Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Going into my 6th full marathon, I had heard that phrase, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” It was in reference to a section of the course I was about to be running.  I’ll tell you a little bit more about how it earned that name, but first let me back up a minute.

If you have followed my story for any length of time, it may not be news to you that I am a born and raised Southern California (read: sea-level) gal.  I have never lived anywhere else, and up until last weekend the furthest I had ever traveled for a race was Las Vegas and San Francisco.

On Friday, the day before Revel Big Cottonwood, I flew into Salt Lake City, Utah, met up with Kim and our first order of business was food – more specifically, carbs!  Annnnd I am now super excited for Thanksgiving..

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We went to the expo after that to grab my bib, and I got to finally meet @jessrunsblessed and @carlostherunner – These two kicked some major half marathon ass the next day both running a new PR!

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Little did I know then, posing with that 26.2 sign, what the next day would bring!

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Race gear was laid out, there was nothing left to do but hop in bed and wait for that 3:15am alarm!  Haha.

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The next morning we took the shuttle bus to where the race started, around 10k feet up, and waited in the dark for it to begin.  Prior to the race starting, I felt a tad off but chalked it up to race nerves.  Looking back now, I realize it was the beginning of the end of that race for me.

Once the race was underway, I noticed that in my first mile I could not breathe out of my nose at all.  I was mouth-breathing, which was already making me work harder than I should have been.  By Mile 4, I could tell things were going to be tough for me that day, something wasn’t right.  But look at the gorgeous views behind me!

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By Mile 9, I was actually wondering if I would make it to the 13.1 mark.  At that point, I downshifted, threw my legs into cruise control, and started littering my goals out the window.  I kept telling myself, if I could just get to Mile 18, I could talk myself through the rest.  I ran through the 13.1 mark at around 1:41, then as I rounded the corner around Mile 18, the sun was out and it was HOT!

This picture was taken somewhere around that time.  You could see my lips were blue, (not from being cold) but because my body was slowly shutting down.  Over the course of the next couple miles, I would crumble into my first DNF.

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Around Mile 18 is what I referred to earlier as the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” Miles 18 to around 22 of this course are a brutal out and back section of the race.  There is no shade coverage and there is a slight shift in elevation gain, forcing your legs to switch to different muscle usage.  Runners were going down left and right with muscle cramps.  This is the “boulevard” of the race where many people are on track to PR or BQ — and they just completely fall apart alongside their broken dreams.

When I hit Mile 20, I started walking, and my vision went from seeing a few black spots to being very blurry.  I stopped several times to try to regain visibility, and then I noticed I was experiencing some nausea and a rapidly approaching headache.  I honestly thought I was getting a migraine somehow.  After several stops between Miles 20-22.5 (because I was staggering), I heard a guy asking me if I was okay.  I know I told him I felt really sick and he said my lips were really blue, and he wanted to get me a medic.  He said he was a run coach from Austin, and that he was going to stay right with me. Another guy stopped with us and told me I was dehydrated; I told him I wasn’t but he insisted I drink some of this electrolyte drink he was giving me.  I told him I didn’t think I could keep it down my stomach hurt really bad.  I took a few sips as the medics were approaching and I just started violently throwing up everywhere.  It wouldn’t stop. The two guys were holding my arms up because I started to pass out, and I could hear one of the paramedics saying, “She’s still going!”  Yes, I, too, was surprised at the amount of vomit!  UGH.

Needless to say, my race ended there that day – Mile 22.5 on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams.  They got me fixed up, feeling better and transferred back to the finish line med tent.  I shed a few tears as I watched runners crossing the finish line, but I knew I gave it everything I had.  I was in the ring against Altitude sickness that day and it gave me the total knock out.  It was physically impossible for me to even walk the last 4 miles to the finish, believe me, I tried.  I couldn’t believe after training and travelling to Utah, I would go home with my first DNF.

I ran into Kevin at the finish line, an IG friend, and had to answer my first, “How was your race?” question – Ha! I was fresh out of the med tent at that point and still trying to wrap my head around what happened!

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These two, @whydoirun and @Aaronrunner54 brought some much-needed laughs after my rough morning.

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I know not every race goes to plan, UM, hello!!  I am living proof of that ya’ll, and I know I am not alone.  I am also proof that you can follow a 16-week training program, early mornings, running tired, balancing kids, sports, work, and somehow always finding a way to squeeze it in so that you can stand at that start line and ROLL THE DICE!  That’s right.  No matter how much, or how little we train, race day will always be a gamble.  As one of my friends told me before when he was sick after a full Ironman,  “You gotta pay to play,” and I’ll be damned if he isn’t right.

I finished up my trip hanging with my Utah pals, we went to dinner that night and laughed so hard about some pretty stupid things – it was perfect!

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Utah was easy on the eyes, but tough on the heart.  So happy to spend a weekend with Kim @kkapinos I just love this girl!!

