Saturday, May 31, 2014

Review and Giveaway: ENERGYbits

I honestly don't think I'll ever get tired of talking about run fuel. How can you, with phrases like "runner's trots" to guide the conversation?

I've got my tried and true friends (like Salted Caramel Gu and Mott's Fruit Snacks), but I'm always willing to try something new, especially if I hear rave reviews.

Enter ENERGYbits; the run fuel that Twitter is a-talkin' about!

ENERGYbits are little spirulina pills packed with protein and nutrients, created specifically for providing your body with much-needed energy before and during a run. They're gluten, dairy, soy, and egg free, with zero caffeine or sugar to cause stomach problems at an inopportune moment.

Seriously. 100% algae. You can be one with the fishies.

After contacting my new buddy Jonathan, he sent over a sample of ENERGYbits for me to try on my next run and a sample to give away to an intrigued reader (lucky you!). The sample packs are adorable little baggies of 30 bits, a serving size according to the bits experts.

On Thursday, I was on my way home from teaching my kiddos and feeling absolutely uninspired about getting a workout in. You know the feeling; go home, pants off, sweats on, watch Chicago PD and wish you were Sophia Bush.

I've been struggling a bit since my half marathon on the 18th with getting back into the groove, though, so I knew it was important to postpone that mindset until after a run. To get myself revved up, I opened up the packet of bits on my drive home and gave 'em a try.

The package says to swallow them whole (like my BFF ibuprofen) since not everyone is a huge fan of spirulina mouth. Being super edgy, I decided to chew one anyway. They taste like seaweed.

Also notable: I'm still picking green out of my teeth. I shoulda listened when I had the chance!

Okay, one more thing: the package says to swallow them at the same time. Being super intelligent, I thought this might mean all 30 pills in your mouth at once. I sure hope that's not the case, because I got about 10 in there and had a hard time swallowing them without choking. Yes. I'm that smart.

To be honest, I'm not sure if I noticed a huge surge of small sea-plant-generated energy during my 4 miler that day, but the fact that I changed into running gear once I got home instead of sweats was enough of a surprise that I'm willing to bet the bits have something going on.

Will they replace my beloved Salted Caramel Gu? Probably not; Gu's portability, deliciousness, ease of consumption, and lack of accidentally causing an almost-choke reaction all work in my favor, here. Will I try ENERGYbits again? Oh sure thing! I'm always down for an extra source of nutrients!

Interested in giving them a try? Enter my giveaway below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

ENERGYbits are only available at, and Jonathan (their Community Manager) has shared with me that he'd be happy to connect anyone with a current ambassador to share a discount on a bag of bits, or more info on their sample program - you can email him at

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Running Reflection: May 19th - 25th

Today's a super short entry, as I'm working on a final paper for my graduate class. I'll be more fun when I've turned it in, I promise!

Here's how my week of training went:

  • Monday: 60 minutes of Power Yoga.
  • Tuesday: 3.03 miles / 8:31 pace. First run post-race.
  • Wednesday: Last tech meeting of the year, and then my exercise became packing my car with my belongings for a housesitting adventure.
  • Thursday: I had other important things to attend to. Like a Backstreet Boys concert.

  • Friday: Family dinner night, walked the pug afterward.

  • Saturday: 6.00 miles / 9:01 pace. Was planning on 9, but my body wasn't feelin' it.
  • Sunday: Long walk around the neighborhood with an adorable (and very active) dog.

Total Distance: 9.03 miles
Average Pace: 8:51 per mile

Last Week's Goals:
  1. Yoga twice. (Dang, just got there once this week.)
  2. Try to run on Tuesday. 2-3 miles, nice easy pace. (Rocked it.)
  3. Saturday long run. Last July after my first half marathon, I completely fell off the long run wagon as soon as the half was over. I have another half in June (the Snoqualmie Valley Half Marathon) so I've got to work on not losing distance. (Um, kinda? 6 miles isn't exactly long, but it's longer than my weekday runs.)

Goals for Upcoming Week:
  1. Yoga.
  2. Try to hit 10 miles next Saturday.
  3. Go on a hike!

How long does it take you to recover from races? Do you give yourself a bit of time off, or do you jump right back into your training?

I tend to take at least two days before I can run a short distance, and longer distances take me more recovery time. I also don't push myself too hard; I've given myself too many overuse injuries over this past year to do that again! I'm anxious about my next half in three weeks, but I know my body can do it. It's all a mental game, now. :)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Running Reflection: May 12th - 18th and Snohomish Women's Run Race Reflection

Happy Runniversary to Meeeeee!

As I was driving up to Everett for the Snohomish Women's Run this morning, I realized this weekend last year I ran in my very first race: the Beat the Bridge 8k. What better way to celebrate my one year runniversary than to run a half marathon (my ultimate running goal for July '13) like it ain't no thang?

