I have pretty much winged it in terms of running gear, and through trial and error have found certain things that I have come to love. Have a product you’d like me to review? I will give an honest appraisal on this site. Just send an e-mail to me at linda@theaccidentalmarathoner.com and I will be happy to discuss our options!


Product Reviews

Feeling EMPOWERed after a Weekend at Camp

August 12, 2019 12:00 pm

Disclaimer:  I received a complementary weekend stay at the Empower Summer Camp at Ronora Lodge in Watervliet, Michigan from FitApproach in exchange for my honest review and various social media postings as part of being a Sweat Pink ambassador. All opinions are my own.

Last weekend I had the amazing opportunity to join other fitness enthusiasts, bloggers, and influencers for a weekend of fitness, friendship, and fun. When the invitation arrived, I immediately checked my schedule and was thrilled to see that with just a little bit of shuffling, I was available to attend. The fact that it was an easy drive from my home sealed the deal for me. I woke up early on Friday and had every intention of leaving my house by noon Chicago time but as is my M.O., I had a million things to do and ultimately didn’t get on the road until almost 2:30 p.m. This turned my expected two-hour drive into a painful three-hour drive and with the one-hour time change, I didn’t arrive at camp until about 6:00 p.m. Michigan time. Deep breath in, slow breath out; I’m here to relax and rejuvenate, after all!

I checked in with Nic and Alyse and received not one, but two huge bags of amazing swag! I was directed to my digs for the weekend, otherwise known as Main House 1. Several of my bunk mates had already arrived, so I plopped my stuff down on an open bed and made my way back to where Jamie‘s outdoor yoga class was already in full swing. I found an open spot in the back, rolled out my mat, and joined the group. Since I didn’t have time to change, I wasn’t wearing an ideal outfit for such a warm outdoor session, so I sweated my way into the start of the weekend.

 

After yoga we headed into Chadwicke Hall for a huge taco bar made from fresh ingredients, many of which came from the lodge property itself. This meal set the stage for many amazing meals to come. I ate soooo much yummy food over the weekend and all of it was healthy and good! Over dinner I was able to catch up with Marcia, Erica, and Wendy, and I finally got to meet Rachel, Missy, and Sandra in person.

Photo courtesy of James Pancoast Photos

After dinner we all headed back to our cabins to freshen up and get ready for an evening campfire, complete with s’mores (made with all natural, 100% vegan marshmallows from Dandies) and a corny camp song competition. My bunk mates let me know they discovered another room in our cabin that had plenty of beds for all of us, and as an extra bonus it was air conditioned! I’ve had my share of sleeping on the ground in hot, humid tents. Air conditioned cabins with real beds were quite the welcome treat! We had two bathrooms for the five of us to share, both well-stocked with a variety of products from Now Foods for us to sample and share.

 

Saturday morning it was up and at ’em for a morning hike fueled by Cold Brew Butter Coffee with MCT oil by Grass Fed Coffee. Missy and I took our time enjoying each other’s company while still being able to listen to music using our new Aftershokz Trekz Air bone conduction headphones. After taking some obligatory photos along the way, we arrived back at base camp for an awesome breakfast buffet.

Photo courtesy of James Pancoast Photos

After breakfast we heard stories from Jamie, Cam, De, and Tasha, who overcame various struggles to emerge as the strong and inspirational women they are today. They definitely gave us some food for thought and reminded me of my mantra to not sweat the small stuff (and it’s ALL small stuff). After that we hit the pavement for a Tabata-style HITT workout with Kasey. Let’s just say I did my best to keep up! We started the session with a Now Sports BCAA Big 6 supplement drink. I chose Watermelon. It tasted delicious and I think it actually did put an extra pep in my step!

Photo courtesy of James Pancoast Photos

After this amazing sweat sesh, we headed indoors to make customized smoothie bowls using the base recipe created by Annmarie. Packed with incredible ingredients from Now Foods, I chose the Red Velvet Beet Endurance version. I let my artistic side take over by adding fresh strawberries, blueberries, Raw Organic Cacao Nibs, and Unsweetened, Shredded Organic Coconut. I have to say, this recipe is a keeper! Afterward, I went back to my cabin for a little downtime and to check out some of the goodies in my swag bag. Spoiler alert:  Everything was awesome! As if I hadn’t already had enough to eat, it was time for lunch so I chose a modest salad from the expansive salad bar. After that we were treated with a presentation by Christine, who offered some great tips on creating great content. I will definitely be using some of her ideas to help improve my future posts.

