Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Motivation

Because on a dreary Midwest spring day, sometimes you need some motivation to get out the door.




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Friday, April 27, 2012

What Kind Of Runner Are You? (A Flowchart)

Tenderfoot? Aspiring Athlete? Routine Racer? Almost-Olympian? Bugs Bunny? Garfield? The Road Runner?


Use the flowchart to find your style.

I'm a Routine Racer - which one are you?

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Clean Bottle Product Review


Much like The Boring Runner, I didn't get the full-size Clean Bottle costume, but I did get a Clean Bottle and The Runner, for on the go music and storage.

Clean Bottle was born of a vision: "why not have a bottle that unscrews at the top and the bottom? That way, I could easily clean it out if it gets funky, and dry it out thoroughly so it doesn’t get stinky in the first place. 4 factories, 54 prototypes, 2 patent applications and 3 years later we present to you the Clean Bottle. It took a long time to get it right, but we think you’ll agree that it was worth it."


With 6 people sharing water bottles in our house, we try to stay pretty scrupulous about keeping them clean, but it's not that rare for one to be left in the car or at the bottom of a soccer bag. We've never had a full-fledged super-funky bottle, but I'm sure some have been reused none too clean.

The Clean Bottle is simple to use, top and bottom unscrew easily for cleaning, and this allows it to dry thoroughly.


Along with the bottle came The Runner -- according to Clean Bottle, The Runner is the "only holder that lets you use your iPod and smartphone on the run; (has) Innovative straps on handle for quick access to energy gels; Back pocket stores keys, cash and credit cards;Unique closing system prevents bottle from slipping out from holder; (and is) Guaranteed for life." Nice. The Runner fits my Blackberry and my iPod, and even both together. It does NOT fit my wife's Droid X, but that's a big phone. Additional pockets and straps allow one to carry ID, gels, and other small essentials.

This is a unique and well-designed system. While it may not replace other carriers needed on long runs, it's definitely a good addition to the hydration arsenal as a supplement, or as a stand-alone for shorter runs.

All products sold have 10% of profits donated to eco-friendly charities you vote for, a nice way to give back to the community!

(Disclaimer: I was sent these items for free to review on my blog, courtesy of Clean Bottle. I did not pay for the items, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sports Nutrition For Endurance Athletes


You’ve got your training dialed in: you follow a plan, give time for your body to recover, are doing complementary cross training. What’s next? How about dialing in your nutrition?

Monique Ryan’s Sports Nutrition For Endurance Athletes (Boulder, CO: VeloPress, 2012) is the reference guide you need.  Hydration, energy nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes (oh my!). Optimal recovery, weight loss, muscle building, changing body composition, ergogenic aids. Ergogenic aids? Read the book!

The subject of nutrition is equal parts art and science, but is more than knowing what to eat. How about the right amounts and the right times? Did you know even slight dehydration impairs athletic performance? That the glycemic index is more accurate than simply looking at carbohydrates as simple or complex? Which vitamins and minerals are toxic in high doses? All these questions and more are answered in this book.

This is not a book you sit down and read at one sitting. Rather, it stays on your bookshelf, ready to be referenced, probably multiple times a day, as you think of another aspect of nutrition you have questions about.

The one negative I found with this well-researched book is that vegetarian/vegan eating plans are given short thrift. Otherwise, this 3rd edition will keep you up to date for quite some time.

About the Author: Monique Ryan, MS, RD, LDN is a nationally recognized nutritionist with over twenty-five years of professional experience. She is founder of Personal Nutrition Designs, a nutrition consulting company based in the Chicago area. Started in 1992, Personal Nutrition Designs provides nutrition programs for diverse groups of people with an emphasis on long-term follow-up and support programming. Monique has developed thousands of nutrition plans for clients in the areas of sports nutrition, weight management, women’s health, eating disorder recovery, various medical and health concerns, and disease prevention and wellness. She provides her clients with practical cutting edge nutrition information based on current scientific research.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this book for free to review on my blog, courtesy of VeloPress. I did not pay for the item, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

iRun Earphones Product Review

iRun… Stay Focused and Untangle Your Life.


I love to run with music, though I make time to do without, just so I don’t become overly reliant on it. But there’s a problem. I have yet to find an earbud that stays in my ears – don’t know if it’s a design flaw in the earphones or my ears, but since millions of people seem to have no problems, I’m guessing it’s me. I tend to wear on-ear headphones, which stay in place, keep my ears warm in winter, often have better sound quality, but also usually have incredibly long cords and make my ears sweat profusely (Can ears sweat? Mine do.).