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You guys know that saying, “As one door closes another door opens” – So.Much.Yes.  As the door closed on me in Utah, I flew home to Boston opening their door for me.  I registered for Boston on Wednesday, just 4 days after my first DNF and yesterday I got my acceptance email into my first Boston Marathon!

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Moral of this story?  KEEP KNOCKING!  A few closed doors or a DNF does not defy or define you.  If there is one thing I have learned these last couple years, in training and otherwise, is to keep showing up, keep pushing.  Relentless.Forward.Motion.  When one door closes, another door will open….remember that.

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Who turned up the heat?

Summer training definitely has it’s challenges, and I seem to always pick marathons where the training cycle blazes right through those sizzling, Summer months!

One of my biggest things to executing long Summer runs is starting early. It doesn’t necessarily mean beating the heat & humidity but it helps to not be running with sun directly overhead.

Here are a few things that may seem like common sense, but help me survive a Summer running “Sesh.” (ie: Simplicity/ Essentials / Safety / Hydration).

SIMPLICITY: It’s hot, make this as easy on yourself as possible. I get asked a lot what I carry, hold and use on the run. As the temps rise and the mileage lengthens, you probably know what I mean when I say that at a certain point into your long run everything and anything can start to piss you off! Hydration packs, running belts, hand held bottles/items, headphones, breathing air…you name it, it all irks you on certain days! I can’t run with any kind of hydration pack – feels like running while giving a toddler a piggy back!

I live in the back end of a cul de sac and use that to my advantage instead! I set stuff on my driveway like a water/fuel station so I can loop back through depending on when I’ll need something, or want to drop something off like excess clothing or gear. It’s nice to just be able to run through and grab/drop off what I need and not have to stop. Then you don’t have to carry a bunch of extra stuff! Basically, by the end of a long run my driveway looks like a garage sale!

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ESSENTIALS: These are my Summer running must haves:

Sunscreen

Hat

Sunglasses

Flip belt (holds my phone, key, nutrition)

Gatorade Endurance (my carb/electrolytes preference)

Simple Hydration Bottle (the one bottle that doesn’t bother me to run with).

TIP: I freeze my gels in the Summer! That way by the time you are half way through a marathon or long run you aren’t taking in over heated tasting gels!

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SAFETY: This needs to be a priority, if I am starting a run that is so early it’s still dark, I follow these guidelines:

1. Run with a group or friend

2. Run in areas that are well lit (I have circled large shopping center parking lots with lights on until day breaks.

3. Start your miles on a treadmill, then hit the road to finish once the sun is up.

4. NO MUSIC! Now, as a runner who runs with music I can say that when I run in the earlier hours I refrain from it. You need to be extra cautious of your surroundings and able to hear anything concerning.

5. Watch for snakes, coyotes and other animals and humans – I typically carry some type of weapon on my runs, it differs depending on the terrain/area I will be in.

HYDRATE: You have to stay on top of hydration during these extra sweaty months to avoid headaches and dehydration. I’m someone who hydrates quite a bit throughout the day, so I don’t typically need to take in much on the run, unless it’s extremely high temps or 10 or more miles. You should be drinking about half your body weight in ounces of water each day. (For example, if you weigh 200 lbs, aim for around 100 ounces of water a day).

Make sure that if you are racing in the Summer, you are practicing your race nutrition on your training runs. Summer running is far more cruel and heat can cause excess cramping and nausea that you otherwise may not experience in Fall or Winter months. You want what you are taking in to help, not make matters worse.

If you train smart, you can come out of Summer running so strong. Pushing through the heated months is typically what sculpts the next few months of racing PRs once the temps drop.

Most importantly listen to your body! Be smart, if it’s too hot or you just aren’t feeling right, call it and try again another day. No harm in taking care of yourself.

Hydrate and hang tight my friends, it’s gonna be a hot one!

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Promo Codes

 I wanted to make a quick blog post to share promo codes I have as well as just a few of my go-to training and racing essentials that I get questions on.

  Handful Active Wear Promo: Melissa = 12.5% off

These are the sports bras that I run in and adore!  “Flatter not flatten,” as they say!  They are so comfortable, and the straps are interchangeable, depending on the type of top you’re wearing.  Their mission is to inspire and celebrate women everywhere.  These are supportive and super comfortable. not only for running, (I have run up to 26.2 in these bras with zero chafing, BTW), but also just for lounging or everyday wear.

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Miles & Pace

Promo: Fitwithliss20 = 20% off

This is a San Diego-based company that my sister stumbled on a couple years ago, when she was shopping and feeding our Trucker Hat obsession.  If you have followed me long via social media, you have likely seen me pictured in their hats – as I have about every color they offer!  They also have other cute apparel as well.

