science behind those magic clouds on the bottoms of the shoes, but I know two very important things that make me love my Cloudsurfers:

1. When I wear them on long runs, my feet don’t hurt.
2. When I wear them on long runs, my legs don’t hurt.

You know how sometimes you finish a super-long run and once you stop, you basically have to shuffle into your house? Not with these babies. I finished several 20+ milers in them and was able to walk into my house fully upright and moving like a semi-normal person. And this was at the end of my training for the Boston Marathon, when you would think my legs would be a mess. My earlier long runs were in different shoes and I basically hobbled my way into the house after each long run. Being able to walk in my front door like a fully functioning human being was a nice switch and spared me the usual weird looks from my tweens.

I’m not saying my legs weren’t tired- the shoes are not magic- but I was not sore. I’ll take it.

Some people claim that the On shoes make them run faster. I don’t know about that. I think I’ll run faster when I have the time to devote to speedwork and strength training, and I’m not planning on a shoe to help in that area, but the comfort alone is enough for me.

In case you are wondering about some of the same things I did when I considered buying them:

1. Yes, the clouds are very strong and won’t wear down quickly. I read one review by a guy who had run 250 miles in them and the cloud symbol hadn’t even worn off yet. I haven’t noticed any deterioration in the 2 months I have had them.

2. Yes, they feel weird to walk in. But they don’t feel weird to run in. If there was any adjustment period (I can’t really remember), it was probably only the first mile or two the first time I wore them. Seriously. And I think half of that was because I was expecting them to feel weird. By mile 3 of my first run in them, I was a convert.

3. No, stuff does not get stuck in between the clouds. I have run on post-winter roads full of gravel, sand and general gunk with no problems. Not sure if it is different for trail runners, but we road runners {beep! beep!} should be fine.

4. They probably are slightly more slippery than regular types of running shoes because of less points of contact with the road. When I ran through the torrent that was the Boston Marathon, I realized I was fine as long as I stayed off painted lines, trolley tracks and other slick surfaces. Running on the wet road was no problem – maybe I took turns a little more carefully, but that was probably the product of overthinking – but the addition of anything shiny and slick and I felt a little unstable. Despite that, I would wear them again in a rainy race without question.

5. They are almost completely mesh, which is a dream come true in warm weather and may require warmer socks in cold weather. I ran through snow and cold temps in them in regular wool running socks and felt fine. When I wore them in Boston with regular dri-fit type socks, I got a little chilly due to the fact that my feet were soaked by mile 3 and temps were in the low-40’s. That said, I emerged from that race with 10 intact toenails and not one blister. Hear that? Not one blister!! A Christmas miracle brought to me by my good friends at On.

They are not cheap and they are new enough that they aren’t in a lot of discount outlets yet (and I think the ones that are in discount outlets are the earlier versions of what I wear, so Buyer Beware – they may be different). Still, I would highly recommend giving them a whirl.

And if you do, let me know what you think!

In Search of Optimal Health- My InsideTracker Review.

Inside Tracker LogoWe are all “in search of…”

Something.

Be it happiness, calm, contentedness, peace, a killer career, a soul mate, fantastic highlights, good health or running the ever elusive BQ- Boston Marathon Qualifying time. No matter what unicorn we are chasing, I think we can all agree, we all want to be better, to enhance our lives and live them to the fullest. I am certainly no exception. Recently, after experiencing one of the most terrifying health scares of my life, I made a conscious decision to get a handle on ME. Diet. Exercise. Lifestyle. Training. The whole mind-body shebang. There came that tipping point. You know, the point where you become sick of your own  bullshit self?  Yeah. That was it. Months of stress, insomnia, fatigue and poor post-run recovery prompted me to stage my very own Health Intervention. I needed a serious health reboot.  So began my search for optimal health..

Enter InsideTracker.

InsideTracker is a personalized health analytics company which uses a platform their scientists developed, to track and analyze key biochemical and physiological markers found in your blood. Once determined, their platform provides personalized optimal ranges for each biomarker. In my case, there were 30+ biomarkers, ranging from ALT levels to ferritin levels to glucose levels to zinc. Simply put?

