Year of Running 2017 – First Full Year of Running!

2017!!! Where to begin. 2017 has been good to me. To say the least, it has been an incredibly special year. I started running in April of 2016, so 2017 will be my first FULL year of running! I had so many firsts, PR’s, and unforgettable experiences running with new friends, new races, and new places.

I have been fortunate to spend the year working with Lifelong Endurance and their amazing coaches, being a BibRave Pro, and being a part of a few amazing running teams – Oiselle, Run Texas Frisco and Team Saucony/Milestone Pod.

I’ve joined in on a “Year of Running” with Courtney at Eat Pray Run DC, so let’s see how the year went!

Best race experience

The Portland Marathon. I truly enjoyed the entire trip to a really unique city that I’d never visited before. I had a great local place to stay, enjoyed trying lots of new food and exploring, and had an AMAZING race on race day. I loved the little running shop and friendly feel during the race start, the temperature was perfect, and I just felt UNSTOPPABLE the entire run. It just felt effortless, and I PR’d with a 1:44 (Half Marathon). This was HUGE for me. Since then I have cut off another two minutes but this was just an incredibly special race and run.

Best new piece of running gear

As a fairly new runner, I’ve found way more than one. If I had to pick one, the Milestone Pod. This little gadget packs a lot of power. Knowledge is power and knowing my running metrics helps me improve my form, know which running shoes I’m most efficient in, and know when I need to replace shoes. It provides invaluable information. A few others: the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones and my Nike Pegasus 34’s.

Best running advice you’ve received this year

“We don’t make up miles, we move on.” During training, I missed a 3 mile easy run, and asked my coach if I should make up the miles on my rest day. He explained that we just move on and pick up where we left off. This made me realize that it’s not the end of the world if I don’t check EVERYTHING off my list. Just move on and keep going.

Most inspirational runner

OK. How could I NOT say Shalane Flanagan. FUCK YES.

Favorite picture from a run or race this year

I just love this photo from the Portland Marathon. I look strong. I felt strong.

Race experience you would repeat in a heartbeat

The Tulsa Run! I did this run with my dad and we had an AMAZING time. The entire trip was a blast, and we loved running together. On the drive back to Dallas we both agreed that it’d be an annual tradition. My dad now runs every week to keep himself ready for Tulsa!

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words what would they be?

Running opens doors. 2017 taught me to take chances and experience life to the fullest.

Check out Eat Pray Run DC’s Year of Running!

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Review: Athlinks

What is Athlinks?

From their website:

With the largest collection of results at your fingertips, let Athlinks do the tracking for you. If you’ve crossed a finish line in the last 10 years, you’ll find yours here. Athlinks makes finding, claiming and sharing all your hard-earned results easy.

Athlinks is a website and App on your phone that shows all of your race times in one place (yes, really!). It is essentially a social network – you create your profile, follow friends, and even select “rivals.” I downloaded the Athlinks app about a month ago and have added a profile picture, claimed race results, and followed all my friends. They really did have all my run times when I searched my name. I was amazed! Even a 5K I did back in High School! My first impression was amazement. This is so COOL!

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As a new runner and someone who doesn’t always memorize everything, I love that I know I have a place where I can quickly refer back to what times I ran during which race. I can also see my personal best times and even see what time friends ran in during the same race! I love the competitive edge – the ability to see other people’s times and set up rivalries between local runners or running buddies that you know.

Claiming your race results is easy – simply search your name and claim race results that you recognize as yours. This could take more time if you have a more common name, but when I searched my first and last name, all of the results were indeed my own. For example an Ashley Smith might have to sift through a few and select only the races she recognizes that she ran.

Adding friends and rivals is also a breeze – its very similar to other social media set-ups – add friends, view the timeline, view your “page,” and view a friend’s page with easy navigation. You can also see upcoming events, events near you, and events that your running buddies plan on participating in. On your page, you will see your overall stats, race results (including time, place, average pace, etc), total miles run, and a list of all your races.

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I just think it’s brilliant and amazing to have all of this in one place! To say the least, I am truly enjoying Athlinks and can’t wait to take it further by adding rivals and keeping track of PR’s to come!