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Promo: Fitwithliss = 15% off

This is a Los Angeles, CA-based company that I connected with a couple years ago and have been running with their wireless, Bluetooth headphones ever since!

I have and LOVE all of them:  BTS Sport, BTS Pro, Revolution (this one is great from traveling on a plane, or lifting in the gym when you might need noise cancellation).  And most recently, they added their PRO Voice (pictured below), which has Alexa features.  These headphones have the best battery life of anything I have tried.  I also have never sweated through a pair of these, or had them short out!

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These next things, I don’t have promo codes for, but I get asked on my preference for them, so I still wanted to share!

Knockaround are the sunglasses I love for running because they are lightweight, inexpensive and come in tons of colors (you can even customize).  They are great for kids as well, they even have a specific kids line.  My boys love them!

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Gatorade Endurance

  Fuel of choice!  Last year, at the beginning of my Marathon training cycle, I was having trouble keeping things down during some of my longer/tougher workouts.  Gross, I know.  Figuring out what sources of nutrition work for you on the run is a game changer.  One of their Athletes, Oliver – @trilife365 is a friend of mine, and gave me some samples that hooked me.  You may remember this pic from my most recent 26.2 recap – these are my go-to products of theirs! And Candy Corn is a pre-race night ritual (not a joke)…Hahaha!  These things fueled a 23-minute PR and my first BQ in November!

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Garmin

  The watch I wear and love for racing and training is my Forerunner 235

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I can track running, cycling and (indoor) for both of those sports as well with this watch,  and this one has built in HRM on the wrist, which I like so I don’t have to wear a chest strap.  I also had the VivoActive, which can also track all of that as well as pool/lap swimming (not open water swim because you have to input the meters) and has golf gps features.

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Annnnnnnnd we all know my sock problem is about as bad as my trucker hat problem!  Procompression always has a sock of the month and typically offers promo codes for them, so I can fill you in on those through the month if you reach out to me.

Compression socks are so helpful in warding off muscle soreness and fatigue.  The increase in blood flow to any broken down soft tissue can repair itself quicker when you have the right amount of pressure in the right places.  I wear them not only for training and racing, but after tough workouts and races as well to help speed up recovery.  Not only that but they are so fun and colorful, it gets addicting coordinating them to your run outfits.

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Asics

My running shoe of choice!  I have run in Asics since High School, and let me tell you, once you find something you can log a lot of miles in without injury or issues, STICK WITH IT!  I have been so fortunate to have such good luck with this brand that I stay loyal to them.  I run in many different models, and depending on the model, tend to keep the mileage on them between 300-400 miles.

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What things are your “must haves” for training and racing?  I love hearing what everyone else uses, because I feel like the opinions of everyone I chat with across social media have so much more validity than just reading random product reviews.

  Run Happy, my friends!

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Carlsbad 5000 (and Junior)

This year one of my favorite racing events, the Carlsbad 5000 fell on my oldest son’s birthday weekend.  This was perfect, since he had been asking me for a while to do a race and get his own medal.  An ideal opportunity for a Mommy/Son race weekend!

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Let me back up here just a touch, and share something that happened in the week leading up to this, which confirmed how much a child can look up to and want to mirror their parents.

Owen had asked to go for a run one evening, so I put Liam in the jogging stroller getting ready.  From out in the garage, I could hear what sounded like a tantrum happening.  Owen was upset about something inside the house.  When I came in, he was mad over not being able to find one of his hats.  He could only find one of Liam’s, which was too small for him, and when I told him that he got angry and started crying.  This started to frustrate me, because I felt he was overreacting a bit over it, and he continued to carry on while I helped him look for one.  We finally found one, and I was irritated as we started down the driveway.  I told him it’s not okay to behave like that, and that he needs to ask for help before getting so worked up.  As we walked down the street, he wiped a tear off his face and looked up at me, and in quiet little voice said, “I just wanted to wear my hat for my run like you always do, Mom.”

Cue a sea of tears.  Who was the big baby now?!  That was like a little poke to the heart.  I hugged him tight, and right then, I knew how special of a weekend this would be for us.

I read somewhere once “Children are great imitators so give them something great to imitate.”  It had me thinking in that moment, as our feet hit the pavement side by side, that him seeing my passion for running may eventually spill over to him.  I know he may never love it in the way that I do, but maybe he’ll find the same enthusiasm in a sport someday, and apply that never give up attitude.  That’s my wish for him.

His birthday was the day before the race on Friday, so I picked him up after school and we headed down to his first race expo.

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They had a balloon artist there doing free balloon animals for any kids running the race, which was cute.

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We were in and out pretty quickly, as we wanted to get out for his birthday dinner.  I mean, we needed to do some serious carb-loading; he needed the FULL race experience.

And of course there had to be dessert!

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And no, he did not eat that whole thing.  In fact, he and Liam and I all shared that, and the 3 of us couldn’t get it done – our worst relay effort yet.