I was really excited to try iRun Earphones,  because, hey, they have RUN in their name! Plus, they come with 3 different sizes of soft inserts to fit a variety of ears, so maybe one would work for me.

iRun Extreme - waterproof earphone design

"This extreme performance earphone was designed with the most aggressive training in mind! From the specially coated wiring which virtually eliminates chaffing and moisture intrusion to the waterproof in-ear earphones that allow the wearer to train or race with confidence, this earphone does it all. With a wire length of only 28cm, the iRun Extreme was designed with the serious athlete in mind. This design is specifically engineered to allow the user to clip their digital media player on the sweat strap of their visor, hat or shirt collar to provide them with the most enjoyable and worry-free training experience they have ever had using a digital media player." I had high hopes for these earphones and I really appreciated the short cord length, allowing me to clip my Shuffle to my hat brim and take off running. The earphone in my left ear stayed in for perhaps 5 minutes, but on the positive side, I just pushed it under my hat and then ran more safely, able to hear cars and other noises. The right ear stayed in for a good 40 minutes, popping out only when my ear got extremely sweaty. That was a win in my book.

iRun Advantage - designed for arm mounted media players

"By introducing the first set of earphones that was specifically engineered with arm mounted digital media players and smart phones in mind, the iRun Advantage shatters the idea that "one size fits all". Through ergonomics and anatomical engineering, iRun has created an earphone that not only shortens the overall wire length by more than 35%, but also realizes that both ears require different length wires to create the most streamlined, efficient and worry-free earphone configuration available in the world." I like the idea of having a set of earphones that are engineered specifically for arm mounted media players, because it's something I carry on occasion. These earphones work well for that, but again, did not work for me. The left one never fit, and the right one popped out pretty quickly as well. I tried all the differing earbud sizes, but to avail.




I'd like to state that all problems associated with wearing these earphones are mine alone. iRun Earphones are clearly well-made and my guess is that they should fit any normal person. While I was hopeful that they would work for me, it didn't quite pan out the way I had wished. Most people will not have this problem. The Extreme was the best result I've ever had with an earphone, so that shows how well they are designed! For a successful expeience, check out Laima's review over at Women's Endurance Gear.


iRun also sent me their Quick-Dry Running Hat to try out. "With cool-mesh technology incorporated into every hat, you will experience the most comfortable, coolest and most enjoyable protection available on the market." This is an awesome hat! So light and comfortable, it has good protection from the sun and wind, and kept most of the sweat out of my eyes.

(Disclaimer: I was sent these items for free to review on my blog, courtesy of iRun Earphones. I did not pay for the items, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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Monday, April 23, 2012

The North Face Endurance 50K Training

One week until I start my training for The North Face Endurance 50K - I'm really excited, because I think the Smart Marathon Training plan I will be following is sure to get me to the finish line both happy and injury free. Even though it is a plan prepared for marathoners, my 50K ultramarathon is not that much farther and Jeff Horowitz, the author, instills a sense of confidence.


The above image was the proposed plan. As you can see, Saturdays are the day off, giving the body some rest before the long run Sunday. Nothing wrong with that, since I've usually done my long runs Saturdays, but I couldn't wrap my head around a day off on Saturday. We've recently gone to nearly full time telework at my job, which means that, barring something special, Wednesdays are now the only day I must go into the office. To me it made sense to move the day off to Wednesday, knowing that I had to be at the train station at a certain time to get to work on time. I usually get up very early anyway, but this would alleviate the time crunch that sometimes happens around our house.

I emailed Jeff and asked him about adapting the plan, changing the day off to Wednesdays but changing the long run to Saturdays. Being the wise and experienced coach, he demurred and suggested I do my long runs on Thursdays instead. So that's what we're doing:


Except for the last week, the schedule has just been adjusted back, with the weeks starting on Mondays and days off on Wednesdays. I fiddled a bit with the last week, which is a taper week anyway, so hopefully it won't throw me off too much.

Shortest week in terms of mileage (besides the final taper week) is Week 1 at 40 miles + hills, while the biggest volume occurs in Weeks 10, 14, and 17, with 96 miles + Speedwork. Longest run will be 20 miles, repeated 3 times, while a top ride of 60 miles will also appear 3 times. All the longest runs and rides happen on Thursday, so I will either get up extremely early to get it done before work or, per Jeff, I can split up the distance into 2 same-day workouts, or, again per Jeff, I can shorten the distance but up the intensity. My plan is to get up early those days--since I'm working at home, the commute is easy and I don't have to be anywhere besides at my desk.

Week 7, Sunday, calls for Speedwork/Drills, but is also the day Laima and I will be participating in the Warrior Dash - since it's sprints interspersed with obstacles, I'm thinking that it can count. :)

Besides the actual physical training, I'll also be working on going vegan full time and also hoping to lose some weight. Between the healthier eating and ramped up training, the weight loss should come naturally. I'd like to lose a pound a week or so, so that'll be interesting to track as well.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Lance Armstrong and the Engine 2 Diet


Want another reason to go vegan, at least part-time? Huffington Post Canada recently interviewed Lance Armstrong, including, among other things, his experience with the Engine 2 Diet, and becoming a part-time vegan (he still eats what he wants for dinner). Coincidentally, Jason recently wrote about Engine 2 over at Cook, Train, Eat, Race.

HUFFINGTON POST CANADA (HPC): Do you have a certain way you approach food?

LANCE ARMSTRONG (LA): I didn’t for a long time until about a month ago until I started messing around with this new diet.

HPC: What changed? 