Despite running in a number of races over the last year (just counted bibs on my race bib "bunting" - nine, to be precise), this was only my second half marathon distance run. Everything else has ranged from 5-12k, and while I still trained for that 12k, the type of training is completely different when you're going for a 2-hour long run every weekend.

Anywhoodles, let's chat a bit about the Snohomish Women's Run.

This year was the inaugural race for both the 10k and the half marathon. Race director Porter Bratten is somewhat of a race god here in Seattle, responsible for the Mustache Dache 5k, the upcoming inaugural Snoqualmie Valley Half Marathon and 10k, and the Snohomish River Run Half Marathon and 10k.

I have to say, everything from pre-race email communication to post-race nutrition was beautifully organized. This race went off without any hitches (well, that I could tell) and I was thrilled to be a part of it.

Perhaps due to the location or the fact that this was the first year, this race was capped at just 500 participants between the two races, and checking the results (which are already online, thanks to Accustat Sports Timing), there were only 435 who actually finished. Of those 435, 155 were half marathon participants, the other 280 ran/walked the 10k. This small number of participants might very well have led to a fantastically-organized race, but I'm down! Especially when I don't feel like I'm swimming upstream throughout 13.1 miles. :)

  • Race bibs had NAMES on them. This has never happened to me before and I feel like it was a momentous occasion. Hearing volunteers cheering your name is probably the greatest feeling I've had since I got to lead the spelling test in first grade while my teacher had to use the bathroom.

  • Well marked course.
  • Beautiful route!
  • On-route hydration/carbohydrates:
    • Water (duh)
    • Ultima? I'd never heard of it before, but it was tasty! I actually felt a little more pep in my step after guzzling a few ounces.
    • Clif Shot Bloks. Definitely not my fave, but nice for people who like chews.
    • Clif Shot Gels.
  • Seriously almost everyone I spotted on the course was smiling. The volunteers (thank you so much!), the participants, random people walking their dogs on the route. It was so fun to run a race where people weren't acting stressed out about making a certain time, and instead were just rocking a nice long run.
  • Post-race nutrition:
    • KIND Bars aplenty
    • Orange wedges
    • Bananas
    • Zico coconut water
    • Some kind of proteiny drink? I assumed it had dairy/soy and veered away.
    • Mini pastries
    • Whole brain bread slices, Nutella, and peanut butter. <-- Whoever came up with this idea is a genius and should plan every race in the history of racedom.
  • Shuttle option for those of us not wanting to pay to park close to the race start/finish.
  • There was only one bus transporting runners (I heard somewhere there were supposed to be two) so the wait-time between shuttles was 30+ minutes. Not a big deal, but mentionable.
  • So my phone is probably the problem here, but it registered (via Nike+) a 13.25 mile course, and that my pace was 7 seconds/mile faster than my official time via Accustat. I know I should probably go with the race organizers on this one... but I sure liked my Nike pace better!
Overall, a super lovely, flat 13.1 miles up in Everett/Snohomish. I'd do it again in a heartbeat!

Oh yeah, and I PR'd (by 39 seconds, according to Mr. Amy-is-slower-than-she-thinks Accustat).

(PS - This was before everyone had finished the race to log their time.)

Here's how my week of training went:

  • Monday: Graduate school, rest day.
  • Tuesday: 3.73 miles / 8:52 pace. 65 minutes of Hatha yoga.
  • Wednesday: 5.83 miles / 8:56 pace. 60 minutes of Power yoga.
  • Thursday: Taper tantrum.
  • Friday: Taper tantrum.
  • Saturday: Taper tantrum.
  • Sunday: Snohomish Women's Half Marathon! 13.25 miles / 8:50 pace.

Total Distance: 22.82 miles
Average Pace: 8:52 per mile

Last Week's Goals:
  1. Taper, Amy. Taper. 2-3 runs of 3-5 miles this week before Sunday's half marathon. (Rocked it.)
  2. YOGA YOGA YOGA. Tuesday and Thursday. (Yep!)
  3. Keep focusing on my new calorie parameters and try to stay within reason on Saturday (ie: work on the "food is fuel" to "food makes me gain weight" ratio a bit).

Goals for Upcoming Week:
  1. Yoga twice.
  2. Try to run on Tuesday. 2-3 miles, nice easy pace.
  3. Saturday long run. Last July after my first half marathon, I completely fell off the long run wagon as soon as the half was over. I have another half in June (the Snoqualmie Valley Half Marathon) so I've got to work on not losing distance.