YOU: Schedule on-line appointment. Fast overnight. Head to the lab to have blood drawn.

THEY: Run clinical chemistries. Get numbers. Plug numbers into algorithms. Pull from their scientific database. Compile your read out.

And viola! InsideTracker sends you personalized optimal ranges along with diet and lifestyle recommendations to help you reach your potential. Those are just for YOU. It’s not voodoo. It’s based on real science.

Our goal is to empower individuals with the essential information they need to manage and optimize their own health. We believe that by providing a dynamic, personalized analytic platform at the intersection of biology, science and technology, then distilling the results into simple, natural and sustainable nutrition and lifestyle recommendations to follow, we can help people live longer, healthier lives. -InsideTracker

The Process

The process itself is quite simple. There are plenty of plans to choose from ranging from the Ultimate ($499) to which you can add an InnerAge analysis, to a DIY ($49) where you can upload your own blood results and InsideTracker will generate the analysis and nutrition, lifestyle, and exercise recommendations for the blood results you enter. They will also chart the change in them over time. If you have already purchased the Fitness ($149), Performance ($299), or Ultimate Plan, DIY is FREE which I think is great. The range in price points correlates to the amount of biomarkers being tested. Admittedly, they are steep.  I will say that their website and tracking your results is extremely user friendly. They did a great job providing scientific references as well as accurate descriptions of each biomarker in language that is quite easy to understand. I will state that I purchased an Ultimate package and was provided an Inner Age analysis and subsequent follow up test at no charge in exchange for my honest review. And honest it will be.

The Results

Here’s where it can be overwhelming. And I will caution you:  Do not try to interpret the results yourself should they be above or below the “normal” range. For the love of god, enlist the help of your medical professional. Be mindful that InsideTracker is not a medical service. It’s not diagnosing you. It’s primary goal is to provide you with food and lifestyle changes backed by science to optimize your physical condition. When you receive your results they are color coded- Red, Yellow or Green. Red (“At Risk”) is either much HIGHER or much LOWER than the normal ranges for a particular blood biomarker in question.  Yellow (“Needs Work”) is in the NORMAL range with ORANGE being near normal. And GREEN (“Optimized”) is the sweet spot- OPTIMAL! If you should have abnormal results, InsideTracker will email you a friendly- Get thee to your health care provider- email alerting you. I should know. I received one. What you then shouldn’t do is then hop on Google, plug in “off the chart cortisol levels” like somebody I know did, and diagnose yourself with Cushing’s Syndrome or any other of the conditions associated with high cortisol levels. It will cause an additional spike in your cortisol levels. Trust me on this one. Don’t do it. Leave any questions you have related to your results to your health care provider.

The Big Reveal

Enough about all that. Now let’s get to the good stuff, shall we? Let’s talk about ME! Me!!!!!!Welp. I wish it was all roses and sunshine but guess what? It wasn’t. And that’s the truth. The Bottom Line? There is work to be done. How much work came as a bit of a shock to me. Here I was thinking that as a pescetarian marathon runner and cyclist with an optimal BMI and low body fat content, I was the picture of health. Umm. Yeah. No. Not from this particular biological snap shot. Here’s the rough summary: Of the 30 or so biomarkers tested, 6 were “At Risk”, and 5 “Need Work”, the rest including Liver Enzymes were “Optimal.” CHEERS! {Clink!}  Based on how little I had been sleeping, as well as the perceived amount of life stress I had been under, I had assumed that my cortisol levels (an indicator of stress) as well as my hsCRP (an indicator of inflammation) would be high. How high I simply had NO IDEA. Ready? Fasten your seatbelt.