LA: I started swimming again, and I swim with a guy [ed's note: former triathlete Rip Esselstyn] who started basically a food program called the Engine 2 Diet, which is a plant-based, 100% natural, organic diet. His dad was a famous cardiologist who did Forks Over Knives, and was President Clinton’s doctor. Clinton has gone to a completely vegan diet and he’s essentially erased his heart disease. 

It’s basically whole grains, different types of beans, kale salad with creative alternatives for dressing. They’ll bring out something that looks like a brownie, but it’s not a brownie … though it tastes a bit like a brownie. So I did it for one day, then two days. Then I branched out and started doing it at breakfast and lunch. I still insist that I get to do whatever I want for dinner. But it’s made a significant difference in just in a month. 

HPC: What kind of difference? 

LA: Energy level. Even when you’re training really hard, it’s normal that you would have certain things for lunch or certain things for breakfast, and then have this dip, or almost like a food coma … I don’t experience that anymore. My energy level has never been this consistent, and not just consistent, but high. I’m a big napper -- I couldn’t even take a nap these days if I wanted to. 

The other thing -- I expected to get rid of that dip, but I didn’t expect the mental side of it, and the sharpness and the focus that I’ve noticed. And I was the biggest non-believer, I was like ‘whatever man’, and I’m in. I’m not doing dinners yet, but breakfast and lunch, I’m in. 

HPC: Do you think it’s pretty sustainable? 

LA: If I were to stay in Austin, it’s very sustainable. It’s harder when you get on the road, of course -- I mean, you walk out that door and breakfast is sitting there. None of that [muffins, croissants, etc.] is on the Engine 2 diet. So it gets harder and harder. But you can even travel with stuff. Breakfast is not hard, you bring your cereal and then you go to the store and buy almond milk, you buy bananas to put on top of it. If you plan, then it’s possible.

Pretty good endorsement, don't you think?

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

CLIF Builder’s Protein Bars

I’ve long been a fan of CLIF and have had several opportunities to try out their products. As a busy parent and endurance enthusiast, there are times when it’s just simpler to use one of their products rather than create something from scratch. A favorite place for us to store these kinds of snacks is in the car console – a perfect way to get some peace and quiet when the drive gets a bit too long and also handy after running at the forest preserves.


Our family recently had the opportunity to try the CLIF Builder’s Protein Bars. These are a high-protein bar offering 20 grams of protein and 23 vitamins and minerals for healthy muscle recovery and total body fitness. Since the Builder’s are formulated with adult needs in mind, we gave our children only a third or a quarter of a bar to taste.We’re happy to share with them, because CLIF Builder’s are free of trans fats, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives and ingredients sourced from GMOs. As a near-vegan, I’m glad that there are no ingredients derived from animals in CLIF Builder’s. Be aware that the Builder’s Bars contain organic rolled oats, which do have a natural amount of gluten.


These bars are really filling -- even half is plenty for a snack or post-workout. Very tasty, though the one drawback I found is that they are quite sweet, nearing candy bar taste. On the positive side, these can soothe your sweet tooth in a much healthier way than a candy bar can.

Just 35 percent of Americans understand their protein needs, according to a nationwide phone survey of 1,000 people ages 18 and over conducted recently by CLIF Builder’s and Kelton Research. Key nutrition knowledge about protein lags far behind Americans’ awareness of other basic health and fitness concepts. For example, the survey discovered that more than twice as many Americans understand how often they should work out (76 percent) or their ideal weight range (69 percent). To help people learn about their individual protein needs, CLIF Builder’s has created a guide to protein and nutrition, including an interactive protein calculator, available at CLIFBuilders.com.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog - courtesy of CLIF, via Double-Forte. I did not pay for these items, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

PROFOOT Care 2 oz. Miracle® Insoles



I was recently contacted by PROFOOT to try out an insole that the claim custom molds to your foot and arch, the 2 oz. Miracle®. This insole features a unique 2-layer design to mold exactly to the shape of your feet – this creates comfort from heel to toe. The top layer is made of memory foam that molds like custom orthotics to fit your pair exactly.

Skeptical? So was I -- I’m now a believer. I took the old, worn-out insoles out of my NB890s, which were feeling really tired. So tired that I was planning on retiring them from active duty, which was disappointing, because these shoes are some of the lightest I’ve found that have the cushioning I like. These new insoles make me feel like I have new shoes again. No lie, I’ve run using these 2 oz. Miracle® insoles for at least 40 miles since replacing the originals, and they still feel like the shoes just came out of the box.


Since I have a neutral stride and a normal arch, I can’t claim that these could replace your expensive orthotics (check out Laima’s review over at Women’s Endurance Gear for her take on that). However, I will say this is an inexpensive way (about $9) to give your favorite shoes a longer run and with a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee, why not give them a try?

(Disclaimer: I was sent this item for free to review on my blog, courtesy of PROFOOT Care. I did not pay for the item, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

TerraLUX LightStar 80


Ultrarunning and camping – what do they have in common? Traditionally both are done in the great outdoors and require additional illumination at night, far from streetlights. With my ultra training starting very soon, my goal is to hit the trails on every run, which will mean running in the dark on days I have to get up extra early. Laima and I are also planning our first full family camping trip, so we’ll need illumination around the campsite as well. In my opinion, hands-free is the way to go, whenever possible. Enter the TerraLUX LightStar 80 - 80 lumens and 63.50g of penlight.

