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Archive for the category “Nutrition”

Market to Market Relay: The Speedy Streakers!

There is no question that the popularity of long distance relay races has increased in recent years, in large part due to the Ragnar Relay series. The possibility of running in one of these multi-stage events has always been in the back of my mind, but the timing and location has never made it a possibility. However, with this increased popularity, other races have been popping up around the country. One such event is the Market to Market Relay series. It started with a relay from Omaha to Lincoln, Nebraska (78 miles), and added a second race in Iowa this year. That’s where I come in.

M2M

My amazing group of running friends in Team Vardo was quick to jump on the opportunity to participate in the first Iowa Market to Market relay, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to give relay races a shot. I knew I would enjoy the company, but I was uncertain of the race experience itself. I’ve been pushing myself towards longer and longer distances, and away from more speed work, so the relay represented just the opposite. However, the race and the experience far exceeded my expectations and ended up being the canvas for some amazing memories!

Heading to the start!

Heading to the start!

Our team, the “Speedy Streakers”, had been exchanging messages for several months in preparation for the race, and when the day rolled around to finally embark on our journey, we were raring to go! The race started in Jefferson, IA, and ended in Des Moines, IA. As luck would have it, one of our teammates’ parents happened to live in Jefferson, so we drove down Friday night to stay with them, and relax a bit before the race the next day. Her parents were amazing hosts, fed us a delicious dinner (and breakfast), and gave us a great place to sleep. I’m definitely a fan of waking up and being less than a mile form the starting line of a race 🙂

Let the fun begin!

Let the fun begin!

The race itself was extremely well-organized. Teams of 6, 7, or 8 started in waves, accordingly to anticipated finish time, and faster teams started later. We comprised a mixed gender team of 7, and didn’t think of ourselves as terribly fast, but still ended up being slotted in wave 6 with an 8:30AM start time. This meant being able to sleep in a bit more, which was also very nice! We made our way down to the starting line to meet up with the two other Vardo teams, and see them off for their 7:30AM start time. The air was brisk, and the wind was whipping, but the sun was out so we had no major complaints. Luckily, the wind was blowing from the northwest, so we enjoyed a tailwind for almost the entire relay!

Let the relay begin!

Let the relay begin!

The relay itself was broken into 17 stages, for a total of 75 miles. I ended up running the 1st, 8th, and 15th stages, and I was happy to start things off. My adrenaline was pumping at the start, as it is for most races, and I made every attempt to calm myself down so I wouldn’t start out too fast! Based on my most recent training, I was anticipating running around 8:00 minute miles. The first leg was a 4.8 mile segment, so I knew I could push myself a bit more. I took off with the others in our wave, with the rest of the team hopping in the van to race to the next checkpoint. I knew I started out a bit fast, but when I hit the one mile mark and looked down to see  6:54, I realized just how much I had been pushing. I haven’t been doing much speed work yet this season (although I am going to be starting soon, and have made the new shoe purchase- more to come later!), but I figured I’d push it as hard as I could and see what happened. I flew into the first checkpoint and handed off the chip timer to my teammate, and when I stopped my watch, I saw that I had averaged 7:16/mile over those 4.8 miles. Certainly fast than I had expected from myself!

The first of many handoffs!

The first of many exchanges!

Throughout the day, each stage transitioned really quickly, and everyone on our team was going fast enough that we just barely made it to most of the checkpoints before we needed to make the handoff. As a result, there was very little downtime, and everyone spent the day pretty fired up. We had packed plenty of snacks and water/Gatorade, but the energy and pace of the day meant we didn’t consume nearly what we should have by the day’s end! The quick pace of everything, and the time we spent hoping in and out of the van made for some great conversations and plenty of great running memories.