Cortisol hsCRP

The take home message here? GET SOME DAMN SLEEP, COLBY. I have to say. I was flabbergasted. Flabber. Gasted. There it is. All in black and white (and sadly, red) in an easy to read, incredibly informative, user friendly screen shot. Those two weren’t the only ones off of the charts either. There were 6 in total. Pieces. I am approaching this one biomarker at a time. Piece by piece. Along with the harrowing results, came food and lifestyle recommendations. I should add that once you register for InsideTracker, you fill out an online list of food preferences. They even put together a “Food Basket” for you based on your results, containing items that will help you to optimize the biomarkers that need work. I don’t eat meat. But I do eat fish, eggs and dairy. So that’s why under my ferritin (iron) recommendations you won’t see EAT A STEAK, HONEY. There are foods to eat more of, as well as foods to eat less of. (Yeah I’m looking at you, Eggs.) I was happy to see that while my iron group was not Optimal, it wasn’t in the Red either. It needs a slight tweaking. That was my biggest fear being a non-meat eater- not enough Iron. Here’s what InsideTracker recommended for me, taking my selected dietary preferences into account.Iron Rich FoodsSee how easy the recommendations are to read? Great layout. Excellent content. Such a wealth of valuable nutritional information- and all personalized. Overwhelming as the results were (and why it’s taken me a few weeks for me to mentally process them), is as easy as they were to read and understand. I might need some work, but it’s all quite doable. Breathe, Colby.

The Biggest Reveal came with the InnerAge Analysis. And yes, I will share it with you. Even though I just started sweating profusely. InnerAge Analysis takes a look at a particular subset of biomarkers which have been identified to have the greatest impact on the aging process. You can ad it on to your test. You can imagine, if those particular biomarkers are ones of yours needing work, you might be in for the shock of your life. I will remind you, Dear Reader, that my given name is Nicole and I just turned 43 years old.  FORTY STINKING THREE. I’m yelling it so you understand why, upon clicking the InnerAge Results tab, I let out a plaintive wail then promptly blacked out. When I came to, this was staring me in the face. InnerAgeSNL One Shocked Princess
Stop the ride.
I gotta get off.
And pick up my goddamn AARP card.

There are no words. 60.3 years old at 43. That is absolutely horrifying to me. Christ. If I knew I was going to be eligible for Social Security at 43, I might have planted my saggy ass on the couch and binged on fried clam strips (No bellies, please) and onion rings while watching Bravo TV all day. Talk about a wake up call. A lot of what is driving this number is related to the amount of sleep I had NOT been getting. Sleep is imperative. And stress ages you. For real. When you discover you are having an adverse physiological response to stress, you need to change what you are doing. And you need to do it YESTERDAY. Because at age 43 (Oh. Pardon me, age 60.3), how I am handling it clearly ain’t working for me.

My InsideTracker Results explained quite a bit to me. A lot of pieces of the Colby Puzzle fell into place. No wonder I felt so “Off.” My running. My recovery. My overall sluggishness. All Off. There was an actual physiological reason as to why. Can you go to your doctor and have clinical blood chemistries run? You sure can. But I would recommend uploading them to InsideTracker at the very least. I am very pleased with InsideTracker- the process, the analysis, the recommendations. They make sense. Since obtaining my results, I have made MANY changes to my diet and lifestyle which I will describe in a future post. This one was a doozy. I am anxious to see how my next set of results compares to the first. And you can bet I’ll be writing about it. We’ll call it Colby’s InsideTracker Series: The Quest for Youth. 60.3. Gah. Where is Ponce de Leon when you need him?

Holy Eye Opener.

It’s time for a change, Nicole.

No kidding.  Thanks for opening my eyes, InsideTracker

Interested in InsideTracker? Message me on Faceboook or Twitter (@RunColbyRun) for a super secret exclusive code the folks at http://www.InsideTracker.com gave me to share! Aren’t we special? Old. And special. 🙂

The Big Reveal!

Skratch LabsReady for this?!?! A few months back I applied on a total whim to be a Taste Agent for Skratch Labs. I have been a fan of Skratch Labs for the past several years, having been introduced to it by my cyclist Other Half when it was known as “Secret Drink Mix” and came in cool silver tins. We felt so fly. Like we were in on some big badass super performance secret. {Note: We were.} We trained hard, sweated buckets, chugged what would become Skratch Labs Hydration Mix, and performed our hearts out.  As athlete demand increased, Skratch Labs, created by Dr. Allen Lim, was born in 2012. Voilà. Just like that. The secret was out. And now so is this one….Skratch Labs!