After that, it was off to bed.  The kids and I were exhausted.  Owen had been fighting a cough the whole week prior, and Liam was in the process of coming down with it.  All three of us were actually in bed by 7:45pm, but not before getting Owen’s flat runner ready for the morning.

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The Junior races go in age waves, just like the adult races of the Carlsbad 5000 do, so in the morning we weren’t rushed as Owen’s wave didn’t run until 9:20am.  They slept till 7:15am, which is later than I have ever gotten to sleep in on a race morning.

He was so excited when we arrived – jumping around and dancing everywhere.

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Being that he just turned 6 years old, that put him in the 1/2 mile distance (7 years and up run 1 mile), and the younger ages do 1/4 mile, or there is even a Diaper Dash/Crawl – so it really is a fun event for the WHOLE family.

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I was soaking in the energy from all the kids, so much laughter and excitement – it was infectious!

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I was telling a friend of mine I bumped into how one of the greatest things about this experience for the kids is that they are getting pumped about running, and getting to see it as fun and rewarding.  I think that is important because as the kids get older and into higher grades in school and start sports, running is used as PUNISHMENT.  And as a result, I actually hated running as a kid.

Parents are allowed to run with their kids for this race, they just ask that you start back behind them.  Just as they were getting ready to start Owen kept looking back for me.

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He took off when the race started and before we reached the 1/4 mile mark, I saw him looking back for me while he was running.  He slowed and I caught up, he grabbed my hand and held it while we ran the next 1/4 mile – he never stopped running. SO stinkin’ cute!  He had fun, but his breathing was labored because of the cough he was fighting.  He was so proud at the finish line, though!

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After his race, this kid refueled like he just ran 26.2…no idea where he gets that appetite from… Hahaha.

We cruised through the expo to pick up my race bib for the next morning before getting back for his baseball game.  Found our favorite fueling waffles while doing that.  This is the best Honeystinger waffle flavor, BTW.  Easy on the tummy and also delicious on your ice cream. (Ugh, I know, I know).

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So berry cute, this kid!

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We found this cool mural on our way back to the car, not sure why that dirty towel was laying there, but we wanted a picture, and that wasn’t going to stop us!

 

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Next up, was my race on Sunday morning, and my wave was running at 9:10 am.

Ready, set, sleep……or not.

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Between that night and the race the next morning, Liam had woken up at 11pm very sick and gasping for air.  He ended up being in the ER until 4:30am because they treated him and needed to keep him for observation.  Exhausted was an understatement, when I made the decision at 6:15am to just go and get this done.

I jogged an easy 2 mile warm up when I arrived and jumped in at the start line.  I had that delirious, tired feeling.

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When the race started we took off fast –  in true “Worlds Fastest 5k” fashion.  Although they claim that, there are a couple small rollers throughout the 3 miles.  About a 1/4 of a mile in, I looked down and Garmin was clocking me at a 5:43 pace.  Just a tad aggressive for me.  My first mile was a 6:23, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to hang with that.  My body gave up.  I was exhausted though.  I had to cut myself some Mom-slack for this one.  I ended up finishing about 37 seconds slower than last year.

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One of the best parts of this event is watching the Elite Races, they have a female and a male wave and you can watch them start right from the beer garden – perfect!

I found several friends in there and got pictures with a couple of them.

Sandy – @run_love_smile This one is always so cheerful when I bump into her at races.

 

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James and I ran in high school together, and he and his beautiful wife (whom also went to school with us) had 3 of their 4 kiddos running the Junior races as well.  You can follow along on his journey on his blog: http://lovethehurt.blogspot.com/

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Brett @run_for_beer is a fellow Procompression Ambassador — Sock twinning!

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And Javier @runningjavi – I bumped into and met for the first time.  I have connected with some great people through IG.

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Races are so much fun these days, because the running community has really grown and been thriving over the last few years.  It’s become such a positive and uplifting population of athletes – makes it so easy to get reeled into that run life.

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Medals

If you have never run this race before, I absolutely recommend it, and if you have kids – get them in on it, too.  If mine want to do it next year, I am going to sign them up, even little Liam this time.  Owen’s race was the highlight of this race weekend, and it made for the very best Medal Monday!

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Run happy, my friends!

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Encinitas Half Marathon

At the beginning of March I ran the Encinitas Half Marathon.  This was a new course for me as I did not run the inaugural last year, but had heard great things about it!

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The race starts at Moonlight State Beach parking lot (where the expo is held) and the course offers 7+ miles of ocean views! It has a few rolling hills throughout with an elevation gain of about 300 ft.

I went to the expo the day before to grab my race bib and it was sprinkling when I got out of my car.  I grabbed my stuff and hurried back after snapping this picture.  It started pouring as soon as I closed my car door!