TerraLUX claims the LightStar 80 has a claimed run time of 5 hours for this 2 x AAA battery light, which is plenty for a run that starts in the early morning dark, pre-dawn, but wouldn’t last for an overnight run. Spare batteries in a drop bag would take care of that problem. The vibrant orange color of my sample ensures it’s hard to misplace, which is a definite possibility with a near 2 year old dragging it ALL over the place. With my clumsiness and 4 eager children’s hands, this light has been dropped and otherwise abused for nearly 2 months – not a scratch. Quality made!


The BiteGrip is a handy feature and surely makes it more comfortable to dig deep into a stuff sack or drop bag without having to prop the light or have someone hold it for you. The clip allows secure storage in a pocket and also snugs tightly to a hat brim, perfect for running, wearing at the campsite, or working around the house.

I can see us having endless uses for this light, not just during an ultra or while camping, but around the house as well. If you’re looking for a tough light for everyday use or for the outdoors, this is highly recommended!


TerraLUX, Inc. designs, patents, manufactures, and distributes LED-based lighting solutions for portable and general illumination applications. Born from a rich tradition of technology innovation in solid state lighting, TerraLUX builds its expertise into every product and component it makes. Our LED flashlights and work lights are perfect for users demanding: high brightness, small form factor, rugged, durable construction, and high fidelity color rendering (high CRI) LED that makes your work area appear in full color.

(Disclaimer: I was sent this product for free to review on my blog - courtesy of TerraLUX. I did not pay for the item, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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Monday, April 16, 2012

To Race Fast, You Must Train Slow



I have a tendency to jackrabbit from the start of my runs, leading to some fast(er) first miles, but pain and misery later on. On occasion I can keep up the pace for the entire distance, which is very satisfying, but inconsistent. The other main problem is that ALL my runs tend to fall within a narrow range of paces, meaning my hard and easy efforts don’t vary much from each other. This did not bode well for my ultramarathon training. Over the years I’ve read about the concept of running slowly in order to get faster, which sounds so contrary yet intriguing.

From Rich Roll’s upcoming book, Finding Ultra: “…a dreaded no-man’s-land where the effort exerted exceeds that which is required to properly develop the aerobic engine, yet falls short of the intensity necessary to significantly improve speed or increase anaerobic threshold…In actuality, such training undermines true progress. It leaves you tired, with little to no gains in either endurance or speed… And it is by far the most common mistake made by amateur endurance athletes—myself included. (emphasis in original)

That's me in a nutshell.

So, in order to race fast, you have to train slow – not all the time, but easy days should be easy.

What I’ve been working on in this last month before I start my 50K training plan (details of the plan coming next week) is to relax, to ease the pounding on my joints, to feel control of my running. In meditation, this could be likened to mindfulness. In running, it appears as attention to breath, to my posture, and to feeling in control of my gait—not worrying on whether it’s the “proper” gait, but one that works for me.

Another thing I’ve focused on is to pick up my feet rather than push off as I stride. This is something that Ken Bob Saxton suggests and I utilized during my barefoot running foray.  It definitely makes me feel like I’m damaging myself less as I run, and in latter stages of a long run, it gives me energy and allows me to pick up the pace, even when tired.

The other thing I’ve done is to pull out my mountain bike. It’s a single-speed, which I’ve read helps with pedaling form and also makes me more aware of my effort. Heading out on the trails helps with balance and bike handling, as well as being aware of what’s coming up in terms of obstacles. Plus, it’s just a ton of fun.

Two weeks until my training for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K starts. A month ago I would have told you I was nowhere near ready for it. However, this last month has greatly increased my confidence. Barring injury and/or burnout, I think that the plan will get me to the finish line without problem this coming September.

Do you take it easy on your easy days?
What else are you doing to make progress?

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Friday, April 13, 2012

An Inspiration: Mark Stephan

Mark Stephan, a Chicagoan and quadriplegic, is just days away from embarking on the "Stephan Challenge," a 3,129-mile bike ride across the United States to support the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago's (RIC) new Research Hospital slated to open in 2016. The Challenge kicks off on Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 8:30 am from San Diego, California, and will finish in St. Augustine, Florida, in which all proceeds will go toward helping to provide advanced care fueled by scientific research to future patients with spinal cord injuries. The Stephan Challenge will be documented every step on the journey at www.StephanChallenge.com/blog.


MARK’S STORY -- On August 11, 2007, Mark Stephan was bicycling with his friends in the Chicago suburbs, just like he did every Saturday morning. But that morning, something went terribly wrong with Mark’s bike. After riding for several miles, his front wheel unexpectedly disengaged from the bicycle. This malfunction catapulted Mark over his handlebars onto the ground, where his head hit the pavement at full force. His neck snapped.