As of today, I’m a Skratch Labs Taste Agent for 2015!! 

{Faints.}

So. Stoked. And after 2015? My guess is that I’ll be a Skratch Labs Lifer. Simply put, their products are excellent. And my endorsement of them, pre-dates Today’s Big News. It’s got all of what you need in a sports drink- real, natural ingredients, electrolytes, sodium- and nothing you don’t.

My personal draw?

  • It’s easy on the gut.
  • It’s super tasty.
  • It does it’s job. And does it well.

{Drops Mic.}

In exchange for mentioning their product here and on social media (which I’ve done before without the cool Taste Agent title), giving them product feedback, attending events and spreading the good word that is Skratch Labs, I will get their products at a discount. Which is great because I’m dangerously low on Hydration Mix. Phew!  I believed in what Skratch was doing before becoming affiliated with them. I feel like this is the continuation of a beautiful friendship, if you will. How could you not love the company with a promo video like this? Totally, my kind of company. 🙂

Winner! Winner! Hoka ONE ONE Dinner!

Winner! Hoka ONE ONE!Santa came early up in here. And her name was Sandra, The Organic Runner Mom! I WON A PAIR OF HOKA ONE ONES!

Sandra had a Fresh Giveaway that I entered and low and freakin’ behold I WON! I suggest you head over to Sandra’s Blog. She is fantastic. Fresh Giveaways, Fresh Reviews, Fresh Inspiration, Fresh Recipes. Girlfriend is FRESH in every sense of the word. THANK YOU SANDRA!

I had wanted to try these sneakers for a while. Especially after seeing them on at least half of the ultra runners at the VT50. In fact, Hoka was there with tons of sneaks to demo. Admittedly, it crossed my mind. But I quickly decided that test running a pair of Hoka ONE ONEs in a 50K might be suicide not be in my best interest, so I politely declined. I was however curious.  You can imagine my DELIGHT in discovering that I had WON WON a pair! See what I tried to do there? Yeah. It’s not Hoka ONE ONE as in, Hoka FIRST, FIRST it’s actually pronounced “Hoka O-nay O-nay” which means “It’s time to fly” in Maori.  Who knew? Not this girl.

Whatevs.
I’m still stoked. Buddy The Elf

I won the Women’s Conquest, in a very jazzy Paradise Pink/Bright Citrus blend. Understated, they are not. I’m also a GIANT in these, which pretty much puts me at about 3.5 Apples Tall. Heights don’t scare me. I was born in heels for Pete’s sake. According to Hoka’s website, here’s what I have:

The CONQUEST features a unique Rmat® midsole material providing the state-of-the-art weight-to-resilience ratio and that HOKA ONE ONE signature maximal cushioning protection. An early stage Meta-Rocker is designed to promote accurate foot roll through the gait cycle. A highly breathable layered, no sew upper construction provides a seamless and secure fit that compliments the uniquely engineered Water Drainage System. An ideal shoe for runners looking for a fast, highly responsive, and performance cushion running shoe.

 
Holy engineering. They are different. I’ll tell you that much. And that isn’t a bad thing. I’ve run in them for two weeks which is hardly forever. I will say that are going to take a little getting used to.

Here are my first impressions:

1. They are cushioned. Well. No shit, Dick Tracy. One look and you can see that. I state the obvious because they do a tremendous job of saving the bottoms of your feet. They offer incredible sole protection. And that’s a serious plus on long runs. The Conquests are not their trail model, but I did run off-road with them and I felt nary a rock, branch, pebble, stick—nothin’. Now I get why trail runners dig them.

2. They are stiff. For all that cushioning, it doesn’t feel like I’m running on clouds…Yet. I will say that they are “loosening” up a bit. Initially, I felt as if my feet weren’t flexing as much while running. Felt a little Herman Muenster, if you will. That sensation is going away with more miles. (I’m up to 40 in them.) Once really broken in, I have a feeling that longer runs will be easier on the legs in these kicks. And that would be a sneaker game changer for me come marathon training time. Expect a follow up report.