 

 

After Christine’s presentation we had the opportunity to make our own Momentum wrap bracelets. It was a fun project but the perfectionist in me wishes I had done a better job with centering. Still, I love my bracelet and it is a fun reminder of my time at camp. Wiped out from a busy morning and afternoon, I took a pass on the afternoon HITT and Flow Workout with Nic. I did not, however, miss the 5:30 p.m. Happy Hour! This was a great time to sample some snacks (the Jade Leaf Matcha Fruit Bites were to die for), meet some more camp participants, and yes, have a glass (or two!) of wine.

Happy Hour Crew
Photo courtesy of James Pancoast Photos

 

After another healthy and delicious dinner, I bowed out of the after-dinner festivities and hit the hay early. With an early morning run, more activities, and the long drive home ahead of me, I wanted to get a good night’s sleep. It seems all that fresh air (or was it those two glasses of wine?) really knocked me out!

On Sunday morning I was up by 6:00 a.m. so I could start to pack and get ready for my 7:00 a.m. run. There were two main groups with the faster runners in the front and the slower runners and walkers in the back. I ran a (very) short distance with the faster runners and then slowed down and did my own thing. I did my typical run/walk intervals and got a total of three miles in before joining the group for a big breakfast. After a relaxing break, we had a Morning Flow Yoga class with Jamie. It was just what I needed after a full weekend of physical activity! We had our closing circle where many participants shared what they gained and what they appreciated from spending time with the others. Our final meal was lunch before I would hit the road for the two-hour drive home. We said our goodbyes and I think I might have spied a few tears!

Photo courtesy of Marcia’s husband, A.K.A. The Cave Man

 

I tried to hit the highlights here, but this post is already starting to become a novel! As expected, we all came home with so. much. swag. Other items I failed to mention but loved receiving include Goodr sunglasses, oatmeal and snacks from Bob’s Red Mill, an insulated stainless steel water bottle and a drawstring bag from Takeya, cassava strips with sea salt from Artisan Tropic, a water bottle, sleep mask, and copper-infused cooling towel from Suja Organic, coffee enhancers from ThinkNOO, and a reausable hot-cold pack from Bioenergy Life Science.

 

 

Phew! I think that’s about it, but there’s a good chance I missed something because it was just that good! Have you ever been to summer camp? I bet it was nothing like this! We will be in Roanoke, Virginia camping again this time next, so keep an eye out for details. Be sure to click on my links in this post to check out some of the other bloggers, and be sure to check out all of the amazing sponsor companies! Here are a few discount codes for you to use:

$10 off $40 Now Foods with EMPOWERNOW (expires 8/31/19).

$50.00 off Aftershokz Trekz Air and Trekz Titanium Endurance and Adventure Bundle with code EMPOWER.

20% off one order at Great Lakes Gelatin with code Empower20off (expires 9/13/19).

20% off Takeya with code EMPOWER20 (expires 10/1/19).

20% off Jade Leaf Matcha with code EMPOWER (expires 8/9/19).

10% off THINKNOO with code COFFEE.

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On Sunday, November 3rd, I will be running the New York City Marathon as a charity fundraiser for Team in Training, an organization that helps The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) support cutting-edge research projects in the most promising areas of cancer research. If you’d like to contribute to my fundraising efforts, you can do so by clicking on the link below. Any donation, big or small, will help and is greatly appreciated! Want to join me? You can still register for the NYC Marathon as a charity fundraiser for Team in Training! Use code NYCBIBRAVE to have the $100.00 team registration fee waived (you still have to raise the require funds).

Click here or on the picture to get to my fundraising page!

Product Review: Shady Rays Allure Polarized Sunglasses

August 5, 2019 12:00 pm

 

Disclaimer:  I received a pair of Shady Rays Allure Polarized Sunglasses to review as part of being a BibRave Pro (ambassador). Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro, and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews.

As someone who has not historically been good about protecting her eyes from the sun, I’ve surprised even myself with my new obsession with sunglasses! Although I already own a pair of Shady Rays Signature Series sunglasses, I was thrilled at the opportunity to try another style. For me, the Signature Series style is more sporty and I love using them for running and biking. I think the Allure Style is a little more ‘dressy’ and stylish and are unique from the styles I’ve worn in the past.

Like all Shady Rays, the Allures provide 100% UV protection and are shatter resistant and salt-water proof. Each order provides 10 meals to help fight hunger through the organization Feeding America, which is a fantastic excuse to own more than one pair! Shady Rays offers free replacements if you break or lose them, which is very unique to their brand.

