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

Product Review: Built Bar Protein and Energy Bars

March 25, 2020 12:00 pm

Disclaimer:  I received a generous supply of Built Bar Protein and Energy Bars 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.

If you’ve been following my posts in the past year or so, you know that I have been working on figuring out a good fueling strategy not just for my long runs, but also for my every day needs. As I’ve mentioned in multiple posts, I typically follow a low-carbohydrate diet not just to maintain a healthy weight, but also to get a good balance of nutrition, including lots of protein. I’m not getting any younger, and building and maintaining muscle mass is a continued goal.

I was quite impressed with the variety of flavors I received. In total, there were three boxes of 18 bars – one box of Peanut Butter, one box of Coconut Almond, and one box of Mixed, containing 14 different flavors. Each chewy bar is coated in a delicious dark chocolate. Being that one of my favorite candy bars is Almond Joy, I couldn’t wait to dig in to the Coconut Almond flavor!

As you can see by the boxes on the left, depending on the flavor, each bar provides anywhere from 15 grams to 20 grams of protein and 110 to 170 calories. I typically have a protein bar as a mid-day snack, so having a variety of flavors to choose from was an exciting prospect for me. I’ve definitely gotten into a rut with the few flavors of other bars I’ve been eating in the past.

As many of you know, I work as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner. My days are long and often are very busy, so much so that I often don’t have time, or simply forget to eat lunch. I loaded up my desk drawer with Built Bars, and on those days where I barely have time to sit down, it’s good to know I have a delicious, healthy snack to help get me through the day.

In a shocking development, it did just so happen that the Coconut Almond flavor was my favorite. In a Goldilocks sort of way, the fact that it was middle-of-the-road with the amount of protein and calories it had compared to the other flavors I sampled made it just right for me.

Overall I really like these protein and energy bars. They were enough to keep me satisfied and tide me over as a mid-day snack, while also being my new go-to for a pre- or post- workout snack. There were a few flavors that I didn’t necessarily love, but none that I would say I would refuse to eat.

Want to try Built Bar Protein and Energy Bars for yourself? Head on over to www.builtbar.com and receive 20% off of your purchase using code BUILTBAR.

Check out more reviews by some of my fellow BibRave Pros: Vanessa, Virjinia, Preston, Renee, Meridith, Becky, Amy, Emily, Riley, and Vanessa!

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On my 2020 Race Calendar:

January 9 – 12, 2020:  Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge, Orlando, FL

March 1, 2020:  Tokyo Marathon

March 15, 2020:  Amita Health St. Paddy’s Day Half Marathon, Bolingbrook, IL

May 2, 2020:  Cinco de Miler, Chicago, IL

May 23, 2020:  Soldier Field 10 Miler, Chicago, IL

June 21, 2010:  Wonder Woman 10K, Chicago, IL

July 12, 2020:  Across the Bay 12K, San Francisco, CA

September 12, 2020:  Run Mag Mile, Chicago, IL

October 4, 2020:  Bucktown 5K, Chicago, IL

October 11, 2020:  Chicago Marathon

Clif Bar & Company: More than Just Energy Bars

February 11, 2020 12:00 pm

Image result for clif family winery

Disclaimer:  I received a bottle of wine and some yummy treats from Clif Family Winery 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.

If you take a look at my logo you’ll quickly see two things I love; wine and staying fit! Imagine my delight when I recently found out that the makers of Clif Bars, the energy bars I’m sure you are all very familiar with, also own a winery! How did I miss that?

The Clif Family Winery was started by Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford, who shared a love for cycling as well as a love for good food and wine. As outdoor enthusiasts who had already created the awesome CLIF Bars line of products starting in the early 1990s, less than a decade later they decided to start a new adventure by making wine and sharing their love for both food and adventure. From that love, the Clif Family Winery was born.

One of the many things I love about this winery is that they are so diverse in what they have to offer. Not only do they make great wines, but they also make a variety of food products including nut mixes, chocolates, spices, hot sauces, and more! I was able to sample the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Almonds and the Organic Rosemary Roasted Almonds & Pistachios, and they are absolutely delicious! We are waiting for a special occasion to sample the wine. We’ll be heading to California this summer, and I can’t wait to visit the winery and sample more of their delicious goods.