By the time I was due to run again at stage 8, we had almost caught up to the other Vardo teams, which meant we would start seeing them more at the checkpoints. It was great to be able to spend the day with so many friends, in addition to all the new friends and crazy runners we met along the way! My second leg was a bit longer at 5.8 miles, so I figured I had better take it a bit slower at first. However, my legs clearly had other plans as I clocked my first mile at 6:46! I was still feeling great, so I kept pushing it. With the wind at my back, I felt like I had leveled up in an old Nintendo video game as the miles kept flying by amidst the beautiful Greenbelt Trail. Despite a deceptive hill in the final half mile, I ran into the checkpoint with plenty of energy. I ran my second leg at a 7:12/mile pace. I’m pretty sure these were two of the fastest runs I had ever ticked off and it felt wonderful.

MtoM-04

We kept on jumping from stage to stage, only getting a bit lost once 🙂 By the time my last leg rolled around, everyone was beginning to feel a bit tired, but our energy was still high. This was my shortest leg, at 4.2 miles, and I was determined to leave it all out on the course. By this point, we were getting close to downtown Des Moines, so we started to see more pedestrian traffic along the trail. This last leg proved to be my most unusual run of the day. After a mile or so (which I hit at 6:46), I ran past a wedding in progress at a public park. I’m guessing they didn’t realize there would be a relay race going on behind them, and it took quite a bit of self-control for me not to yell out “Congratulations!” as I was passing 🙂 Then, after another mile or so, I saw a few young boys up on the right. I didn’t think much of it and didn’t notice what they were doing until I got closer and saw one of them winding kite string in his hand. Before I could react, I felt the kite string clothesline me like a giant spider web wrapping itself around my neck! Instinctively, I pulled it off by yanking hard on the string, and ripped the kite right out of the tree without stopping. I probably could have felt a bit bad for ruining the kite, but they really should have known better considering how much traffic that part of the trail was getting. I started to slow up a bit, but still managed to pull into my final exchange with a 7:31/mile pace.

After we made the final exchange, we met up with our anchor runner to run across the finish line together near Principle Park in Des Moines. We crossed the finish line in a little over 9 hours, and ended up averaging 7:29/mile as a team over the entire 75 mile course. We had far exceeded all of our expectations and ended up placing 23rd overall, out of 211 teams. After 9 hours of running from point to point, the after party in downtown Des Moines made for a great way to round out the night. Beer always seems to taste better after running, doesn’t it? All-in-all, my first relay experience was a fabulous one, and we are already planning for our next relay experience!

Definitely a successful day!

Definitely a successful day!

Running Clean: The Gluten & Allergen Free Expo

I don’t claim to be an expert when it comes to gluten-free eating, but I’ve learned quite a bit over the past year. In large part, that has been the result of tagging along on the beautiful epicurean’s dietary adventure. As I’ve learned more about it in general, I’ve found myself giving more thought to the role it already plays and could potentially play in my training. Just as gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance  and full-blown Celiac’s Disease diagnoses have exploded in recent years, so too have the products marketed at those living with these conditions.

I find it very interesting that these products typically find their way into the health food section of most supermarkets. They have been quickly embraced by the health-food community, and folks have flocked to adopt a gluten-free diet without much information on the overall benefits of these products. As I’ve indicated before, I have fully embraced many facets of a healthy diet, and I continue my quest for the perfect running fuel to sustain me during longer and longer distances. As such, I’ve made it a point to keep my mind open to as many new nutrition products as possible in the hopes that one of them will provide that perfect energy!

Enter the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo. These events, which are being held across the country, bring together food and natural health product vendors from across the country, all hoping to make their mark on the gluten-free demographic. We had read about the expo several weeks ago, and were already planning on going when we entered a drawing at our local grocery store for free tickets. As luck would have it, we both won a ticket, so we were able to attend the expo as guests of HyVee!

GFAF-Expo-01

After driving around for a bit more time than either of us had patience to accommodate, we found the expo nestled in a convention space that was located on the grounds of an amusement park of some sort. After living in Iowa for 8 years, I’m sure I’ve heard of the park before, but I really had no idea what it was, and it proved to be a strange cross between a wild west ghost town and Pleasantville. There were over 100 vendors on hand to display their wares, so we had plenty of exploring to do. While walking around and sampling food, it was refreshing (especially for the epicurean) to be able to casually taste all of the samples without worrying about the gluten content. We tried everything from soup to beer, although a large majority of the vendors were showcasing various baked goods and mixes.