Claim your race results between now and January 8, and you’ll be entered to win a free 2018 race entry from one of our amazing partners or a one-year premium TrainingPeaks subscription!

Do you have Athlinks? Add me! My Athlinks profile: https://www.athlinks.com/athletes/319145186

Up next: Hot Chocolate 15K Dallas!

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Hot Chocolate Dallas 15K as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

As you may already know because I’ve been talking about “running for chocolate” for months now, I am running THE MOST epic run for chocolate – the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K. The Hot Chocolate 15K/5K takes place in cities all across the US in many major cities:

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I will be running the 15K in Dallas on February 3rd! It will be my first race of the year and I can’t wait! I will just be running for fun (ALL runs are “for fun,” right?!) – as I am currently trying to perfect my half-marathon distance, so for the 15K I’m just going to go out there and have fun and run with friends.

This is one of my favorite races not ONLY because of the chocolate goodies:

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But because of the top-notch SWAG:

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This year’s Hot Chocolate quarter-zips!

So, I can’t wait to go have fun with a few of my fellow BibRave Pros and local friends who are running. I will continue training for the half marathon distance and use this as a tune-up or training run, whatever Coach decides.

If you decide to run HC15K Dallas with me, use code BRHCDAL18 for even MORE swag – an additional HC15K cap!

View a video clip from Hot Chocolate 15K to get an idea of what you’re in for! – https://youtu.be/HYfJ8udGK6Y

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What is your favorite “swag” item to receive from a race besides a T-shirt?

Will you be running for chocolate in 2018?

THE perfect gift for runners!

Disclaimer: I received AfterShokz Trekz Titanium wireless headphones to review as part of being a BibRave Pro earlier this year. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews! 

We all have holiday hurdles. Getting the house clean before relatives come in town, baking the perfect cookies, and – the really tough one – getting that PERFECT gift. Yes, socks are always an option, but it’s the best when you can get something that really shows you care. Something they will use and enjoy.

Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones cover all your bases. As a runner, this is a gift I would personally LOVE to receive. Not only is it thoughtful (it shows you know how truly in love with running they are) but it also shows that you care about their safety.

Dad’s lucky day!

I decided to give my dad (best friend, and running buddy) a pair of Aftershokz Trekz Titanium for Christmas because I  care about his safety and know how incredibly active he is – running, biking, hiking, working outside – and I know how much these headphones have changed my entire running experience. Sounds dramatic, I know, but these headphones not only sound amazing, but allow you to hear ambient sounds – aka the car speeding by or the yelling neighbor. I can’t express how important it is to be aware of your surroundings while running (And I’m sure you know this, too!)

So, Dad got to open his present a little early for the purpose of my project (his lucky day!) of sharing with all of you what I think will solve all of your runner-gifting needs! These headphones are the perfect solution to your big question, what should I get him?! They are sure to please any runner or active loved one in your life.

For more information on the perfect headphones, see my Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Headphones Q & A! Feel free to ask any questions here as well! I love spreading the word and informing runners about this incredible running gadget.

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Their newest color is even perfect for the holidays!

What will you be gifting your favorite runner this holiday season?

What would you love to receive as a gift?

Race Recap: BCS Marathon Half

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to The BCS Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

The BCS Marathon & Half Marathon in College Station, Texas is known to be one of the best running experiences. I’d heard nothing but GREAT things from my running buddies. In fact, according to marathonguide.com, the BCS Marathon is the highest rated marathon in the state of Texas! Now that is a loaded statement. If you didn’t know already, Texas is HUGE. Therefore we have TONS of marathons. So you bet your bottom this race caught my eye! The marathon also raises a lot of money for charities, which I find important. This year, almost $16,000 was raised for the Mercy Project, which helps to end child slavery in Ghana, Africa.