What do you do when your personal mileage tracker (Garmin, phone, etc.) posts a different time and/or pace from the official race? Which pace and time do you count?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Running Reflection: May 5th - 11th

I've mentioned a few times that running - while magical on its own - is part of a weight-loss and maintenance routine for me. Since my big year of changing my diet back in college (and losing 30 pounds), my weight has remained fairly consistent within a 4 pound range. This has been the case for over four years.

In late January of this year, something freaky happened:

Where 138-142 had become a bit of a comfort zone, suddenly I found myself up at 147 pounds without much understanding as to why that happened. Yes, I know that 5 pounds out of my range is no big deal, but for someone who has battled being overweight from the age of 9 on... well, it was making me nervous. What if I couldn't stop the trend? What if it kept going up, up, up? Why wasn't my running helping me lose weight anymore?

I started meeting with my dietitian in April, and we set up a few goals:
  • Start taking some new kind of class to switch up my workout routine.
  • Add protein/fat to my morning meals.
  • Reduce dinner calories.

Calorie counting is missing here for a reason: I counted all of my calories from 2007 until 2013. I wore a BodyMedia FIT armband for several years. Counting calories and knowing my exact caloric burn had become a habit, even a crutch for me. Back in September (a few months before the weight gain started) I finally felt mentally and emotionally ready to stop using data to tell me whether or not I was hungry and start listening to my body.

I was proud of this transition and didn't want to give that up without a fight.

I tried my dietitian's goals for two weeks. I started adding a chicken sausage to my breakfast, some nut butter to a snack. I had protein smoothies for dinner. I reduced my intake of dairy-free ice cream (sob!).

When I weighed in two weeks later, my weight was exactly the same: 147.2

My dietitian and I chatted a bit, and decided to lay out some new - tougher - goals to see if that would help promote a change in the right direction:
  • 1500 calories/day (yes, back to calorie counting)
  • Add weight-bearing exercise (hiking with extra weight, most likely - goodbye gym membership)
  • Add speed work to my running repertoire

I've been doing super well with my dietary goals and it has paid off in the last few weigh-ins:

As far as speed work, that's going to take some encouragement. Right after my meeting with Ms. Dietitian, though, I ended up running my fastest 1k and 5k via Nike+, so I've decided that'll count for now. :)

Here's my issue: running on a calorie deficit is hard. My 10 mile run this weekend was totally brutal, and I'm 90% sure it was because of depleted glycogen stores. I ended up stopping twice because I needed to give myself a mental pep talk, something that has maybe happened once since I started running.

Has this happened to any of you? Any advice for prepping (without overdoing it) for my half marathon on Sunday?

Here's how my week of training went:

  • Monday: Graduate school, rest day.
  • Tuesday: 3.67 miles / 8:10 pace.
  • Wednesday: 4.06 miles / 8:39 pace. Got a run in before an evening parents' night at my district headquarters. I was a sweaty mess (oops) but it was worth it.
  • Thursday: ... so instead of running in the rain, I got a pedicure and went out to dinner.
  • Friday: 3.17 miles / 8:33 pace. Ran a quick 5k before volunteering at Everyday Athlete's packet pick-up for the Kirkland Mother's Day 5k and Half Marathon.
  • Saturday: 10.0 miles / 8:51 pace. First run since cutting calories and it was rough. I've got to work on a better pre-run plan for next weekend's half marathon!
  • Sunday: Family Mother's Day hike: 6.7 miles of steady switchbacks to Twin Falls.

Total Distance: 20.92 miles
Average Pace: 8:39 per mile (yahoo!)

Last Week's Goals:
  1. Run three times. Ferreal. (Four. BAM.)
  2. YOGA YOGA YOGA. (Due to my enthusiasm for adding an extra run this week, I seem to have failed this goal.)
  3. Try for two runs on Saturday: the Ruff Run 5k in the morning, and add another 7 miles in the afternoon. It's taper time, in preparation for the May 18th Snohomish Women's half marathon! (Ruff Run 5k was cancelled last week due to low enrollment, so I got all 10 miles in at once.)

Goals for Upcoming Week:
  1. Taper, Amy. Taper. 2-3 runs of 3-5 miles this week before Sunday's half marathon.
  2. YOGA YOGA YOGA. Tuesday and Thursday.
  3. Keep focusing on my new calorie parameters and try to stay within reason on Saturday (ie: work on the "food is fuel" to "food makes me gain weight" ratio a bit).

Help me out: if you're running on a calorie deficit, how do you balance weight loss with performance?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Running Reflection: April 28th - May 4th

With the weather getting warmer (well, for some of us) and the increasing opportunities for us to take our runs outside, I wanted to chat a bit about running safety.

My guess is most of you already know about RoadID, the awesome customizable identification bracelets that first responders (or other good samaritans) can use to identify unconscious/injured runners, hikers, and other athletes who are unable to identify themselves due to the extent of their injuries.