GFAF-Expo-02

Can you see what I mean?

What was fairly consistent among the vendors was the reality of processed food. Now that I’m looking more intentionally at gluten-free products while shopping, I’ve increasingly noticed just how similar the products really are to everything else on the shelf. Stores are placing gluten-free products in health food sections and marking them as such, but they often contain just as much processed sugar as their gluten-laden counterparts. Now, I will definitely say that a larger percentage of these products are going to be better for you overall, but I have no doubt that as the demographic increases along with diagnoses, I will see more and more gluten-free versions of the same foods I avoid already.

Vendors at the expo.

Vendors at the expo.

Part of the difficulty in trying to flush out the role of gluten-free products seems to be the marketing and regulation of gluten-free products in the food industry. The FDA has been discussing how to regulate gluten-free products since 2005, and is just now reaching a conclusion on industry standards that they can enforce in content and labeling. They have been holding open forums and inviting feedback and questions from the public, much like they do with other new regulations they are considering implementing. It looks like they are going to settle on a designation of 20 ppm as the threshold for a product being labeled gluten-free. Many products claim to have far less gluten than this, but the scientific testing hasn’t advanced far enough for these claims to be substantiated. In addition, many products right now may indeed be free of wheat gluten but still contain rye or barley gluten. The choices for consumers have never been more difficult! There are currently two organization, the Gluten Free Certification Organization, and the Celiac Sprue Association, that certify products as gluten-free, so looking for their logos can give you some indication that the product has been tested for all possible sources of gluten, including vague classifications such as artificial flavorings.

A GF product explosion!

A GF product explosion!

Now, much like so many other subsets of the population, the running community has been swept up in the gluten-free discussion as well. There are countless recipes out there for gluten-free nutrition, energy sources for runners, and post-workout meals. In addition, gluten-free living is being linked to cleaner eating, and vegan diets more and more. Although these are not the same thing, there are some connections. Amazing runners, such as Scott Jurek and Rich Roll are making this healthy diet trend that much more compelling! However, if you don’t suffer from CD or Gluten-Intolerance, then simply giving up gluten but continuing to each processed foods is not going to aid your running performance. Nutritionists will still tell you that a diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains is important for energy, endurance, and recovery. In addition, the stories I read about ordinary runners who are cooking and eating gluten-free tend to all have something else in common- healthy, fresh foods, and a lack of processed sugar.

In the end, the expo was a good reminder for me that eating healthy isn’t simply a matter of buying the right products. I certainly enjoyed hearing more about a host of products I had never tried before, and we walked away with quite a few samples to try. Choice is everywhere in our lives, and eating healthy needs to be a part of a healthy lifestyle, which ultimately permeates everything I do. The increase in gluten-related sensitivities will certainly continue to play a significant role in the health of our population, as well as the products we consume. For those individuals that are forced to adjust to these changes, the influx of gluten-free products is definitely a positive sign of increased awareness on the part of the general public. As with most things, however, increased choice and increased access to information means being a responsible consumer is that much more important. Running clean will always be more than simply what you eat. Running clean is about how you live!

Little Rock Marathon 2013: A Tale of Two Races

After an annoyingly wet, snowy, and cold winter, I was pretty sure that the perfect running cure would be a destination race complete with sunshine and warm weather. Naturally, I headed south to cross another state off of my list. Enter Little Rock, Arkansas. Mother Nature may not have cooperated, but I still returned home with wonderful race weekend with friends under my belt, and a GIANT medal around my neck!

I took off with two other friends on Friday afternoon for the 9 1/2 hour drive down to Little Rock. We stopped in Bentonville, AR for the night, and felt somehow obligated to at least go into a Walmart since it happens to be headquartered there. I picked up a cheap throw-away sweatshirt to wear before the race, as it had become evident from the forecast that it wasn’t going to be nearly as warm as I had hoped.

Fe-eling ready for a marathon!

Fe-eling ready for a marathon!