3. They are light. Shocking, I know. They look like they weigh 100lbs. But trust me, they don’t. And they’re not supposed to weigh a ton in the rain either due to that whole state of the art drainage thing they’ve got going on. They sort of propel you forward a bit. I think in techno-Hoka speak that’s the “Meta-Rocker,” which could also be the name of an all girl Maorian punk ban, but I digress…

4. They have speed laces. You just cinch ’em right up. Done. Forget about laces becoming untied. They stay completely put. Initially I got a little over zealous with the cinching, and I felt like my right foot had a tourniquet fastened around it at mile 5. Easy amputation fix. Live and learn, People. Live and learn. They come with regular laces if Speed Laces aren’t your bag. And they’re cute too.

In short? I plan on alternating between these and my regular kicks. Stay tuned for progress reports! I am incredibly anxious to run super long in them. Or even run in them the day after a super long run. I have a feeling my legs will love me for it. 🙂

Have you ever tried maximalist running shoes? Ever won anything? Minimalist or maximalist? GO!!!

Product Review: Powered by ENERGYbits!

About a month ago, Jonathan, the Community Manager at ENERGYbits reached out to Tina and I and asked us if we’d like to try a sample of their ENERGYbits. Bits? Bits of what? Curious Runners Were Intrigued.

A high protein, high performance, all natural, 100% gluten free, non-GMO verified, organic, vegan, no sugar, no caffeine, no chemical, no belly ache SUPERFOOD that we can run long with, without hitting the proverbial wall?!?!?!

colbert giphy

Sign. Us. Up.

ENERGYbits are not a supplement, they are 100% natural organic green algae. WHA-WHAAT? Algae. As in spirulina algae which is 64% protein and chock full of nutrients. These little bits pack a punch. How do they process it? It’s very simple. The spirulina is grown hydroponically, harvested and dried. They’re “bits” as in “bits of food” – not pills. Even though they look like ’em. They recommend that you swallow them, 30 tablets,10-15 minutes before your first run. You could chew them, but they’re very green and I’m guessing are an acquired taste.

Their website is full of benefits, testimonials and product information:
energy bits

ENERGYbits have the highest concentration of protein in the world and deliver a steady stream of energy, all naturally and all without sugar, caffeine, chemicals or stomach distress. Even better, ENERGYbits are the only protein in the world that also contain natural antioxidants and Omega 3 which reduce muscle inflammation, iron which prevents fatigue, chlorophyll which builds the immune system and electrolytes which replenish mineral imbalances, all for just one calorie per tab. No other protein offers all this.

Meet ENERGYbits. And my beagle Pearl, who nearly snatched those bits right out of my paw. Evil Beagle. Tina and I were both given jazzy tins of bits to review. So you, Dear Reader, are getting a DOUBLE review! Two points of view! Tina’s will be well written and cohesive and mine will be laden with obscenities and run on sentences. That’s just how we roll. We’re honest. And each have our own opinion. Stress own.   20141027-212852-77332348.jpg

Colby’s ENERGYbits Review:
I popped a handful of these little green gems the suggested 10-15 minutes before I ran a very hilly 13 miles. I swallowed them with water. I didn’t dare chew them as they sort of reminded me of the food I fed the goldfish I had in 3rd grade. Don’t feed him too much Colby. He’ll turn into a shark. Just a pinch. Swallowing them wasn’t a problem at all. They’re not that big. I had eaten a sensible breakfast with a big old cup of coffee 2hrs before embarking on my ENERGYbits journey. I ran with a bottle of Skratch labs and extra bits, no other food. No gels. No chomps. Off I went.