I know it seems gloomy to think about, but having my bracelet on gives me peace of mind that no matter what happens, if I'm hurt (or worse) while out on a jog or a hike, my family will be alerted. I opted for the RoadID with the online component, so my bracelet has basic info (full name, year of birth) with a link and a serial number that would take someone who found me to a website with ways to contact my family, doctor, and other important information (my ventricular septal defect, allergies, blood type, etc). I'm thankful that I've never needed to use this bracelet, but I also know how important it is to wear it daily.

(PS - If anyone needs a RoadID bracelet or gear, use this code for 15% off! "RunChat14")

A lesser-known component of RoadID is their online app (currently only available on iPhones). When you open it up on your phone, you're prompted to select a few things:

  • Time: Select how long you intend to be out running/hiking/etc.
  • Message: This is the message that gets sent to the selected contact(s).
  • Notify these people: Chosen from your contact list, these people receive the text message from RoadID that you choose to send, along with the time you'll be gone and (if you choose this option), a link to track you on your run.
  • eCrumb tracking: Turning this on would send the link to your contacts of your trip, so they can follow you in real time.
  • Stationary Alert: If you end up stopping for 5 minutes, the App begins an audible 60-second countdown. If you don't cancel the countdown, an alert message is sent to your contact(s).
Here's an example of the screen set up for my run yesterday:

I was trying out a new route on a semi-busy road where I couldn't quite remember if it had much of a shoulder. Ever my father's daughter, I figured safety first was the best option here (well, besides the idea of opting out of the route altogether) and sent my dad a message so he'd be able to track me.

Some of you might've spotted my twitter post about this run yesterday. I am so so so glad that I had my dad set up to track me. Not because I needed it, but because there were a few miles there where I thought I might.

The road I wasn't so sure about (the Issaquah-Renton Highway) had a terrible shoulder, where the white line actually faded on big chunks of it. Mix that with running uphill against downhill traffic and big swooping turns, and I was worried for my own safety. 

After about two miles on that road, I turned onto the West Access Trail that would take me a bit further up Squak Mountain. With the danger of the cars behind me, I started to remember (thanks to a staff room conversation with someone who lives on Squak) that there are lots of bears on that lovely mountain. And it's Spring, right? So aren't bears coming out of hibernation and ready to protect their new cubs by killing neon-covered runners?

Luckily, my students and I just finished our survival unit in April, so I was READY. Check out this kid-friendly (but still kind of scary) video on what to do when confronted with a bear or cougar (the two most common animals to attack in the Pacific Northwest... except maybe moose).

So picture this, if you will, a blonde braided runner, probably more nervous than she was willing to admit at the time, clapping out a rhythm with each pace. I looked like an idiot. A not-attacked-by-bears idiot.

After a mile and a half of uphill trails, I eventually made it out to civilization and completed the rest of my run with a killer stomach cramp (the kind that makes you stop so you can just PUSH hard on it and try to make it go away. PS - this doesn't work), a pretty intense downpour for a mile or so, and a gnarly rain-plus-sock-induced blister.

About a mile from home, I spotted this text from my dad:

So while it might feel a little like overkill (especially because I didn't end up getting hit by a car or mauled by a hangry bear mama), I'm definitely one for promoting safety using whatever you've got at your disposal.

Check out the app friends! It's free!

Oh yeah, and here's how my week of training went:

  • Monday: Graduate school, rest day.
  • Tuesday: 65 minutes of Hatha yoga.
  • Wednesday: 5.10 miles / 8:54 pace. Group run sponsored by Mizuno.
  • Thursday: Meeting and painting class after school. So... I didn't work out, but I DID paint this:
  • Friday: 2 mile walk after dinner. Yes, I know it was a lazy week.
  • Saturday: 12.01 miles / 9:46 pace. This was the aforementioned killer run of doom.
  • Sunday: 65 minutes of Hatha yoga. I actually wanted to get a short run in today to bring my mileage up to 20, but this blister on my foot is KILLING me. I'm going to give it until Tuesday.

Total Distance: 17.11 miles
Average Pace: 9:30 per mile

Last Week's Goals:
  1. Run three times. (Shoot, missed this one!)
  3. Track calories religiously this week (contrary to dietitian's suggestions). I've got to get past this gain/maintain hump and start losing, again. (So I tracked, but haven't lost. At least I'm good at maintaining?)

Goals for Upcoming Week:
  1. Run three times. Ferreal.
  3. Try for two runs on Saturday: the Ruff Run 5k in the morning, and add another 7 miles in the afternoon. It's taper time, in preparation for the May 18th Snohomish Women's half marathon!

What are some of your tried-and-true safety tips for runners?