The horrific accident fractured the C2 and C3 vertebrae of his spinal cord, paralyzing him from the neck down. At age 49, Mark was lucky to be alive. The accident left him a quadriplegic, and doctors were blunt: life in a wheelchair was the best he could expect. Mark refused to accept his grim prognosis. Thanks to the extraordinary therapy he received at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), Mark shattered all expectations by leaving the hospital less than five months after his accident—walking under his own power. After his emotional departure, Mark continued his progress by combining intensive therapy, work with personal trainers and clinical studies at RIC. Pushing beyond what anyone thought possible, his months of grueling training culminated in an unbelievable achievement—climbing 103 floors to the top of the tallest building in North America as a fundraiser for RIC.


"If I can climb one flight of stairs, I can do 103. If I can pedal one rotation on a bike, I can do 3,129 miles." -- Mark Stephan

Truly an inspiration.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Patagonia Long Haulers

I like short shorts (we all like short shorts), especially when it comes to running. As I prepare to start my ultra training in a few weeks, I'm really taking a closer look for shorts that provide ultimate comfort. The Patagonia Long Haulers do just that.

I'll be the first to tell you
that bright colors are in this year!

The Patagonia Men's Long Haulers are 'a throwback to the runner short-shorts of the 80s, the Men's Long Haulers from Patagonia go retro, but feature 21st-century fabric technology. They're made of ultralight 2.3-oz 100% 50-denier polyester (50% recycled) with a built-in, moisture-wicking liner. The elasticized waistband also wicks moisture, and has an internal drawcord and three external loops for attaching gel packs on long runs. Small slits on the sides add extra mobility. A rear center-back envelope pocket has an internal loop for threading a key. With a Deluge® DWR (durable water repellent) finish and Gladiodor® odor control for the garment. Reflective heat-transfer logo on front and back. Inseam (size M) is 4". Recyclable through the Common Threads Recycling Program.'


These shorts feel like I have nothing on (though no one wants to see that), and never feel wet, clingy, or droopy. The short inseam keeps the air flowing and my nether regions comfy and dry feeling. The one drawback to me is the lack of front pockets - while the rear pocket makes sense from a design and functionality standpoint, it would be nice to have some front pockets to tuck away gloves or a headband when a run starts cold and then warms up. Oddly enough, my shorts have neither the external gel pack loops or the internal key loop, but maybe they are an earlier iteration than those described above or perhaps a collector's item that will get my kids through college (I'm thinking the vibrant color might be attractive to collectors as well). Apart from the lack of front pockets, these seem like a great option for ultrarunning (or non-ultrarunning when you get right down to it). Unfortunately, it appears that Patagonia has discontinued the Long Haulers, so you may have to search around if you want to try a pair.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

TIMEX Multisport Team

TIMEX does a lot with multisport, both through their products and also by sponsorships. Check out this video on the TIMEX Multisport Team - droolworthy support.


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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

GU Energy for High Altitude

A couple of months ago, SuperKate guest posted about the wonders of GU Roctane Ultra Endurance Energy Drink. My good fortune was to get a sampler of the same, just in time for our Spring Break trip to Breckenridge.

The first day was rough on some of us (actually all of us, but worse for some) - Gaigai actually threw up at the start of ski school, but soldiered on. Something needed to be done, and that something was hydration. At altitude, hydration is of paramount importance, and, while we adults enjoyed plenty of wine, it just wasn't doing the trick. Enter GU Energy.


Beginning the second morning, we each dropped a tablet of GU Brew Electrolyte Tablets (Pink Grapefruit flavor) into a glass of water and chugged it down. Slightly fizzy with a hint of citrus acid, it was an easy way to get some H2o down to start the day.

Starting hydrated was good, but maintaining it was just as important. For this we turned to Roctane Ultra Endurance Energy Drink. This is a carbohydrate intensive energy drink that contains the critical carbs and electrolyte replenishment that ultra endurance athletes need. What we liked about it was the easy to mix formula - just opened the packet into a water bottle, dropped it in the backpack, and it was ready when we needed it. The whole family liked both the Grape and the Tropical Fruit flavors we tried.


Between the GU Brew Electrolyte Tablets and Roctane Ultra Endurance Energy Drink, we all felt better and had the energy for a full day of skiing, snowboarding, and wandering around the town.

Not sure why, just personal experience probably, but I always think of GU products as something to use while running or biking - this high altitude trip really opened my eyes to their usefulness in a variety of different situations.

(Disclaimer: Outside PR sent me this product for free to review on my blog - courtesy of GU Energy. I did not pay for the item, receive payment, or agree to give it a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Nine and a Half Ways To Keep Running Real

I saw this in Ultrarunning Magazine and then tracked it down over at An Ultrarunner's Blog. Since I'm ramping up my running in preparation for my 50K training that starts April 30th, this seemed very appropriate.


1. Find new routes everyday. I mean everyday. Take them.

2. Cycle your training. Plan your peaks and valleys. From month to month, week to week, and day to day. There’s a time to push, and a time to pull back.