Not only is the BCS Marathon doing great things for the community, the race is know for it’s epic swag and post-race party. They did not disappoint. Upon finishing the race, runners received a SWEET finisher’s jacket (it’s going to be the only jacket I wear forever for the rest of my life) AND there were a bunch of food trucks ready to serve sausage on a stick, pizza, breakfast burritos, margaritas, beer, and more! To top it all off, they had a huge gong for you to bang with a hammer if you PR’d or BQ’d!!! What more could a runner ask for?

Needless to say, I had an overall amazing experience on Sunday at the BCS Marathon.

I drove to College Station, Texas on Saturday (about a three hour drive from Dallas) then headed to the expo at the Baylor Scott & White Hospital. The expo was nice – nothing huge, but had a few booths offering things for sale – where I managed to score a few cute “Run Texas” long sleeves from the $10 bucket, grabbed my bib and t-shirt, and did some mingling. I spent probably less than an hour at the expo then hit a nearby restaurant for some grub in time for early bed time.

I have a bib, so I guess it’s official!

Race morning, I woke up with plenty of time to get ready, drink my coffee, and dilly-dally a little bit (my second profession). It was 36 degrees outside so, naturally, being from Texas, I had no idea what to wear. If I hadn’t known (slightly) better, I would have bundled up. But I went with a simple tank top and crops underneath a “throw away” jacket to wear just until I warmed up. And if you know me at all, of COURSE I wore gloves to relieve my case of chronically cold hands.

Getting ready!

So, I’m all geared up, shot a few Insta-Stories and got a few “good luck” messages that made my day, then headed to the hotel lobby for some free coffee! Hooray for free energy and warmth! I get in the elevator and meet a sweet woman named Angie. We talked a bit, then out of curiosity, I asked her how she was getting to the start line. She said her husband was about to driver her over. I told her I planned on taking an Uber and, without hesitation, she offered a me a seat on the ride over. So, I rode over to the start line with Angie and Glen, who I’d just met about 20 seconds prior, and it was great. I’ll never forget my new friends. I’m telling you, runners are the BEST! Not just because I’m biased. 🙂

So, I’m at the race start and I know a friend from Dallas is there who I planned to run with. And by “run with” I mean “chase like a rabbit and try to keep up.” We met up and he had brought me these little hand warmer things. SO sweet! It made a WORLD of difference and I can’t thank him enough (THANKS HECTOR!!!). As a Texan, I had never even seen these things. I just slip them in my gloves and it was like holding a hot cup of coffee without holding a hot cup of coffee. So, basically perfection (if only they could inject caffeine…).

I hit the porta-potties at the last minute just as a precaution, then warmed up my legs a bit, and meet Hector back at the start. We sang the National Anthem. I will never forget this moment. The announcers were struggling to get the recording going as everyone stood their with a hand over their heart. Without hesitation once it was realized that the recording wasn’t cooperating, the entire crowd of runners sang in unison. We stood there, without music, and sang our National Anthem. Loud and proud. I almost cried.

We head to the group of runners near the 1:40 pacer and they let us loose at 7:00am, on the dot. WE’RE OFF! There’s nothing like the adrenaline of a race start. I cross the start line wondering… Wondering if my plan to start at a 7:40 pace was too ambitious. Can I do this for 13 miles? What happens if I die off? Should I slow down? Speed up? I never, ever, in my life before starting running a little over a year ago thought that I would run 13 miles, let alone at a sub-8 minute mile. Heck, if you would’ve asked me if I’d ever run THREE miles at a 7:40 pace, I would’ve laughed. Just two years ago. It’s amazing how far we can come…

Anyway, all these thoughts are going around in my head, then I just focus on following my rabbit (again – thanks, Hector!) and my music. I take in the scenery and enjoy all the spectator signs that read things like “Marathon?! We thought you meant Netflix!” and “An Uber to the finish is only $11.83! Just FYI!” I also got to high-5 some cute little kids in pajamas and got some “Looking strong” comments from adults on the sidelines. All helpful in their own ways. It sounds SO cliche, but I just kept thinking …just keep going. It reminds me not to worry (er, calculate to the hundredth) about how many miles I have left, but to just simply keep doing what I’m doing until I’m past that finish line. Keep pumping my arms and lifting my knees. Just keep doing that. 