Sleeping in on Saturday morning was a rare treat that I certainly didn’t take for granted. We hit the road and got to Little Rock around 1pm and headed straight for packet pick-up. The expo was quite a bit larger than I had anticipated, and it took an extra surge of will power to avoid spending money on more running gear that I didn’t need (I know you’ve all been there!).

Ready to race!

Ready to race!

After getting checked into the hotel, food was a priority. We found a great Mexican restaurant based on a recommendation from Tonja’s brother-in-law, and it ended up being the perfect pre-race meal, complete with an excellent margarita! After our late lunch, we headed back to the hotel and relaxed for a bit in the hot tub. Incidentally, I wish I could soak in a hot tub before every run. I’m going to need to work on that. 🙂

The race didn’t start until 8AM, so we didn’t have to get up too early (plus we crashed pretty early the night before!). We headed down near the start and met up with another friend who drove up for the race from Mississippi, which was a very nice bonus! As we lined up in the start coral, the 27 degree temperature began to sink into my less-than-fully covered body, and I could feel a bit of the feeling leaving my toes. Was I in Arkansas or Iowa? The echoes of Southern twang and hospitality, along with the lack of snow on the ground provided the distinction I needed to remind myself I was still in a new state running a new marathon.

As the gun sounded, we all shuffled off at a reasonable pace. They released runners in waves, which meant it wasn’t nearly as congested at the start as it would have been otherwise. Kecia and I were running the marathon, and Tonja was running the half-marathon, and luckily, the two courses stuck together for the first 10 or so miles.

I went into the race hoping to break the 4:00 hour barrier, which would be a PR for me, and something I had never done before (my PR entering the race was 4:07). This meant running approximately 9-minute miles. We were all feeling pretty good at the start (hot tub, perhaps?) and we clocked the first mile at 8:43, and I knew we were going a bit fast, but I always start a bit fast so I wasn’t too worried. When the next two miles came in at 8:40 and 8:36, I knew I had to put on the brakes a bit or I was going to be in trouble. We ended up maintaining a bit faster pace for the first half, and crossed the half-way point around 1:55. The first half of the marathon had been a wonderfully flat and comfortable course, and Kecia and I both found ourselves smiling and congratulating ourselves on an excellent marathon choice. Then race #2 started.

Almost as soon as we hit 13.1 miles, the hills appeared. It was as if the marathon itself was scolding us for deciding to keep running. For about the next 3 miles, I’m pretty sure we did nothing but climb hills. We would reach what we thought was a summit, and then turn a corner to find another hill. I was having flashbacks to Kansas City! The hills finally ended, and the initial descent was steep enough that I felt like I was back in Trinidad. After that, the course leveled out for the most part and our miles remained consistent.

This was without a doubt my most consistently paced marathon. I never really hit a wall, and the back-and-forth motivation that Kecia and I had going for us meant we were always pushing each other and maintaining our pace. We did however notice that our Garmins were hitting the miles further and further from the actual race mile markers. We weren’t going out of our way to add distance by any means, but we still seemed to be accumulating additional tenths of a mile with each passing mile we ran.

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line

By the time the end was in sight, we knew we were going to end up running additional distance, but we didn’t care. We pushed through with the finish line in sight, and it felt amazing as always to cross the finish line! My official chip time ended up being 3:57:12, and my Garmin time was 3:54:05…either way, I broke 4 hours!! I was absolutely elated to not only have reached my goal, but done so with so much time to spare. I happily walked up to accept my medal…and just about fell over when they put it on. This was hands-down the largest race medal I had ever seen, and it weighed enough to practically pull both of us down. Tonja was waiting at the finish line, having conquered her half-marathon in style, and we all shared the same happy glow that comes with finishing a race.

All smiles after a PR performance!

All smiles after a PR performance!

After changing out of our race clothes, we had a quick lunch, headed back to the hotel to shower, and hit the road for our 9-hour drive home. I would have normally been happy to stay the night in Little Rock, but I had to teach the next day so getting back became a priority. I was so incredibly thankful that Kecia and Tonja were game to drive home after the race! It was a long drive, and all of our legs were stiff and a bit sore, but we still had a blast along the way. The trip of course wasn’t complete without a stop at the Hillbilly Hideout for snacks and pictures— we were in Arkansas, after all.