3. Don’t forget your posse. Run with them regularly. Swap stories. Talk about running. Talk about life. They keep you grounded. They remind you why you run.

4. Lay low every once in a while. I’m not talking about for a couple of days. Or even for a couple of weeks. I’m talking about for a couple of months. Find something else to do.

5. Commit. To a goal. To an event. Any event. Preferably one that inspires you. If you can’t, rest easy. It’s not the end of the world. If you can, smile, and enjoy the ride.

6. Tune in. To music. To audio books. To talk radio. Whatever entices you while you run. Stream music (vs download) and listen to anything, anytime, and be surprised.

7. Tune out. Don’t think, just do. Let your mind drift while you run. Like a tumbleweed in a warm desert wind.

8. Wander. Leave home with no particular place to go. No routine. No plan. Just run.

9. Stop regularly on a run. Look around. You will be amazed at the little things that look back at you.

9.5. Always remember this: Running is not a job. It’s not a duty. It’s not an obligation. It is your life, at that moment. Keep it real. Embrace it.

Source: An Ultrarunner’s Blog -- also published in Ultra Running Magazine March 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Town of Breckenridge


Ask, Lindsay, and ye shall receive

During the winter, Breckenridge is all about the skiing, but that doesn't mean there aren't a whole lot of other things to do if (a) you don't ski or (b) you want to do something else. I spent quite a bit of time wandering the streets of Breckenridge and discovered some fun things to do.

First off, if you don't feel like walking, hop on the Free Ride, a shuttle service that will get you to basically anyplace you want to get to in the town of Breckenridge. Driving? Take advantage of free on street or lot parking sprinkled through the town.


First, start your outing with some coffee, baked goods, breakfast or what have you at Amazing Grace, a funky little natural foods place off the main strip but well-worth seeking out. I enjoyed a soy latte and some of a peach scone - only some because Little Worker grabbed most of it for himself. Nice to find a place dedicated to healthier options.

Amazing Grace on Urbanspoon

You could spend days alone just wandering the stores, with everything from Patagonia to North Face to local establishments selling everything from kitschy souvenirs to furniture to the ski condo you are going to want to buy.

One thing I appreciated about Breckenridge is that, while there is a lot of new construction happening, for the most part it blends in with the funky old buildings that still appear throughout the the town - nice mix and the feeling was never jarring, as sometimes happens when new and old meet.

In town, apart from the shops, restaurants, and bars, you can get daily passes to the Breckenridge Rec Center for swimming, working out, indoor rock-climbing or relaxing in the sauna. There are plenty of Historical Tours and Museums, including the Children's Museum, Barney Ford Museum, Edwin Carter Museum and others.


If you don't want to shop, eat, or just hang out in the town, you can snowshoe, Nordic ski, rent a snowmobile, ice skate, enjoy horse-drawn sleigh rides or take a free shuttle to one of the other resort towns to see what they have to offer.

Breckenridge also offers special events throughout the year.

We're planning on making it back one year during summer. Imagine hiking, biking, fishing, golf, skateboarding, kayaking, rock climbing, and rafting as some of the options. Total family fun!

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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Breckenridge Ski and Ride School and Epic Pass

Breckenridge Peak 8 Ski and Ride School

While in Breckenridge, four of us took advantage of ski and snowboard lessons at the Ski + Ride School. Even though Tazer and Gaigai have now been skiing for 2 years, the annual Spring Break trip is the one time of year they're on the slopes (though we hope to remedy that this coming winter). Munchkin is going on his second year and I, of course, am a total novice at snowboarding.

The kids all made good progress, with the two older ones moving up through the levels and mostly skiing on their own for much of the week. Munchkin spent three days and went up on the lift on Thursday! Laima skied with the kids off and on for much of the week and spent Friday morning with Munchkin cruising the greens. (She was a lot happier this year, as she purchased a pair of Surefoot boots, custom-molded to her feet - since she was so happy with them, I'm planning on getting a pair myself next year when I add skiing back into my repertoire. Check out her review over at Women's Endurance Gear).

My snowboarding adventure was much different than I expected. While I imagined myself popping to my feet, carving some simple turns one day and then heading to the 22-foot halfpipe to join Shaun White for some above-the-lip tricks, things turned out quite a bit differently. First off, Shaun boards at Northstar, though he may drop by Breck from time to time. Second, I pretty much sucked. It took me most of the morning just to be able to get to my feet. Once there, however, my surfing and skateboarding background came in handy, as I at least understood the basics of turning and weight distribution. It didn't stop me from meeting the snow face-first many, many times. Third, snowboarding is brutally hard. It takes ab strength that I apparently don't really have to get up, and then the ride is an endless repetition of squats. This is one tough sport. I'm really glad I took lessons, because I cannot even imagine the carnage if I had hopped on  a lift without instruction - thanks for saving me from myself, Barry! At the end of the day though, snowboarding gives the same sort of peaceful flow that surfing and skateboarding do. Even though I plan on going back to skiing next year, I know I'll spend at least one day at snowboard school, just to get that feeling again.