You can check out their site at www.cliffamily.com and see what wonderful things they have to offer. Navigate the site and swing back around and let me know what you find!

Have you tried any wines or other products from Clif Family Winery? Tell me about your favorites!

On my 2020 Race Calendar:

January 9 – 12, 2020:  Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge, Orlando, FL

March 1, 2020:  Tokyo Marathon

March 15, 2020:  Amita Health St. Paddy’s Day Half Marathon, Bolingbrook, IL

May 23, 2020:  Soldier Field 10 Miler, Chicago, IL

June 21, 2010:  Wonder Woman 10K, Chicago, IL

July 12, 2020:  Across the Bay 12K, San Francisco, CA

September 12, 2020:  Run Mag Mile, Chicago, IL

October 4, 2020:  Bucktown 5K, Chicago, IL

October 11, 2020:  Chicago Marathon

 

 

I’m linking up with Kim and Zenaida for this week’s Tuesday Topics!  If you’d like to join along, just follow this link for the linkup rules and a list of upcoming topics!

Product Review: AfterShokz Aeropex Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones

December 21, 2019 6:00 am

Disclaimer:  I received AfterShokz Aeropex 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.

Now that I have been using AfterShokz headphones for almost a year, I was excited to try the newest product in their lineup. Like all of their headphones, the Aeropex version uses bone conduction technology, which delivers a great sound without compromising your ability to hear ambient noises around you. This is important to me for reasons of safety, since these headphones allow the user to hear approaching cyclists, motorists, and even other people while still enjoying their favorite music, podcast, or audiobook. You can even hold a conversation with someone next to you while still enjoying your music.

Compared to the Trekz Airs (reviewed here), the Aeropex are thinner and lighter in weight. This didn’t make a huge difference to me, but the difference was noticeable. The Aeropex also have a longer battery life of 8 hours, versus 6 hours for the Airs. While my Airs have lasted for full marathons for me, since I’m on the slow boat to nowhere when I run, it’s nice to have that extra cushion of battery life.

Another difference between the Aeropex headphones and the others I’ve tried is whether they are water resistant or waterproof, and to what degree. The Airs are rated IP55, while the Aeropex are rated IP67. That means the Airs are water resistant, while the Aeropex are waterproof. This makes a big difference when running in the pouring rain, like I did for several races this year. Compare these to the Xtrainerz (reviewed here), which have a waterproof rating of IP68 and can be worn under water up to 2 meters. What does all of this IP mumbo jumbo really mean? I looked it up. Basically, the first digit is protection against solids, and the second digit is protection against liquids. The higher the number, the greater the protection.

The AfterShokz Aeropex are my favorite AfterShokz product of the three I’ve tried. They are lightweight, have great sound quality, and hold their charge for a good, long time. Part of the fun of this product trial and review was having the opportunity to gift a pair of the AfterShokz Titanium headphones to a friend. I sent them to my friend Joe, who was thrilled and surprised to receive them. I’m sure he will enjoy them and he is very deserving of the gift!

AfterShokz now has six different products to choose from (four are wireless and two are wired), with different features and price points to meet most anyone’s needs. I’ve been recommending them to everyone I know!

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

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On my 2020 Race Calendar:

March 1, 2020:  Tokyo Marathon

March 15, 2020:  Amita Health St. Paddy’s Day Half Marathon

Race Recap: 2019 Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon

December 2, 2019 12:00 pm

Disclaimer:  I received an entry to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon 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.

Hold a race in one of my favorite cities on earth, and it’s sure to be a good time. Throw in a meet-up with my best college friend and anything can (and will) happen! When the opportunity to run the Strip at Night came up, I was all in! Las Vegas is one of my favorite places – it has everything I love:  fabulous restaurants, great shows, good weather, and yes, gambling! My husband and I visit Vegas once or twice a year and now that all of our kids are of age, we’ve made a family tradition of it! While the boys wouldn’t be joining us this time around, my best friend from college and her husband (whom we also went to college with) would, and what perfect timing as this year marks 40 years of friendship! Seriously, where does the time go? While I’ve never run this race, I did run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Chicago last year, and since I loved the experience so much, I knew Las Vegas would not disappoint.