Race medals- as big as our heads!

Race medals- as big as our heads!

We arrived back in Ames around 1AM, just missing most of the next snow storm that was blowing through, and thankful to be home. The lack of sleep made the next day a bit of a challenge for all of us, but the memories and the medals made it all worth it!

The Hillbilly Hideout!

The Hillbilly Hideout!

But I’m Not Thirsty! Winter Hydration

It is perhaps perfect timing for me to be thinking about hydration and longing for the hot summer months as a winter storm bears down on the entire state of Iowa. As I’ve discussed before, thinking about hydration comes pretty naturally during the summer months when you feel like you can’t possibly drink enough water to keep up with the sweating, and you wish it was socially acceptable to run naked just so your core temperature was a bit lower. Ok, perhaps running naked would present its own challenges, but you know what I mean. However, when winter sets in, the temperature drops, the snow falls to the ground, and the wind cuts through me like a knife (at least in Iowa, where there is nothing to break it!), the last thing I’m thinking about consistently is hydration. I guess I’m just much less likely to feel thirsty when the snot is freezing to my face 🙂 However, at the point where I’m not feeling the need to hydrate, I need it even more!

But how do I drink the water in the first place?

But how do I drink the water in the first place?

There are a number of considerations to keep in mind during the winter months with regard to hydration:

1. You still sweat– This is probably the hardest fact for me to remember at times! When I’m out in the cold, my core temperature warms up eventually, and even my fingers and toes find some heat after about 6 miles, but I never have the reminder of sweat dripping down my face. It’s not until I step inside out of the cold that I realize my base layers are soaked pretty thoroughly.

2. Lower humidity The cold hair is typically much drier, unless it happens to be precipitating. This means you are at an even greater risk of dehydration.

3. Access to Water- During the summer months, I can head out for most of my runs around town and not even bother bringing a water bottle. Our community has a wonderful park system, and water fountains are everywhere. However, these fountains are obviously turned off during the winter months so the pipes don’t freeze. I still have the option of stopping at gas stations and other retail locations, but my overall access to water is much more limited. Carrying it becomes that much more important!

4. Water freezes- I know you are shocked by this revelation in science. When the cold sets in, the ability to drop water along the route or even carry it with you becomes compromised. Carrying water doesn’t do you much good if you end up with a block of ice in your hand after 45 minutes! Now, adding sugar (as in most nutrition beverages such as Gatorade or Powerade) does lower the freezing point of the liquid, but I try to stay away from sugary energy drinks, especially if there is some sugar in my solid nutrition.

5. Your blood thickens- As the temperature drops, blood viscosity increases. This means your heart is working harder to pump blood to your limbs, and you risk not getting enough oxygen to your extremities. This makes hydration, and the use of electrolytes that much more important!

I’m certainly much more likely to stay hydrated if I remember to bring water with me, as opposed to designing a limited route that stops at the various locations where I still have access to water. This year, I’ve been using the Salomon pack below for most of my long runs. The bottle is insulated, which means my water never freezes, and there is plenty of storage room for all of the nutrition I need, no matter the distance. You can find plenty of insulated water bottles online as well, and incorporate them into the gear you already own/use.

Salomon Pack

Salomon Bottle- 2

If you are looking for some more information on winter running, you can check out these resources below, courtesy of HowStuffWorks:

Sources

T & T Chronicles: Dancing with Lady Chancellor

While we were in Trinidad, it was quite clear that Carnival was right around the corner. The steel pan drum competitions were in full swing as teams practiced for the finals, Soca artists were performing for free in the main square in Port of Spain, and every other radio announcement was advertising a Fete (think GIANT party with live music). Perhaps the most noticeable sign of the impending festivities was the plethora of activity on the Queens Park Savannah. The Savannah is a large park and open-space located in Port of Spain. During Carnival, performances and vendors set up shop and it becomes party central. Vendor space is at a premium, and although it is supposedly a democratic selection process, it sounded like knowing someone in the Ministry of Tourism certainly didn’t hurt.

All smiles before heading up the hill!

All smiles before heading up the hill!