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I really had no idea what to expect in the morning, weather or course wise since I had never run this race before!  Sure you can always read the course description, but there are typically still little surprises on course they leave out!

Laying out a flat runner the night before is the best way for me to get myself dressed on race mornings before coffee, when I am operating like a 4-year-old.  Dumb it down for me, baby!

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The morning of the race I arrived early because races in the beach cities in San Diego County can be rough to find parking.

It was a beautiful morning and a tad on the chilly side, which is always my preference!

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I did a mile warm up taking in some of the scenery, and basically trying everything to stay on flat ground.  The start line area is hugged by rolling hills.

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I bumped into some local girls at the start while we were standing around shaking out our jitters!

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When the race started the sun had come out and I wondered how that would play out. My favorite thing to do on race morning is stress myself out about the weather.  If you are a So Cal runner, you know the struggle of how hot our finish lines can be (year round) while other states are shoveling snow.

Once the race was underway I knew when mile 1 beeped on my Garmin this race was going to be a struggle.  How?  Because my mile 1 clocked at 7:24 when my miles usually start around 7:10 for Half Marathons.  I could just feel it — not going to be my day!  When you run enough races you just KNOW.

Thankfully I had the views of a new (to me) scenic course to take in as distraction!

Going into mile 8 things went from bad to REAL ugly when I threw up on my own arm.  I had a guy run past me that was sweating worse than anyone I had seen on course, he was in a cotton t-shirt and the body odor was just FIERCE!  I have worked in gyms, taught Spin and Boot-camp, and run many races and NEVER experienced anything like this.  I slowed up to try to create some distance between us and as he went by me his sweat started flinging all over me, and combined with the smell it just gut punched me and I just turned my head and puked.

I’m nauseous again just typing that.  After that I just couldn’t get my life together out there, my stomach was hurting bad.

By Mile 10 my eyes were filling with tears and I was literally thinking – “Omg girl, you are not even going to finish this race.”  In all my years of running and racing I have never not finished a race.  I wanted to walk so bad, but I am so stubborn, I just slowed up a ton and eased my way in the last 3 miles.  Coming into the finish line I was disappointed in myself.  That was my 31st Half Marathon and my one a month before it was not good either.  I hate that I get so hard on myself when I know how far I have come, but I know you honestly can’t run that many races and expect them ALL to be good.

I finished, and I am healthy and for that I am happy and thankful!  Also, my shorts looked a couple of sizes bigger than when I started the race.

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This event had some great sponsors, and in addition to your medal at the finish they gave out some hot chocolate and this cute souvenir mug with a blueberry muffin!

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Boxed Water was another one of the sponsors so we got one of these at the finish as well!

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We almost had too much to carry coming out of the finish chute! Haha!

Encinitas is a swanky, upscale part of San Diego County and that was apparent in the presentation of the race as it is a very health oriented city.  Lots of holistic, natural, healthy products and environmental petitions happening throughout the event.  Our race goodie bags were even a hemp style bag, very cute!  To be honest, I was almost expecting it to rain granola at the finish line!  A very well put on and organized race for sure.

I was happy to run into a few more friends at the finish.  Running has brought so many amazing people into my life!  I love how many friends I bump into and new people I connect with at races now.

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The Medals for this race were awesome — they did a great job on them!

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They did have a beer garden (and gave a free beer ticket on your bib) but that was not right on sight of the finish, which is probably the one thing I heard people complaining about.  It was only a couple blocks away, but still – it is nice to have it right at the finish line.

It was set up as a Bazaar style area, so you could shop and drink if you wanted.

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The shirts for this race were actually pretty cute as well.  I never usually wear them but I wore this one for my run the morning after the race.  Love how it matches the medal so well.

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This is definitely a race worth checking out!  I will run this again next year for sure — I want course redemption!  I love repeating courses I have already run, because you know what to expect and when (like the hills) and be better prepared for it!

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Love to hear what you thought of the race if you ran it as well!

Run happy my friends!

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Surf City Half

This Super Bowl Sunday I ran the Surf City Half Marathon in Huntington Beach again – it’s a Southern California favorite of mine!  It happens every year on Super Bowl morning, and they offer a 13.1 and 26.2 course.  This year for the first time they even added a 5k.  The full marathon is also a Boston qualifier, if you are looking for one of those.

The half course is flat and fast (usually, hahaha), if you have ever run the Surf City 10 which is a 5-mile out and 5-mile back course, it is that same course, with an added 3-ish mile loop to make up the half-distance.  I recommend the Surf City 10 as well, I run that one every October — I love out and back courses.

I didn’t get to go to the expo this year, as it just didn’t work out, but thankfully, my sister was able to go and grab my bib when she went to pick up hers.

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The expo is always set up right next to the beach where the race starts, so you can sample a little taste of your course views.

Since this race was also nearing Valentines Day, I let that have some persuasion on my flat-runner.