Though we all live in the Chicago area, we flew in from different airports on different airlines and met up at the airport in Las Vegas. Mary cracked me up with her little sign with our last name waiting for us at baggage claim. We hopped in a cab and the non-stop conversation and laughter began, just like old times. When we arrived at our hotel only one room was ready, so we dropped everything off and headed to the expo, which was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, just a quick taxi ride away.

We arrived at the expo early on Friday afternoon and it was not crowded at all. Everything was clearly marked and since we would both be running the 5K on Saturday, we picked up those packets first and then went our separate ways since Mary (and her friend Emily) would be running the 10K and I would be running the half marathon on Sunday. From there, we wandered around the expo, checked out a few vendor booths, and then headed back to the hotel. Since we are such gambling fools, we had two rooms comped at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel, my favorite place to stay. The hold up with one room not being ready was because we requested rooms on the same floor. Ultimately, we were set up just five rooms apart. Tom and Mary had a bit of a better view of the Bellagio fountains, but we didn’t plan to spend that much time in our rooms anyway.

We chilled for a bit and then headed outside to walk around and see the sights. Tom had never been to Las Vegas, so it was all about pointing out and stopping at some of our favorite places for him to see. We had dinner that night at Mon Ami Gabi so Mary could get her steak and frites fix. Thus began a weekend of eating and drinking and eating and eating, and eating some more! After dinner we walked around a bit more and checked out a few casinos, then headed back to our rooms for an early-to-bed since we were dealing with a four hour flight and a two hour time change.

After breakfast on Saturday morning we met up with Emily and Paul, Tom and Mary’s friends from Alaska. Sunday’s 10K would be Emily’s first race, and she was definitely ready to take on the challenge. We did lots more walking around (and a little bit more gambling) before Mary and I needed to get to the start area for the 5K. Having not read the instructions carefully, we wound up at the start area for the next day’s races, which was alarmingly desolate just an hour before race time. We made our way back to our hotel as we were trying to figure out where to go. Luckily the hotel porter had placed several other guests in taxis headed to the race venue, so he knew just where to instruct the taxi driver to take us. I might have gotten a little panicky as it took us over a half hour to move just two miles in the crazy Las Vegas traffic, but our driver was awesome and got us there with plenty of time to spare. Mary and I rushed ahead of the group so we could do a quick potty stop and then head to our respective corrals. Much to our delight, to the side of the porta-potties was a huge brick building with a good 30+ clean and warm bathroom stalls. That right there calmed all of my panicked nerves! We snapped a few pics together before the race, wearing our matching tanks commemorating our 40 years of friendship.

Unlike the races the following day, the 5K course did not involve running on the strip. The course was mostly dark with little spectator support and a few bands playing along the way. There was just one aid station at about Mile 2. I was feeling the effects of the dry desert air by then, so I stopped and grabbed two cups of water before I started to run again. The race ended at the same place it started. I saw Bob, Tom, Emily, and Paul just before the finish, then looped back around to them once I crossed the finish line so the five of us could cheer Mary on as she came through. I jumped on the course with her for a few yards before the finish, just to give her some support and encouragement as she ran to the finish.

The post-5K race party was fantastic with Kesha headlining the show. We stayed for just a bit and then headed back to our hotel to get cleaned up and ready for the obligatory pasta load at Lombardi’s Romagna Mia. After dinner we were all pretty wiped, so we headed back to our rooms and slept for what seemed like forever.

On Sunday morning the six of us headed to Hash House a Go Go for a very filling breakfast. With such a late start to the race (4:00 p.m. for the 10K and 4:30 p.m. for the half), we would have plenty of time to digest our meals. I tried to nap before the race but since I slept so well the night before, I just relaxed in my hotel room for a few hours. The 10K race would start in the same place the 5K started the day before, but luckily for me, the half and full marathon races started directly behind our hotel.

At around 3:00 p.m. I headed out. The weather was great as I walked around the staging area. I recognized Konfedence, AKA Ken, a mutual follower from Instagram and said hello as he was heading to gear check to drop his bag. There was a stage with a band playing, so I listened for a while before heading to the start gate. It seemed we were standing around forever before the crowd finally started to move. We probably walked a good half mile to the actual start line on the Strip. As we walked I met a runner with Chicago roots, now living in Florida. Oddly enough the name on her bib was Gary. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was face-to-face with a bandit but decided not to get into it as the race was about to start. We parted ways and I never saw her (or him) again.