Around the outside of the Savannah is a large walking/running path. The elaborate and revealing costumes of Carnival mean people love showing off their bodies, and subsequently become quite focused on making their bodies as attractive as possible. The fitness industry is huge in the months leading up to Carnival, but for those who don’t want to drop a nice chunk of change on equipment or classes, running around the Savannah works quite well. In the evening, once the sun has gone down, the paths get pretty darn crowded, as we learned during an evening stroll to work off a delicious dinner.

Just off of the Savannah pathway is Lady Chancellor Hill. This 2.0 (I measured it at 2.2) mile hill ascends 700 feet to a lookout point that provides absolutely stunning views of Port of Spain and the Gulf of Paria. Whereas most of other roads in Trinidad & Tobago lack sidewalks and any room to run, Lady Chancellor Hill actually provides a bit of room to move out of the way when a car is heading straight for you. This is a good thing considering the high speeds and blind curves that seemed to characterize Trini drivers and their roads! The hill is typically more quiet since it is a residential area, so it has become a focal point for Trinis looking to test their athletic ability or simply shed a few more pounds before Carnival.

Port of Spain the the Gulf of Paria

Port of Spain the the Gulf of Paria

While on the way up, I saw a few other walkers/runners, but I basically had the hill to myself. The incline was definitely intense and it never really let up. At times, I felt like I was running up a treadmill that wasn’t going to give me any sort of break. As I ascended the hill, the views to the right became more and more breathtaking, although I wasn’t fully taking them in because I was extremely cautious of drivers and trying to actually maintain a running pace.

Views on the path

Views on the path

However, when I reached the top, the view was everything I was hoping it would be and it made the killer run completely worth it. I’m sure I’ve commented before about how flat Iowa is and how I wished I had more choices for hill work. More than that though, I was just struck by the natural beauty of my surroundings. Perhaps Trinis eventually take the beauty for granted after living there for a certain amount of time, but I almost don’t know how that’s possible. There is just so much to stimulate the optic nerves and keep you engaged with your surroundings. Although the path was paved, I felt just as engaged in my surroundings as if I had been running a trail race. It was absolutely incredible!

QPS-05

QPS-03

How can you compete with views like this?

How can you compete with views like this?

After some time at the top to take in the view, I began my descent. I knew it would be a whole lot easier going down than it was coming up, but I don’t think I was prepared for just what a difference it made. I would describe the run down as more of a controlled fall than anything else, and it felt great. I knew my quads would be screaming at the bottom, but I didn’t care. I was flying 🙂 I had averaged about 9:58/mile on the way up, and about 7:23/mile on the way down. That should tell you everything you need to know.

QPS-06

When I reached the bottom, I continued around the Savannah, taking in the people, the traffic, and all the glorious sounds of a bustling urban environment. I passed by children in their school uniforms, food vendors getting ready for carnival, and folks out for an afternoon run/walk in preparation for the upcoming week. The loop took no time at all, in part because I was so enthralled by my surrounding. I simply didn’t want to stop running and I probably could have continued running around the Savannah for hours.

Still smiles at the end!

Still smiles at the end!

When I reached my starting point, the beautiful epicurean and our amazing friend turned tour guide were waiting to greet me. Now, if only I had a bottle of water or something refreshing to finish off my run. Oh wait, I just walked over to the nearest coconut vendor and bought a cold nut! He lopped off the top with his machete so I could drink the deliciously fresh water straight from the nut, and then he opened it up so I could eat the delicious coconut jelly and flesh hidden inside. Yes please! I’m pretty sure that if every run ended with fresh coconut water, I wouldn’t have a job because I’d be running all the time. Except then I couldn’t pay for the coconuts, so that would be awkward. Just sayin’.

Fresh coconut water...amazing!

Fresh coconut water…amazing!

Picky Bars: It’s Freaking Science, Dude!

I’m always on the hunt for the perfect pre-run fuel to help sustain me for longer periods of time. Nutrition is perhaps the most complicated aspect of effective training, in my opinion. There are  so many factors to consider, including carb:protein ratio, allergens and other dietary restrictions, sugar content, and certainly taste as well! I’ve written before about my attempts to cut out processed sugar from my diet as a whole, as well as my experiments with homemade running nutrition.