epicMIX measures your vertical for you

To get up and down the mountain, Vail Resorts (of which Breckenridge is one) uses Epic passes in lieu of paper tickets whenever possible - it's a nice environmental nod (less paper), and made it simple to change the days we wanted to use the passes electronically. EpicMix is a program that works in conjunction with your Epic pass, measuring your vertical feet skied or snowboarded, the lifts you used, where you were, and what resorts you visited. In our family's case, we had 5 Epic passes, resulting in a total of 133,315 vertical feet skied/snowboarded, using 144 total lifts. This doesn't include any time spent on the bunny hill, as the measurement only takes place when scanned in the lift line. By adding our kids to our personal dashboards, Laima and I were able to click on their profile to see all their photos, stats and accomplishments. Onslope photographers scan one's RF-enabled season pass, Epic Day lift ticket, or PEAKS card and the photo is taken and automatically delivered to your EpicMix account. Very cool.

(Disclaimer: I was given a 3 day media lift pass for free, courtesy of Vail Resorts. I did not pay for the pass, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Snowboarding at Breckenridge



Last week in Breckenridge, I got to try snowboarding for the first time. What a blast, but what a difficult sport to pick up! I am in complete awe of what even minimally-proficient snowboarders are able to accomplish. I know I'll continue trying to learn, even as I also add back in skiing, which will allow me more time with the rest of the family, who all ski at this point.

For fellow novices, I'll review some of the products I brought along or rented, and hope that some of the info will allow you to choose some basic, less-expensive options when the time comes.


On my head, I wore the Giro Nine 10 helmet and Zeal Detonator Polarized goggles. I bought both on sale at REI.com, which is sometimes a good place to find items at a reasonable price. (Italicized text from store website.)

The Giro Nine 10™ snow helmet delivers an excellent fit and solid protection. Lightweight design with progressive lines and wide-angle cut provides great peripheral vision and a gapless fit with your goggles. 15 vents move cool, fresh air through the helmet while radiating heat and stale air out. Fit system features outrigger arms and an adjustment dial to fine-tune the fit; dial is easily operated, even with gloves on. Giro Nine 10 snow helmet complies with ASTM F 2040 and/or CE EN 1077 alpine ski and snowboard helmet safety standards.

  • This was an incredibly comfortable helmet. If you're a cyclist, you'll recognize and appreciate the one-handed adjustment at the back of the helmet. Full coverage gives a feeling of safety and also keeps the head warm. Even though my goggles were from Zeal and not Giro, they fit well over the helmet and under the visor. The goggle keeper at the back kept the goggles attached when I pulled the entire set-up over my head, nice touch. Even if you don't buy this exact helmet, I highly recommend getting one with as many vents as you can afford and definitely with the adjustment dial!
Zeal Detonator Polarized goggles with the advanced ZB lens keep your eyes shielded from the sun and snow. Lightweight, pliable and strong frames provide all-day comfort during long days on the hill. No Fog lens treatment inhibits fog formation; it's infused into the inner lens material so it will never rub off or smear.Proprietary ZB rose/brown lens tint enhances vision and allows your eyes to easily adjust to changing light; allows 23% visible light transmission (VLT). Zeal Detonator Polarized ski goggles are sized to fit medium-to-large faces, and will accommodate small eyeglasses.

  • The highest compliment I can pay these goggles is that 99% of the time I didn't even realize I had them on. Incredibly comfortable, with just the right amount of tint and polarization for our conditions - we had bluebird skies with neverending sun, perfect for spring skiing. These goggles adjusted to fit over the helmet and fit snuggly against the face - with several serious faceplants to my credit, I can vouch for their fit and fortitude. The goggles never fogged and easily shed layers of snow after my wipeouts. 


I rented gear through Rentskis.com. (While their equipment seemed top-notch, it was also quite a bit more expensive than in-town options, but the convenience to the ski/snowboard school may be worth it to some.) The board I was offered as a novice snowboarder was the Burton Cruzer, which is a beginner board Burton once had as part of their Progression series. I felt it was pretty heavy, so would probably look to something else if I were to purchase my own board. That being said, the solid construction probably allows these boards to last a lot longer under the beating us novice renters give them.

The Cruzer was paired with the Men's Progression boots, which were comfortable and responded well to the little guidance I could offer the board. The equipment guys set me up with a pair one-and-a-half sizes smaller than I normally wear, and I was worried my toes would rebel, but the tighter fit gives more control on the board and was not uncomfortable at all, just strange feeling. Relatively light, comfy, these were boots I could imagine buying for myself.

Can't remember the model of bindings that came with the board, unfortunately, but I hated them. The straps inevitably crossed and tangled and were difficult to use with gloves. I'm guessing they were the Burton Progressive bindings, so I would steer clear of those.