We headed south on Las Vegas Boulevard (AKA the Strip), past the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. There was a band playing and many people stopped and waited in line for a photo in front of the iconic sign. I kept moving. We looped around and headed back north. There’s not much to see at that end of the Strip unless, of course, you are into airports. Once we approached Excalibur, New York, New York, and the surrounding venues the bright lights appeared and it with it now being dark, it finally felt like we were running the “Strip at Night”. We ran the length of the Strip all the way downtown to Old Las Vegas and Fremont Street. We spent very little time in that area which was fine given the fact it seemed a little more remote and off the beaten path (read:  sketchy). We headed back south on the Strip and the lights once again appeared. Full marathon participants veered to the right while those of us doing the half veered to the left.

Around Mile 11 we were told there was no more water at the aid station, but were assured there would be plenty just a few hundred feet ahead. I brought three Gatorade Endurance gels and decided to take my third at that point. Because my throat got so dry at the 5K the day before, I brought a bunch of cough drops with me and I pretty much had one in my mouth the entire time, which was my saving grace. I hydrated like crazy the day before and the morning of the race, but that desert air is no joke.

I knew to start watching for Bob and the gang once I made the turn toward the Mirage. About a half mile before the finish I spotted Paul as he called out my name. He said the others were just a bit ahead, which gave me a much needed boost. It is always so good to see friends and family along a race course! Paul started running alongside the course and with about a quarter mile to go I saw everyone else and waved to my husband and friends as I ran to the finish. The finish line was located in front of the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, but we had to walk for what seemed like forever to be able to exit the course. Because we participated in races two days in a row, besides the individual race medals, Mary and I also earned the Remix medal, which is shaped like an old boom box to match the Rock ‘n’ Roll theme.

The six of us reunited, took a few pictures, and then Paul had the bright idea that Mary, Emily, and I should lay in the middle of the Strip for a photo op. Seriously, when else can you lay down in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip and not be run over or arrested? Never mind the fact that the lights behind us were from the row of police cars heading our way as they were re-opening the Strip to traffic. After that we headed back to our hotel to get cleaned up and ready for an always-amazing dinner at my favorite Las Vegas restaurant, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak, and Stone CrabI can’t believe I ate the whole thing. Yes I can.

The following morning Emily and Paul headed out early and Bob and I met up with Tom and Mary for breakfast. They checked out of the hotel and left for the airport, but Bob and I stayed for an additional two days. We went to Giada for dinner and saw Penn & Teller (comped tickets because gambling fools) on Monday night and then went to dinner at Mesa Grill on Tuesday, before rallying to win back any money we had lost over the course of the previous few days. A good time was had by all!

This was a fabulous race weekend and I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was especially fun to be with great friends, old and new. The expo was average – not too small and not too big, nicely spread out with plenty of vendors to visit. The 5K race was a bit chaotic at the start with people self-seeding in obviously incorrect corrals. The course was quiet but the fest at the end of the race made up for all of that. The half/full marathon start was much better organized and the pre-race festivities/band were great. The course was mostly fun with just a few dead zones. There were spectators along the course on the main area of the Strip, but it seemed as if the majority of them were there for Vegas and not necessarily interested in seeing a race. I’m sure many of them didn’t even know a race was going on until they came across a Strip that was closed to traffic.

As far as swag, the participant shirts were kind of meh but the finishers’ medals were awesome. This is a fun race weekend and while there are serious racers out there, I’d say the vast majority of runners/walkers are out there for a good time. Las Vegas is one of my favorite places to vacation, so adding a race to an extended weekend visit gives me one more excuse to visit.

Have you ever run any of the Rock ‘n’ Roll races? Which was your favorite? Are you a fan of Las Vegas?

On my 2020 Race Calendar:

March 1, 2020:  Tokyo Marathon

March 15, 2020:  Amita Health St. Paddy’s Day Half Marathon

 

Gatorade Endurance: Fuel for the Long Run

November 27, 2019 12:00 pm

Disclaimer:  I received a generous supply of Gatorade Endurance 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.