So I did just that. My goal was 7:40min/mile, and I was going pretty solid for a while – 7:39, 7:39, 7:27 (thanks, adrenaline!), 7:43… and so on. At mile 8, my buzzer went off on my Garmin to show me my mile 8 split… 8:05/mile. “SHIT!” I literally yelled out loud. I know now that even a few seconds can really matter when trying to snag a PR. I didn’t have time to dilly-dally! I didn’t care why I’d slowed down – hills, tired legs, whatever. I just knew I had to keep going. I didn’t come this far to NOT hit one of my goals.

Goals. My ultimate goal was sub-1:40. I’d have been ecstatic with 1:39:59. My other goal was anything closer to that than my previous PR of 1:44. This race was just my second half marathon I’ve trained for, and I realize goals take time, so anything under 1:44 would’ve been worth celebrating!

So, I remind myself I don’t have time to dilly-dally at 8:05 and step it up. I get Hector’s bright red shoes back in sight, which makes me feel better because I know that he is holding a solid 7:40 pace. He’s where I want to be. We agreed that he’d hold 7:40 and my plan was to do my best to catch him. Literally.

I caught up with Red Shoes!

So, I just keep going. Having those red shoes in sight meant I could be less obsessive about looking at my watch and enjoy the scenery and high-5’s. I know running is all about having fun, and I will always remind myself never to lose that.

Next thing you know I just have 4 miles to go, then 3. I realize at this point more than ever that I’m mostly surrounded by men. Strong runners. The people I was running with looked super legit. I felt pretty bad ass to be honest. People were cheering “GIRL POWER” and “YOU GO GIRL!!!” because I was passing up the boys. It felt good. It really helped me push through that mental barrier and forget about all the “what if‘s.”

Hector and I cross the finish line simultaneously and I felt like Super Woman. A kind volunteer placed a medal around my neck and I had just won the Olympics PRed!!!!! I knew I didn’t hit that 1:39:59 but I knew I was oh, so close. I felt ZERO disappointment. I felt nothing but joy and happiness. I had worked DAMN HARD and I did NOT STOP. I kept flying and smiling. I did it. I finished in 1:42:43 (official time) and I am more determined than EVER to keep going. 1:39, you are mine.

I see you, finish line!

Thank you to my coach at Lifelong Endurance for helping me crush my goals.

I did it! PR!

Also, check out my detailed review of the race itself on BibRave.com here!

See you soon, 1:39.

Review: Luvo Healthy Meals

Disclaimer: I received Luvo Healthy Meals to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Luvo meals are frozen, healthy, quick and easy meals. They offer vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, nut free, and dairy free options. They are available in grocery stores (I have seem a few selections in my local Kroger) or they have an online ordering option, which is what I did and is SUPER EASY. They even have an app! The food is delivered quickly and comes carefully packed in ice as to not spoil (ingredients are fresh, so that’s important!)

How are Luvo meals different from the others? We may think of frozen meals as being “bad” for us, having lots of preservatives, sodium, and additives. Not Luvo meals! I do personally prefer to cook my own food, but when in a rush I like knowing I can heat up a Luvo meal without feeling like I’m poisoning my body because they have such high quality standards.

Here is what Luvo believes:

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They guarantee the following for each of their meals:

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Ordering is easy and very user-friendly:

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Once I picked out all my meals (about one of everything because it all looks DELICIOUS!) I received confirmation and updates as to where my order was.

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So, on to the important part – how do they taste?

I tried many of the bowls and pouches, and must say they have ALL been delicious. They have a lot of different flavors and textures. Each meal has wholesome, healthy, and unique ingredients like cauliflower, quinoa, and polenta. I had a few favorites, including:

Roasted Cauliflower Mac n Cheese – this one is as delicious as it sounds. I mean, it’s mac n cheese! Yum! The texture is nice as the cauliflower and panko bread crumbs add a bit of crunch.

Quinoa and Veggie Enchilada Verde – I love Mexican food, and this is a nice twist. Not very spicy to me (just as an FYI) but is delicious just how it comes or I bet it’d be great with hot sauce!