     

My sunglasses arrived in their signature pouch that can be used both for storage and for cleaning the lenses. I chose the Twilight Belle, which have a black matte finish with gold temple accents. From the front the lenses look black, but from the inside they actually look deep blue/purple, which is pretty cool! They feel very lightweight, both in my hand and when I am wearing them. I really like the style, even though it’s not one I have historically worn.I’ve now been wearing one or the other of my Shady Rays for more than six months, and I can’t say which is my favorite. Maybe it’s like having kids – where they are all your favorite! I absolutely love them and I will say, I’ve been much more disciplined about wearing sunglasses because of them.

Interested in trying Shady Rays sunglasses? Check out the Shady Rays website for more information and for a limited time, get two or more pairs for 50% off using code BIBRAVE!

Check out more reviews by some of my fellow BibRave Pros:  Laura, Becky, Vanessa, Alastair, Ken, Melissa, and Barb!

 

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On Sunday, November 3rd, I will be running the New York City Marathon as a charity fundraiser for Team in Training, an organization that helps The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) support cutting-edge research projects in the most promising areas of cancer research. If you’d like to contribute to my fundraising efforts, you can do so by clicking on the link below. Any donation, big or small, will help and is greatly appreciated! Want to join me? You can still register for the NYC Marathon as a charity fundraiser for Team in Training! Use code NYCBIBRAVE to have the $100.00 team registration fee waived (you still have to raise the require funds).

Click here or on the picture to get to my fundraising page!

Product Review: Science in Sport (SiS) Energy Gels

July 17, 2019 12:00 pm

 

Disclaimer:  I received Science in Sport (SiS) isotonic gels 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.

Having completed 10 marathons and a number of half marathons and smaller-distance races, you would think by now I have the whole fueling thing down. Nope, wrongamundo. I STILL don’t have a clue what I’m doing. My very first race was the 2013 Chicago Marathon. I did not train, and I had never run in my life. How did I do? Believe it or not, that finish time remains my PR. I relied on my awesome pacer Tom to get me through (I finished in 2 seconds under goal), and I relied on the race organizers to determine my fueling. Yep, if the volunteers were handing out water, I drank it. Gatorade? Sure thing (even though I had never tasted it in my life)! Oh, you’re handing out chunks of bananas now? I’ll take some.

Fast-forward to today, and I’m not any better. A couple of years ago I tried a powdered supplement, which I mostly liked. But I found mixing it on the course to be cumbersome and time consuming, and I wound up with sticky fingers no matter how hard I tried to avoid it. Then two years ago at Mile 22 of the Chicago marathon, I started getting queasy. It was likely the heat, but I couldn’t stomach any more of the powdered mix, so I dumped it and finished the race on what little fuel I had left in me. I’ve been hesitant to try it again, because I’m worried that queasy feeling will forever be associated with that product.

Caffeine, anyone?

I know I have to have a strategy, so I jumped at the chance to try the SiS gels. I had no real expectations going into this trial, since I had never tried any type of energy gel before. I received a generous supply of four different products. Because I am a lover of all things coffee, I was excited to try the Double-Espresso flavor first. It had a good coffee flavor that I enjoyed, but it was a tad sweeter than I would prefer. A two ounce gel pack provides 22 grams of carbohydrates and 150 mg of caffeine, so it packs a pretty good punch! I liked this one best before my morning runs, because it definitely gave me a boost of energy.

Salted Strawberry – Yum!

The next one I tried was the Salted Strawberry flavor. Like the Double Espresso, a two ounce gel pack provides 22 grams of carbohydrates, but it also contains 54 mg of magnesium citrate, 130 mg of sodium chloride, and 18 mg of potassium chloride. Spoiler alert:  This one is my favorite! The gel was delicious and went down very easily.

After that I tried the Lemon & Mint flavor. Just like the Salted Strawberry, a two ounce gel pack provides 22 grams of carbohydrates, 54 mg of magnesium citrate, 130 mg of sodium chloride, and 18 mg of potassium chloride. I was a bit hesitant to try this flavor, because the mint didn’t sound very inviting to me. However, it tasted just like a lemon drop and I couldn’t taste the mint at all.

Apple wasn’t my favorite, but it was still good!

The last gel I tried turned out to be my least favorite – Apple. This one is the simplest of the four, with a two ounce gel pack providing 22 grams of carbohydrates, 1 mg of vitamin C, and just 10 mg of sodium. It is considered to be the most isotonic of all of them, making it the most easily digestible. I think this would be a great option for anyone who needs a quick energy boost.

Easy to carry a few in my SPIBelt!

From a practicality standpoint, I love that the gel packs are compact. I can easily fit a few of them in my SPIbelt, which I wear on all of my runs. The packs tear open easily, and I didn’t find the gels themselves to be gooey or sticky.