I get a lot of messages on IG when I post these about products I use, so I will do a separate blog post in the coming week about my training/race day essentials, and share any promos that I have for the products as well!

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One of the best things about this race is that so many people come to it.  Lots of people come running from their snow states to soak up a little sand and sun mid-Winter.

Kim (@kkapinos) and my Sister (@shelllcsw) and I were shakin’ out our pre-race jitters with some pictures here.

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My sister also became a Legacy runner this year, running this race 3 years in a row!

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Last year although it was humid, we had cloudy skies the entire race, which made for much better racing conditions.  This year – not so much.  It was HOT and there was zero cloud coverage.  I knew standing at the start line we were in trouble.

The first couple miles of this race were my favorite, I got to run with my friends — Utah’s cutest couple; @kkapinos and @whydoirun — Neil wasn’t racing, though he ran a couple miles with us, and then was on course, cheering people on and playing race photographer.

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I feel like things got ugly quickly for me this year on course; last year I ran a PR here and this year they started the Half Marathon at 7:45am — bad idea in my opinion.  We live in Southern CA, and when we experience temps in the 80’s twelve months out of the year, there is no need to start a race that late.

I realized early on this was not going to be my day, but at least tried to get in some tempo-ish miles in the beginning.  I threw in the towel on all of that by about Mile 6.  For the Half course, there is a turn around at Mile 8 or so, and then you come straight back down PCH for the last 5 miles, a straight shot into the finish chute.  I knew last year I saw my sister on course around Mile 10, so that gave me something to do, looking for her.  And I saw her almost in the exact same spot as last year, and she took this picture of me as I ran by!

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I got a bit of a surge from that, and then I hit a rough patch, I was looking for the bus stop to get on the ‘struggle bus,’  just as I came into Mile 11 and saw Neil again out on course. He was able to momentarily get the look of death and defeat off my face to get this pic of me.

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I ended up finishing around 2 minutes slower than I ran this course last year.

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I ran into these beauties on my way to the beer garden, we’re basically neighbors as we all live in the same area, and over the Summer I was getting in some group runs with them back when I could (sort of) keep up!  Haha!

(middle: Maria: @negativesplitspositivevibes right: Alissa: @alissamwc )

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When I got to the finish line, I had been prayin’ to the good Lawd that beautiful beer garden I saw over in the sand was not a mirage.

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I loved that they put the beer garden out in the sand this year!

Found good beer and good people over there.

This is my friend Jodee.  We met before our kids were born, and our boys were born one week apart in March.  Just love her to pieces and hoping to get in some beach camping (read: wine/beer drinking) with her this summer.

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Weather was perfect once you weren’t trying to run 13.1 miles!

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My nieces even showed up with my sister’s husband!

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Post-race, when you didn’t race your best and you don’t wanna taco-bout it, but you do wanna taco..

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Nothing solves problems and post race heart ache/suffering like tacos and beer!

Peace out Surf City, I’ll be back next year – bring cooler weather, would ya?

(Photo Cred: @whydoirun)

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Day 730..

Today marks a TWO year Run-Streak anniversary for my sister and I.

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Depending on how long you have followed my journey, you know that this is my 2nd run streak.  My first one ended just over 2 years ago, when my youngest son spent 4 nights at Rady’s Hospital when he had Pneumonia, Bronchiolitis and RSV — and I never left his side.

When Liam and I got out of the hospital my sister decided to start a new run streak with me, not knowing how far we would go, we just made the decision to do it together this time.

This picture was taken after we had been released from the hospital, and I knew my lil’ tough guy was gonna be okay, and Mommy could run again.

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I documented a little of our Sister Run-Streak journey as we hit some of the milestones, such as:

Runstreak Day 100 and our

1 year RunStreak-iversary

if you’re interested in reading those posts!

In two years time, we have learned quite a bit about running, about racing, and just about ourselves in general, through the hours of mileage.  We’ve been dedicated through 2 years of work, travel, family life, kids sports, and illness (ourselves & kids).  I can’t say that it’s always been “easy” (thanks, stomach bug….twice), but I have loved having something positive to focus on.  My very first streak started at a time in my life where I needed something like that, and it served its therapeutic purpose.

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We’ve been fortunate enough to continue on cautiously without injury, by running smart and knowing when to push and when to pull back.  I have become a faster and stronger runner over these last 2 years.

That being said, I want to take a second here to mention that I am in no way stating that Run-Streaking is right for you, or that it is how you will get faster.  We have a “1 mile minimum” for “Rest Days,” which is basically used as an active recovery day.  We would never risk injury to continue on just to keep the streak alive.  You can run streak safely, but you have to be smart about it.

Through these last 730 days, we’ve run through fun weather…

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We’ve run through miserably hot weather  — Thanks, Fontana — (93 degrees at the 13.1 finish line).  Awful!