I am going to admit, I was skeptical about them. {Insert arched eyebrow here.} Really? Algae? Ohhhhkay. I’ll give it a whirl. And?? They were fantastic. No joke. It was my longest run since my 50k and it was fast. I intentionally picked a route that was hard, and that I’d run 100 times. I know exactly how I feel when running it. Read: Shitty. This time however, I felt great. I usually crash after the 3rd big hill on this God awful run. I slow. I pop chews or gels, and the wind goes right out of my sails.

This time? Even. Even keeled. No peak. No crash. Just sustained energy. One of my complaints about gels is that The Boost is not prolonged. And since I’m all Little Miss Distance lately, I need sustained energy release. I was impressed. I popped a smaller handful more (15) after about 1hr and 10 minutes into the run and I sailed on home. They didn’t bother my stomach- but that fortunately has never been an issue for me. My only complaint would be that they need to come up with a better dispenser. I’m thinking a Pez knockoff or even a Tic-Tac container. The tin, although super cute, wasn’t fabulously functional on the road. But honestly, I felt so good and had such a great run, it was worth it.

The Verdict: I’m buying a bag of these bad boys. No doubt.

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Tina’s ENERGYbits Review:
As Colby mentioned, our friends at ENERGYbits sent us a tin of them to try, but we are not paid in any way for our review of the product – what follows is my honest, unbiased opinion. This morning, I gave ENERGYbits a try before my 18-mile training run – the last “long run” of my training for the Philly marathon. Three Word Review: TWO Thumbs Up!

I was very skeptical at first when Colby mentioned that we were going to try, ummmm, algae bits. I’m not a hippie. I’m not a wheatgrass person. I don’t even think I have chakras. And I was a little concerned that the folks at Shake Shack might catch wind that I was popping algae and take my VIP card away. (For our West Coast friends, Shake Shack is the NYC area’s answer to In-n-Out.) Being someone in desperate need of energy, though, I figured I would give them a try. Can’t hurt, right (unless my Shake Shack friends find out)?

I’m so glad I did.

My favorite thing about the ENERGYbits is that they did not bother my stomach. Everything I take for training energy bothers my stomach. At least, I thought everything bothered my stomach before I tried ENERGYbits. They definitely gave me a steady boost of energy throughout my run with no – I mean NO – digestive issues. This is like a Christmas miracle for me. And perfect timing, with the Philadelphia marathon a mere 3 weeks away. I now have a new go-to energy source.

I did not find them hard or weird to swallow. Yes, you take around 30 of them, which seems like a lot, but they are small. Call me a pill popper, but it didn’t bother me at all. I did not dare chew them, since the informational insert says algae is an acquired taste. Not something I would want to taste right before a long run.

I ran shortly after getting up this morning and forgot to eat before I left (I know, I know. Very bad. Very, very, bad.). I can’t imagine how I would have gotten through the run without the ENERGYbits. I did bring sports chews for a mid-run boost, but didn’t even need to dip into them until mile 12 or so. Had I eaten breakfast before I left, I think that the ENERGYbits would have been enough for the run and I could have ditched the chews altogether. For future runs, I think I might just bring an extra hit of ENERGYbits for a mid-run boost.

I have to admit that I tried them in large part to humor Colby, and whaddya know? I now plan on ordering a bag. Score one point for trying something new. I can see using these for daily energy when I’m dragging – not just for training runs – and I like that they have no caffeine or sugar. I definitely have days where I am so busy that I feel I need to grab a quick energy boost, and it usually is something that is caffeinated. I am going to try using these instead of an afternoon latte to see if they can serve as a more steady and healthy source of energy. I’ll be sure to report back.

Thank you ENERGYbits people, for sending these our way! I never – and I mean never – would have tried them otherwise and I am so very glad that I did!!

ENERGYbits are only available at ENERGYbits.com, and their Community Manager, Jonathan, would be happy to share more info on their sample program. He gets an A+ for Customer Service. And for you, Our Dear Readers, Jonathan would like to offer us a 10% discount code. Just enter the word BLOG into the coupon box and a 10% discount will be applied to your order! 🙂

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Gear, Glorious Gear!

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It’s Christmas up in here!