In recent months, my diet decisions have been even more altered as I have done my best to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, which the beautiful epicurean knows firsthand has an important impact on her health and daily well-being. Although I may not suffer from an acute auto-immune disorder, the change in diet still benefits me a great deal, and has drastically improved my energy and running performance. In recent weeks, we have been working through an elimination diet as a way of trying to isolate which foods are larger triggers for her. As a result, we have been eating basically vegan, as well as gluten- and dairy-free. Although it has been spending a bit more time brainstorming meals and deciding where and if we can eat at restaurants, the results have been clearly beneficial. These steps have all allowed me to look more critically at my running nutrition.

So, when I came across Picky Bars, my eyes immediately lit up! On paper, the fact that they were gluten and dairy-free, had the perfect 4:1 carb to protein ratio, and had minimal sugars (mostly natural) meant they might just be the perfect pre-run fuel for me. The bars are the creation of Lauren Fleshman, a prolific U.S. runner and 5x NCAA champ. We ordered a sampler pack so we could try all of the different flavors and get a true sense of whether we liked them or not.

All 4 flavors, ready for taste-testing!

All 4 flavors, ready for taste-testing!

The bars come in 4 flavors: the “Smooth Caffeinator” Hazelnut Mocha Madness, the “All-In-Almond” Agave Sweetened Awesomesauce, “The Need for Seed” Sunflower butter sensation, and “Lauren’s Mega-Nuts” (the original bar). I assumed I would be initially drawn to the “Smooth Caffeinator”, based on my love of all things coffee 🙂 In the past, I’ve actually shied away from coffee-flavored nutrition as it seemed too heavy before or during a run. However, this time, as with each of these bars, the perfectly moist, chewy, and just solid-enough texture, coupled with the natural sweeteners and delicious melding of flavors meant I was hooked! I’m not a fan of nutrition bars that are too dry or too moist, and these found the sweet spot.

The official "unboxing" :)

The official “unboxing” 🙂

In addition to tasting great, these nutrition bars also happen to provide me with an excellent balance of sustained energy throughout my runs. My stomach is typically yelling at me for real food after about 2 hours, and that didn’t happen after eating one of these bars before my runs. I also didn’t feel the sugar spike that can come with some of the nutrition bars on the market, which no doubt had a lot to do with the lack of added sugar. Overall, I was very happy with these bars, and certainly plan to add them into the regular rotation!

Beer Run!

After an extreme endurance challenge, I had no intentions of over-exerting myself the following weekend. In effect, I’m in tapering mode again as I prepare for the Northface 50K in Kansas City on November 17th. Luckily, as I have mentioned many times before, I have some amazing friends who like to mix things up during our regular group runs. Thus, it seemed like perfect timing when a good friend announced his plans for a beer run during our regular Saturday morning group run. The result was another in a series of great running memories!

A great mid-run refueling stop!

The idea was pretty simple. Various folks volunteered to host beer/water stops and a route was crafted accordingly. I volunteered our house as a beer stop, as did five other friends. In all, we were able to cobble together a great 9-mile route. We met @ 7:30AM (its 5 O’Clock somewhere, right?) and cracked open a few beers before we headed out. We made two more stops, and then ended up at our house. I was trying my best to ration my consumption, as well as make sure I drink some water, but it was still a strange feeling to be drinking that early in the morning! I may work in a university setting, but it’s still been a decade since my undergraduate days 🙂

As luck would have it, Iowa State was playing a home football game with an 11AM kickoff. Several folks in our group are avid tailgaters, so we were able to stop by for a few more drinks, as well as some great tailgating food. We poured our shots, and toasted to good friends and great runs!

To al the miles we’ve yet to run!

Now, I can’t say that I plan on incorporating alcohol into my training plan, but it was certainly a fun experience! Running can become monotonous if you aren’t changing your routes, times, races, and training. However, I am quite confident that with great friends, running will never be boring! Next stop- organizing our own official beer mile 🙂

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