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We’ve run half marathons with props (I ran the whole 13.1 with that foam hat on) ..

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which was, coincidentally, the same race in SF where we learned that things like Fireball the night before a “fun” race can make it a little more challenging!

We don’t always get to run together, but we’ve been able to share in our running journey —  and this 2 year experience which has been so fun and memorable.

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It’s not always beautiful, scenic runs — in fact, I run quite a bit on my treadmill as my 2 boys are young, and with my schedule it has to happen that way.  This past summer during my marathon training, I knocked out my longest run I’ve ever had to do on the treadmill — 17 miles.  I think it’s safe to say that I have leveled up my mental toughness game these past two years.

At this point, I am going to continue on my streak.  I’m not sure that my sister has decided yet whether her streak will continue past this two-year milestone, as her work and family schedule can be quite demanding.  But either way, I am so proud of her for making it this far, and coming all this way with me when it’s not always been easy!  I know with some of the stories we’ve collected along the miles, and all the laughter, we’ll talk about them for years to come, and that’s what it’s all about!

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Cheers to day 731 — Run Happy my friends!

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Mom on the Run

As an Ambassador for Handful I teamed up with them this week for some guest blogging, and wanted to share it here as well.  As an active wear company with a mission to inspire and celebrate women everywhere, Handful was the perfect fit (pun intended) to share this journey with!
December 1st is always going to be a memorable day for me.  That day in 2014 marks one of the biggest turning points in my life.  My youngest Son had just turned 9 months old, and I had been bruising myself falling off the wagon so many times, trying to regain my health.

Backing up a bit, I had two C-sections 23 months apart, and one pregnancy loss prior to those, so my body had been through quite a bit in 3 years time. I was tired and hormonal and I was lacking motivation. As someone who had a running and fitness background (Trainer/Instructor) before pregnancies, I was struggling with accepting the body I had acquired from growing two babies (and housing box after box of Little Debbies Snack Cakes during that). I knew I needed to get back to running and fitness and make myself a priority, along side my children.

There were 3 components that were crucial to re-building my healthy lifestyle —

Support, Time & Healthy Habits. 
The biggest part was finding and building a support system. Having like-minded people who support you, encourage you, and give you the push to keep going when you need it, keeping you accountable is KEY!
The month leading up to 12/1 was when I started scrolling Instagram more frequently. I had my account, but I rarely posted there because I was depressed. I started following all of these sweet, beautiful and motivated women and moms, who were so strong and uplifting!  I watched these women, many with situations similar to mine, also with young kids. I saw them making time for themselves and getting workouts done – regardless of their limitations. Not making the excuses that I always found the time for. I was suddenly in the midst of this positive and uplifting community — and knew that it was a good thing for me.
The night before 12/1, I remember specifically sitting on my couch, thinking about how I’d probably eat my way through December and feel even worse. I was feeling particularly down and negative, and as I scrolled through IG, I actually thought to myself, “I wish I had the time like these women to run & workout.” And then it hit me like a truck! If you missed what I just said prior to that, I said I was
SITTING ON THE COUCH, scrolling Instagram. Ugh. Yeah, I did have the time. I just didn’t make fitness a priority, and up until that point when I realized I had been self destructing, things had never been so clear.  That night the match was lit, and the next morning, Monday, December 1st, I threw gas on that flame and never looked back.
Another big piece of the puzzle for me to overcome was giving myself TIME. As women, our bodies go through so much during pregnancy. It is an incredible and amazing experience, but it’s often overlooked that it took an entire pregnancy to gain that weight, and for most of us, it is going to take at least equal time to get it back off.
In a society that is so spoiled with technology to have everything we want and need right NOW, well, it’s no surprise we want to apply that concept to other things in our life — like weight loss. Kinda like how we go for that first run, or finish that first 30 minute workout, and our instinct is to see if our abs are showing yet, am I right?!
Creating healthy habits was the final piece to my puzzle, and I don’t just mean food, but positive self talk as well. I vowed to stop being so hard on myself and so negative about my body. Love myself more. I would celebrate all my small victories along the way, and not just wait for some huge end goal that felt out of reach at the start.
The 3 biggest things I applied to start:
1. 30 min (at home) workouts (because, toddlers) or 2-3 mile easy runs
2. I cut out obvious Gluten (to help jump-start me)
3. Upped my water intake
Those small changes made a HUGE difference and in that first month I dropped 11 lbs, in December no less! It was amazing how much better I felt overall, just from four weeks of healthy changes. Now 3 years later I am happy and in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I have since become a Certified Spinning Instructor, and last month I ran my 5th
and fastest 26.2 marathon, which was an hour faster than the best one I’d run before having kids.
The truth is, until you really want to better yourself, and start making positive changes in your life, no one is going to be able to talk you into that, or keep your motivation at 100%. You need to find what motivates you and fight for that. At the end of that November, I was looking at my habits and behaviors. I had become the most sedentary I’d ever been in my life, and realized now that I had two
tiny humans watching my every move. Kids mirror your behavior, and they look to you for guidance as a role model, so I want to make sure I give them something great to imitate. I knew I wanted my boys to see me as the happy, fitness-loving girl I had always been. Additionally, I needed to get myself in shape and stay active enough to keep up with them!
Most importantly, once I reached my end goal, I realized that it wasn’t the end. The work didn’t stop there. This was a lifestyle change I had created; THAT was the biggest difference between now and every other time I had “started over.”
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My boys and I are happy, healthy, and we have miles to go.
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Revel Canyon City 2017