There are few things greater than receiving all of the items you’ve recently purchased online on the SAME day. What are the odds, right? Ok. Maybe getting all the items you’ve ordered for free would be better, but alas, I am still like a 6 year-old on Christmas Morning who dances with glee on the fireplace hearth when she sees the UPS guy walk up the driveway. With the VT50 slowly creeping up on me (like an itchy, irritating rash), I needed some new gear. More specifically new socks, new visor, new hydration vest, and new legs a new pair of trail running shoes. The new kicks weren’t a part of the recent order. I got them weeks ago and LOVE running in them.

IMG_1184.JPG The Product: Injinji Performance 2.0 RUN Light Weight toe sock. After the Great Toenail Revolt of 2014 at the VermontCity Marathon, I decided to look into Injinji toe socks. I had heard wondrous things about them. The fit. The comfort. The lack of issues associated with wearing them. People seem to love them. Seeing as how I only had 7 toenails left, I figured I had not much left to lose. I decided to give them a go.

The Verdict: I really dig them! I am going to be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to love them at first. I put them on and they felt weird. And I looked like a Hobbit. Or Jack Johnson. After several runs, I am really liking them! You lose the- there’s something between my toes- feeling pretty quickly. They are super comfortable and had zero issues with rubbing or blisters. They feel snug and supportive without being tight and restrictive. I bought the lowest profile sock. And they didn’t budge or bunch up during any of the 5 trail runs I went on. Thumbs Toes up!

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The Product: Nathan Zeal Women’s (2L) Hydration Vest Pack. If there is one thing I am paranoid about during long runs it’s running out of water. Camel, I am not. I usually wear a hydration belt, drop water bottles along my route or use a hand held bottle. While all of them are perfectly reasonable, I figure tackling a 50K with longer stretches between aid stations might require something more substantial. And more comfortable. Enter the Hydration Vest.

The Verdict: I love it. Really love it. It fits. It doesn’t bounce or chafe AT ALL and I used it all oppressively humid week. I was impressed. There are plenty of straps to fine tune adjustments and also plenty of zipper pouches to stash Gu, keys, your iPhone, real food, whatevs. It has a 2L bladder which I found plenty huge. It’s also really easy to clean and invert. I’m not all that big (a GIANT 5″2) and the Women’s Zeal fit just right. The other nice thing is the strap across your Lady Bits adjusts (it slides up and down) so you don’t wind up feeling like you’re wearing a push-up bra and running in the Lady Marmalade video. Again. I was impressed. Add another 18oz SpeedGrab bottle in the front for your performance drink and you’re golden. The bottle also does not hinder your movement. I had no issues whatsoever. Oh. And another thing. She’s got a whistle attached. Of course I blew it wildly.

IMG_1186.PNG The Product: Betty Designs Signature Visor. I’ve never been a visor girl- always a full on hat. But sometimes full on hats can get hot, so I figured I would try a visor and let my head breathe and my ponytail flip freely.

20140904-215031-78631932.jpgThe Verdict: In the interest of full disclosure I will admit I bought this visor because IT’S FREAKING BADASS. I love Betty Designs, their logo, their whole philosophy. They make fantastic cycling kits which I have, love and recommend. See? That’s me being a Badass Betty in my rad kit which fits like a glove. They’ve got great designs—not super girly girl. Just super badass. The visor is made by Headsweats and embroidered with the Betty Designs logo. It has this awesome elastic band which is super comfortable and FITS without cutting off the circulation to your brain. There is also a terry band near the brim that keeps the sweat out of you eyes. I may have purchased this initially because it was beyond cute, but I found it’s super functional. LOVES IT.

IMG_1189.JPGThe Product: Pearl Izumi Women’s EM Trail M2. I wasn’t happy with the trail shoe I had been running in and I expressed my disgust with my Blogger Friend Carly @ The Next Finish Line who suggested I take a gander at the Pearl Izumi’s. Happy Feet! Happy Feet!