The big test will be this coming Sunday when I run the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon. Since they are my favorite, I plan to bring a few of the Salted Strawberry packs to fuel me during the race.

How do you fuel your runs? Want to Science in Sports Gels for yourself? Head on over to my Instagram account @TheAccidentalMarathoner for a chance to win one of two six-packs of gels! You can also head over to the Science in Sport website and receive 25% off of your purchase using code TRYSIS.

Check out more reviews by some of my fellow BibRave Pros: Christine, Ken, Becky, Amy, Janell, Jessica, Andrea, Jenn, Alastair, Lissa, Meridith, Kim, Scott, and Christine!

*     *     *    *     *     *     *     *     *

On Sunday, November 3rd, I will be running the New York City Marathon as a charity fundraiser for Team in Training, an organization that helps The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) support cutting-edge research projects in the most promising areas of cancer research. If you’d like to contribute to my fundraising efforts, you can do so by clicking on the link below. Any donation, big or small, will help and is greatly appreciated! Want to join me? You can still register for the NYC Marathon as a charity fundraiser for Team in Training! Use code NYCBIBRAVE to have the $100.00 team registration fee waived (you still have to raise the require funds).

Click here or on the picture to get to my fundraising page!

Product Review: Orange Mud Gear Vest Pro

May 20, 2019 12:00 pm

 

Disclaimer:  I received an Orange Mud Gear Vest Pro 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.

2017 Chicago Marathon, water bottle in hand

For as long as I have been running, I’ve carried a water bottle in my hand. For larger races or distances, I carry a one liter bottle. It can get cumbersome and I can’t tell you how many times my bottle was knocked out of my hand by another runner during a race. I’ve been in search of a good vest to carry my water and other essentials on my runs, but I didn’t want anything that was too heavy or bulky. I’ve read lots of reviews and have gotten lots of recommendations from running friends. When the opportunity to try the Gear Vest Pro came up, I jumped at the chance.

The first thing I noticed (besides the awesome black/orange color combination; I was born on Halloween Day, after all!) was how lightweight the vest is. That’s a big score in terms of the two main features I was looking for. At under a pound, it is very lightweight. Another big score for me. There are tons of pockets including two large front pockets that can carry additional bottles of either water or some other type of endurance/electrolyte drink. In all, the vest has nine (nine!) pockets, one of which zippers closed for added security.

The vest comes in one size and with three different color options (black/orange, lime green, and coyote brown). I choose the black/orange combination because I thought it would match better with most of my running clothes, and did I mention Halloween? I wondered how the one size would fit given I have a relatively small frame but a bit of a wide back. With four different adjustable straps (one on each side and two in the front), the vest was very easy to adjust for the perfect fit. This adds versatility so I can adjust the straps during colder weather where I may be wearing more layers. There is a flexible shock cord on the back of the vest, so if I need to carry or remove extra layers, I can secure them with the cord and have easy access any time I need it. I didn’t notice until the third or fourth time using it that there is a built-in whistle on the top front strap. How awesome is that? You know I am all about safety (you can read these posts for some good tips and ideas on how to improve safety on your runs).

I found the vest to be very comfortable the first day I wore it. Except for the sloshing around of water, I could easily forget I was wearing it. I didn’t know if I would like sipping water from a bladder, but it definitely makes it easier to drink while running so I don’t have to stop. I’ve also used the vest on a couple of bike rides, and being able to drink from the bladder is my favorite feature specific to using it when I bike. I have a water bottle clipped to the frame of my bike, and I can’t take the bottle out of the clip without almost crashing, so I always have to stop for a drink. With the Gear Vest Pro, I can just sip as I go. I’ll be doing a sprint triathlon this summer, and I’m excited to have that option. I will be in Vegas next month and plan to once again hike at the Valley of Fire. You can bet I will be wearing my vest for hiking too!

I completed the Chicago Spring Half Marathon yesterday and with rain threatened in the forecast the entire time, I wondered how the vest would feel soaking wet. Would it be too heavy? Would it cause chafing by adding extra pressure on my wet skin? It poured all night the night before the race and it was pouring during my entire drive into the city but alas, the rain stopped about an hour before the start and it held off for the entire race. While I was thrilled to death, I did not get the opportunity to test how the vest performs or feels when wet. The material seems like it would dry quickly. I can’t wait to see if that is the case.

I really like this vest and I can see using it for running and biking for a very long time. I used it for a few shorter runs just to get used to it, but I imagine I will mostly uses it for longer runs and rides.