*Slimming feature not included, unfortunately

I wore my Patagonia climbing bib to snowboard, not recommended as it was not really waterproof and my butt soaked through from all the sitting I did. Probably fine for skiing, though. Underneath I wore my Polar Max Heavyweight 4-Way Stretch baselayer: 'Winter sports demand that you move, and your base layer will move with you with our 4WAY Stretch fabrics--92% acclimate dry polyester and 8% spandex. You could call this "comfortable compression"--it doesn't squeeze you into an uncomfortable position. It just provides high performance stretch, comfort, and warmth without the bulk.' (Source: Polarmax.com) We were told that the baselayers had an "athletic" fit, which meant they were more snug and supportive. Absolutely true. This comes from their "Warmer" selections, and it was almost too warm on 60 degree days on the slopes. Better too warm than too cold, of course. The baselayers have an antimicrobial odor preventer and it definitely worked, as the baselayer smelled brand new after a day of my sweat (and that is saying a lot!). Laima also tried out the 4-Way baselayers - check out what she thought over at Women's Endurance Gear.

Our kids also benefited from wearing some Polar Max: the Double Layer from the "Warmer Collection." They kept the kids dry and warm while spending every day on the slopes and, best of all, remarkably stink-free. With growing kids, malodorous hugs can be the norm after high-energy pursuits. No such problem with Polar Max = very happy parents!


Last but not least, the socks. Just as in running, socks can make or break the enjoyment of an outing. I was lucky enough to get some pairs of Under Armour snowboard socks to try out. In my opinion very stylish, with fun and vibrant color combinations. Stretchy yet supportive feel, these socks were comfortable all day. True to their claim, these socks never smelled.

(Disclaimer: I was sent some items for free to review on my blog. Polar Max baselayers  for Laima, myself, and the kids  were provided by Terra Public Relations. Under Armour Socks were provided by GoldToe Moretz via Maguire Public Relations, Inc. I did not pay for these items, receive payment for these reviews, or agree to give positive reviews. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ski and Racquet Club, Breckenridge, CO

Ski and Racquet Club Collage

For Spring Break, the whole family headed for a week of skiing and snowboarding in Breckenridge, CO. We stayed at The Ski and Racquet Club, which is in a great location off Highway 9, just south of the downtown area and within walking distance of the base of Peak 9 and Main Street. The Free Ride Transit System stops in front of the complex, offering free public transportation within the Town limits of Breckenridge. There are hiking and biking trails that are accessible from the complex as well. An indoor pool (not heated unfortunately), hot tub, pingpong table, and outdoor tennis courts round out the amenities.

Views from Building B, Unit P3 Balcony

We stayed in Building B, Unit P3, which has three bedrooms and 2 baths. With 4 double beds and a pullout couch, theoretically you could sleep 10 people here, though it might get crowded, especially bathroom-wise. Onsite laundry made it easy to pack light and have clean clothing on hand. The views are incredible and it was a treat to look at the mountains up close first thing in the morning and then before going to bed.

The Free Ride stop is literally in front of the complex, if you don't feel like taking the short 10 minute stroll down to Main Street (coming back uphill is a different matter). You can also take the shuttle to the base of Peak 8, where the Gondola will whisk you up (also for free) to either Peak 7 or 8, wherever you feel like starting to ski or snowboard that day. With Peak 9 within walking distance, you can also opt to warm up by walking there before starting your day on the slopes.

By staying at The Ski and Racquet Club, you also have access to the other nearby resorts, travelling for free via the shuttle service available:

Ski and Racquet Club Modernization Plan

The complex was built some years back in the ski condo aesthetic of the time and while there is nothing inherently wrong, both the complex and this particular unit are being modernized for contemporary tastes.

(Disclaimer: Accommodations were provided for free, courtesy of of the ownership of Building B, Unit P3. For information regarding the rental of this unit, please visit SummitRentals.com. I did not pay for the accommodations, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the complex's website, the opinions are my own.)

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Monday, April 2, 2012

Back From Breck

Nine days of Spring Break, and we spent them driving to, enjoying, and coming home from Breckenridge, Colorado. 


On the way, we stopped in Lincoln, NE, home of the Cornhuskers. We visited a very cool quarter of town called the Haymarket, an amazing conglomeration of the train station, warehouses, and more restaurants and bars than you could shake a stick at - we even tried Nebraska wines!

5 days in Breckenridge was a perfect tonic to everyday life. I made it up on the mountain every day except Friday (Laima and the kids went everyday). We spent time with relatives, went skiing, snowboarding, swimming in the condo's pool (we stayed at the Ski and Racquet Club), drinking lots of wine, wandered the downtown and even tried sour beers (check out my sister-in-law's blog The Fermentary for that).


Between having our car and the Free Ride shuttle that Breck offers, we had no problems splitting up and getting around, to the mountain and back, or wherever we wanted. I did a lot of walking, and a lot of carrying Little Worker around, which was a great way to spend my downtime (except carrying Little Worker around).

I had planned on running while on vacation, and got in a quick run the first Sunday in Lincoln, but the altitude and snowboarding completely kicked my ass, leaving me mellow and drained of energy. Maybe if we return during the summer... I'll tell you, I had deluded myself into thinking I was halfway into shape, but snowboarding quickly put that to rest - incredibly difficult sport! Next year I'll try again, and add skiing as well, but this "vacation" really showed me how far I have to go to be fit again.

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Running, Skiing, and Endurance Sports - Patagonia.com

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