And so ends my 2019 race year, and what a fabulous year it has been! I started training with Gatorade Endurance Formula and Energy Gels in August, and it has carried me through not only my training, but also through a 5K, two 10Ks, two half marathons, and two full marathons. With Gatorade Endurance products, I think I’ve found my magic.

Gatorade Endurance Formula is different than ‘regular’ Gatorade in that it contains twice the sodium and three times the potassium as the regular formulation. It’s designed especially for endurance athletes because of course when we sweat, we don’t just lose water; we also lose electrolytes. You know that gritty white powder you can feel on your skin at the end of a long endurance activity? That’s salt! So drinking tons of plain water during an endurance event is not the best idea. You need to replace the electrolytes you are losing as well.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my former race strategy was to drink tons of water (on average, about a liter every five miles) as a way to stay hydrated during a long run. All that did was leave me waterlogged and needing to stop at the porta-potties along the way. With two big goal races planned for this fall, I decided to spend this past summer focusing on my fueling. A main goal was to be able to run a full marathon without having to stop to pee, and since I am a slow runner, that means a lot of hours on the course. I was outfitted with enough Gatorade Endurance to cover the entire training cycle, so there was no reason not to give it a go.

I received an ample supply of both powder and gel products in a variety of flavors, along with some basic instructions on what to take in based on the duration of the activity. It was nice to have some direction until I could figure out exactly what would work for me. I mainly used the powder products when I was home, because it was easy to mix a bottle and run out the door. For travel, I used a combination of powders and gels, since I had plenty of single-serve packets that were easy to toss in my carry-on without taking up much room. The closer I got to the fall marathon dates, the more I experimented with how and when to take the gels, since they would be my main fuel source during the races. Because both the Chicago Marathon and the New York City Marathon would be supplying Gatorade Endurance Formula at the aid stations, I only needed to carry the gels and not worry about lugging around a handheld bottle.

After experimenting with different amounts per run, I came up with the following:  For runs six or seven miles or less, I would eat something light (usually a handful of almonds, walnuts, and raisins) and then carry my handheld bottle of Gatorade Endurance Formula powder mixed in 24 ounces of water. That was plenty to get me through the miles, even on hot, humid days. In fact, I often didn’t finish the entire bottle. For runs longer than that, I would typically bring the same amount of water/powder mix, but would also take a gel pouch just before the run and then every five miles thereafter. This is what worked for me; what works for someone else may differ, so it’s important to try different things until you find what works best for you.

 

I had several flavors to try and while I had some favorites (hello, watermelon and blackberry!), they all tasted good. I don’t like sweets, and the Gatorade Endurance Energy Gels were not sickeningly sweet like some other products I’ve tried. The energy gels were a great consistency–not too thick or sticky, and didn’t require me to drink water to help get them down.

My big test would be the New York City Marathon, which I ran earlier this month. Knowing I would be sitting in Runners’ Village for several hours before the race, I brought what seemed like enough food to feed an army for my pre-race fueling. I was happy to see the big table of Gatorade Endurance Formula being handed out before the race. I wound up eating my usual handful of nuts and raisins and just a bagel with peanut butter and a banana about an hour before my wave started, and then took a cup from the table to drink as I walked to the start line. I carried five Gatorade Endurance Energy Gel pouches in my SPIBelt. I took the first gel at around Mile 4, and then one about every four to five miles after that. I alternated between taking water and taking Gatorade Endurance Formula at the aid stations.

So the big question…how did it go? In a word:  Perfect! I had enough energy to conquer the bridges (my biggest fear going into the race), felt adequately hydrated, and most importantly – never felt the need to stop to pee! I finished the marathon a full 10 minutes faster than the flat Chicago Marathon just three weeks earlier, even having stopped to hug my husband and friend and snap a few pictures along the way. I felt fantastic after the race and in the days after, and I have no doubt that proper fueling and hydrating before and during the race had a great deal to do with it.

I really do think that in Gatorade Endurance I have found my fuel for the long run. I’ll continue to use it as I train (who IS this person???) for my upcoming Tokyo Marathon next year. My only goal for Tokyo (besides having fun) is staying ahead of the balloon ladies!

What’s your go-to fuel endurance sports? Have you tried Gatorade Endurance? Tell me what you think!

So far on my 2020 Race Calendar:

March 1, 2020:  Tokyo Marathon

 

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