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If I had to sum up how I feel about this trail shoe I would have to say: Smooth, smooth like a buttermilk biscuit. They also feel extremely secure. Like I’m not going to roll an ankle or slip and fall on my ass, secure. They grip without feeling like your stuck in a glue trap. I know- I am SUPER technical. They have a wide toe box, allowing you to freely wiggle your toes which I desperately need to do at all times. I also think there is a pretty good chance my feet will be swollen like sausages during this 50k, so I figured the more room I have, the better chance of retaining my 7 remaining toenails. Let’s hope I’m right. They are really well cushioned, not quite pillowy, but definitely cushioned.

20140904-214001-78001399.jpgStep on a rock and it doesn’t feel like it’s slicing your paw open. They also have a toe guard to ward off stubbing. I am flat-footed and the stability they provide is more than adequate for me. Shock of all shocks, they’re light. They also have these super cool shoe laces which stay tied. I feel much more sure footed in these babies. And they’re purple. I swear they make me run faster. Leon James loved them too. Thus the Happy Dog Photobomb.

What is one piece of running gear you can’t possibly live without? How much cash are you willing to drop on running sneakers? And while I’m on the topic, how often do you replace them?

All opinions expressed in this review are my own. I purchased the items with my own cash. If I didn’t like them, believe me, you would know. 🙂

Review: Run Janji. And Run for Another.

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I first read about Janji, a running apparel company with a conscious, after returning from Kenya in September of 2013. Serendipitous, really. I left Nairobi 3 days before the horrific terrorist attack at the Westgate Shopping Mall. I was actually in that very mall, sitting in a coffee shop, reflecting on The Trip of a Lifetime days before it was under siege. I was stunned watching the coverage. Bodies slumped at the very table we sat. Terror. Panic. Death. I blogged about that very day here. I was devastated to see this happening to a country I had fallen in love with. A People who were so very welcoming and kind. And in such need.

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I had never experienced abject poverty quite like that exists in Kenya. Ever. That day in the Coffee Shop, which would become the scene of a terrorist massacre, I reflected on my stay in Kenya. What struck me most? Water. The lack of potable water. There is a water crisis in Kenya. It’s huge. And not just drinking water, but also for crops, agriculture and livestock. You would see women walking miles with jugs of water. Miles. And not in sneakers either. In the old dress shoes you gave to Goodwill 4 years ago. It was heartbreaking to me. Such need. I looked to see how I could help. And I found Janji.

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Janji is a running apparel company founded by Mike Burnstein and Dave Spandorfor who’s mission is to create a community of runners dedicated to run for another. Perfect! I thought. The company’s mission is to provide clean water and food to those in crisis by giving a portion of the proceeds from their sales to organizations who fund solutions and projects related to the global food and water crisis. And they don’t just do it in Kenya. Haiti, Rwanda, Peru, Tanzania, the United States….and several other countries too. Sure, many runners give thru running. The giving usually ends on race day. Mike and Dave, competitive runners themselves, thought that rather than giving to a cause for just one day, runners can give back through everyday training. And here’s where my love affair with Janji begins.

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I purchased the Women’s Kenya Acacia Tee and Kenya shorts because I loved the cause. Simply loved it. I figured at the very least, I was giving back to Kenya and providing a family with a growing season’s worth of water via a low-cost water pump. Total. Win-Win. I felt like I was doing something meaningful AND a Kenyan Family would benefit. But here’s what happened. I really loved their product! The fit. The function. The quality. Excellent! And, not for nothing, it’s cute. (I’m simply being honest.) My quads and I sometimes have a tough time finding shorts that don’t bunch up and ride way up resulting in a long run spent tugging at them and muttering under my belabored breath. These are perfect. The shirt is cut beautifully- not tightly fitted and has this neat stitching. It’s really well made. I’m not sure it will work for me on a 90 degree day with 100% humidity, but tonight it was perfect.

I love this company. And their product. (And no one told me to say so either!) I’ve already got my eye on a singlet. And the Kenya Anna short. And a no-slip headband…

Let the water flow. 🙂

EXCITING UPDATE! Get 25% off ALL KENYA GEAR with coupon code: marasprint. The coupon expires on Monday, June 16th! THANKS JANJI!!!!

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