Check out the Orange Mud website for more information about this and other Orange Mud products. Use code BIBRAVEGVPRO for15% off all Orange Mud gear!

Check out more reviews by some of my fellow BibRave Pros: Samantha, Andrea, Nicole, Jonathan, Shannon, Becky, Virjinia, Stephanie, Casey, and Christine!

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I completed the London Marathon on April 28th, raising funds for Whizz-Kidz, an organization that provides wheelchairs and mobility devices for children and young adults. If you’d like to contribute to my fundraising efforts, you can still do so by clicking on the link below. Any donation, big or small, will help and is greatly appreciated!

Click here or on the picture to get to my fundraising page!

Product Review: AfterShokz Trekz Air Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones

April 22, 2019 12:00 pm

 

Disclaimer:  I received AfterShokz Trekz Air bone conduction headphones 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.

I’ve been wanting to try AfterShokz for quite some time. Then when I ran the Surf City Half Marathon in February, the person I was with was wearing a pair. At some point during the race I asked if she had them turned on, since I never heard music coming from them and we were conversing with each other pretty much the entire time. She said she did, and at a normal volume. I was honestly surprised. I guess I assumed with the headphones not positioned in the ears themselves, people around you would be able to hear what you were listening to. As it turns out, unless the music blaring at full volume, you are the only one that can hear what is playing.

If you have followed me for any amount of time, you know I haven’t run with music since my first marathon in 2013. The main reason for that is safety. Until recently, I have only run alone, and with the news stories I’ve seen about (mostly female) runners being attacked or worse, and after a near miss of my own, I abandoned listening to music on my solo runs altogether. I’ve definitely missed it though, so I jumped at the chance to try these out.

So what is bone conduction, and how does it work? Normally when we hear, sound travels through the air, creating vibrations that travel to our eardrums. The eardrums themselves then vibrate and send vibrations to the cochlea (inner ear). The auditory nerve then ‘translates’ those vibrations into sounds that we interpret with our brains. With bone conduction, sound travels not just through the eardrums, but also through the bones. According to the AfterShokz website, ‘transducers guide mini vibrations through the cheekbones to the inner ears, delivering sound without plugging or covering them’. Did I mention I don’t like to plug my ears up due to safety reasons?

I played around with these headphones at home before taking them out on an actual run. They fit easily over and in front of the ears, and are very lightweight. They come in four different colors. I chose Slate Grey but had my eye on Canyon Red as my second choice. I figured the grey would go with everything and you have to look fashionable when you run, right? They come in a nice soft zipper-case that has a luxurious feel to it. They also come with a charging cable and a set of earplugs in case you do want to block outside noise. They have a six hour battery life, which is great for longer races or activities.

Set up was beyond simple – You basically turn them on and easily pair them to your phone using the bluetooth connection. Once connected, you can make and receive calls with just a touch of a button. I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in Washington, DC this month and wore them for the race. With my usual M.O. of minimal training, I finished a good 15 minutes faster than I anticipated. Was it the music that helped me with my pace? I don’t know, but it seems to have made a difference.

The next test was how they would work when riding my bike. I always wear sunglasses when I ride, mainly to keep the wind and bugs or dirt out of my eyes. And of course I always wear a helmet, so I was worried all three things together would be too cumbersome and maybe even hurt or just not work. They all fit together so well, except for having music playing, I wouldn’t have known the Trekz Airs were there! I was able to listen out for traffic, have a conversation with my husband while we rode, and listen to music all at the same time.

A big question, of course, is ‘what about the sound quality?’ In a word…fabulous. I listen to a wide variety of music and tested these out with several different genres. The sound quality is crisp and perfect with any type of music I listened to. They also did great when I listened to a podcast on one of my treadmill runs the other day.

Without hesitation I would recommend AfterShokz! There are four different products (two are wireless and two are wired) with different price points, adding some variety that can fit most anyone’s budget or needs.

Interested in trying AfterShokz Trekz Airs? Check out the AfterShokz website for more information and for a limited time, get $50 off the Adventure Bundle using code BRBUNDLE! Do you already own AfterShokz bone conduction headphones? I would love to hear what you think!

Check out more reviews by some of my fellow BibRave Pros:  Christine, Stacy, and Adam!

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I will be running the London Marathon on April 28th, raising funds for Whizz-Kidz, an organization that provides wheelchairs and mobility devices for children and young adults. If you’d like to contribute to my fundraising efforts, you can do so by clicking on the link below. Any donation, big or small, will help and is greatly appreciated!

Click here or on the picture to get to my fundraising page!

 

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