So Cal Kale & Bean – This one I added some seasonings to, but I loved the textures and I just love beans in general so this is one I really liked.

Great Karma Coconut Curry – THIS one is my #1 favorite. I could eat this every single day. I love curry and the flavor of this bowl is just perfection. Not too “coconutty,” just a perfect blend of delicious ingredients.

So, I will definitely continue keeping Luvo meals on hand for those busy days (what days are we NOT busy?!) and will continue to try different bowls – so many options! I definitely recommend these healthy meals as well as utilizing their online ordering option. Convenience + healthy is a tough combo to find, so really Luvo meals are a gem!

Use code: BIBCHAT for 10% off your Luvo meal order!

RACE WEEK!

I will be running the BCS Marathon Half THIS Sunday! Am I nervous? Nope! I’ve put in the work, have an amazing coach (thank you Lifelong Endurance!) and am going to do my best! I know that I will try my very best on race day and if things don’t go my way, well, I’ll have a perfect excuse to sign up for more races!

SO many factors go into running. Fitness, nutrition, weather, hydration, electrolytes, and well – being HUMAN. Running is supposed to be FUN and, since I’m not trying to become an Olympic athlete or anything, I plan to keep it that way. So! Just a reminder to have TOUGH GOALS but KEEP IT FUN! Do it for YOURSELF and no one else. Let’s dig in!

Monday

Plan: 6 miles easy

Ran: 6.01 miles/57:27/9:34 min/mile

I started off slow, stiff, and sluggish but got in the groove (finally!) and felt good for about the last 4 miles. It was a nice, cool evening. We haven’t really had “cold” weather yet here in Texas so a “cool” evening is really nice and noteworthy. I’ll take what I can get and am just glad it’s not in the 100’s any more!

Yep, still running in shorts & tank tops here in the south!

Tuesday

Plan: 2 miles easy, 2 x 8:00 @ 8:10 + 2:00 active recovery, 2 miles easy

Ran: 0 miles

My knee felt weird today. I moved it wrong last week and irritated it again at kickboxing… I was wobbling around a bit so Coach and I and made an executive decision that it would be counter-productive to run on it, so I opted for an easy 20 minute swim.

It felt nice to swim! Something different!

Wednesday

Plan: 5 miles easy

Ran: 5.01 miles/46:47/9:21 min/mile

My knee felt better today! Rest is best! I swam to warm up, then ran my easy 5 miles as planned. The knee felt fine and didn’t hurt a bit which made me feel incredibly relieved. There’s no better feeling than dodging an injury! One day off is better than one month!

Seen on my run. Hard to miss!

Thursday

Plan: 4 miles easy + cross-training

Ran: 4.03 miles/38:27/9:33 min/mile + spin class

My run felt GREAT today! I think that one impromptu rest day really did me some good. I ran in the early morning and it was actually COLD! (50’s… that’s freezing for this Texan) So the run felt great in the cool, crisp air. I did a spin class for my cross-training and really had fun with the high-energy Flywheel class.

It was a great month. Bye, November!

Friday

Plan: 2 miles easy, 5 miles @ 8:40-8:45, 1 mile @ marathon pace

Ran: 8.02 miles. 1:10:28/8:47 min/mile

This was a tough one! It was a nice, chilly morning so that helped, and I made it! I took a while to get in the groove of being in the 8:00’s and last mile in the 7:00’s was tough, but I did it!

Saturday

Plan: 10 miles – 2 miles easy, 8 miles @ 8:50

Ran: This was a tough but solid run. It was cool out – not cold or chilly. I would’ve loved slightly cooler temps… this run just felt hard. My Saturday long run course is fairly hilly and those hills just killed me today! Fortunately I had a run buddy who kept me in check with my pace and pushed me to keep going.

Solid long-ish run.

Sunday

Rest day!

So, it was solid week of running and I feel confident going into RACE WEEK! I’m excited to head to College Station on Saturday and run in a new city!

Ready to take on race week!

How do you handle impromptu rest days during training? Do you do it often?

Do you have any end-of-year races coming up?