I have been staring at this blank page for 15 minutes and I’m not sure where to start!  So, 3 days post-marathon let me start with some honesty in saying that before I run my next 26.2 it would benefit me to move to a 1 story house and equip at least one of my bathrooms with a raised toilet seat! Ya feel me?!

This past weekend I ran my 5th full Marathon and 3 days later I am still soaring on runners high.  This was my 2nd year in a row running Revel Canyon City and for what it’s worth, the Revel Race Series never disappoints!

On Friday I went to the expo to grab my race bib and stuff for the race, and everything from the expo to race day is always so well-organized for this race — zero hassles!

I remember staring at this 26.2 sign thinking, “Am I really doing this again?!”

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I was the strangest combination of nervous and calm walking through this expo.  I know that makes zero sense, but I was nervous about the unknown of what the next morning would bring, but confident that my training was not going to disappoint me.

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This race is great about hooking you up with the extra things you will need for the start line, which is COLD!  They always give you an emergency blanket, which is a lifesaver at the start line — It’s amazing the difference those make!  They also give everyone a pair of “throw away” gloves to start your race with and then toss off once you warm up!

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They also gave out socks this year along with the race shirts and some other freebies!

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After grabbing my stuff I headed back to get everything ready for the morning.  As always, I laid out my flat runner which is always a good back up check to make sure you’re not forgetting anything for race day!

The whole week leading up to the race rain was in the forecast, that thankfully changed and dropped to a 10% chance the day before!

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On race morning I was up at 2:00am, a friend of mine who was running as well met me to ride up together, we had a little over an hour drive and left my house at 3:00am to get there for the Marathon shuttles which were going from 4-5am.  The shuttle ride to the start is about an hour.

The Revel Race Series are known for the “net drop” of their courses, but don’t be fooled — this course is anything but easy!  After looking at the course map when I ran this the first time last year I did not see where miles 14-18 are a steady climb!  That was right where I hit my wall last year, Mile 14, but this year I was ready for it! The 2nd half of the course Garmin tracked me doing a 2,003ft climb in elevation which is quite a bit for a 26 miler!

Let me back up for a second here and talk about what changed this training cycle.  I got quite a few comments and messages about that!  There were two things I did differently in terms of training and nutrition for this race which I believe was a big factor in my performance.

Training wise, I ran my highest mileage training cycle I have run so far.  If you do this safely and correctly I believe it makes ALL the difference in the world!  Why?  Because I never “hit a wall” so to speak in this race.  In my peak weeks I was running 2 mid-range runs a week (8-12 milers) as well as a long run on the weekend! And honestly, I was really only doing one speed type of workout a week, and then just making sure to use my long runs as a workout on the weekend where I was focusing on running anywhere from 7-12 miles at MGP (marathon goal pace) on those 18-20 milers.

I never trained past 20 miles, although it was suggested I get up to 24.  This training cycle was tough for me, I have 3 and 5 years old boys and didn’t always have help for them.  I probably did 70% of the training for this marathon on my treadmill, and not because I wanted to, but because it was do that or do nothing.  I even knocked out an 18 mile run on the treadmill, my longest run on that ever!  I mention this because I get so many questions about treadmill running and also because I have people tell me that I will not progress running on the treadmill so much.  Wrong.  Do what you can, make it work, where ever you are running the miles it IS helping you!  Here is a look at my mileage from Garmin over this training cycle.  October was my highest mileage month ever and that included some of my taper as the race was 11/4.

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As for race day nutrition, a few weeks before my race I had been talking with some other athletes on what they use fuel wise on race days.  I had been experiencing things coming back up after tough workouts — sexy, I know!  My friend Oliver, who is a sponsored athlete for Gatorade Endurance offered to send me some samples to try out.  If you don’t follow Oliver you can find him here, @trilife365 he’s had a pretty incredible fitness journey and he’s quite funny!

Now, I know this is going to look like a joke..but YOU GUYS:

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Ever since I have been eating candy corn before my long runs, and my races the last 2 months, I have been running better than ever! Hahaha  I eat a small handful like that the night before my races and it has been working well so far. The morning of the Marathon I mixed some of the lemon-lime endurance-formula and put it into 2 small hand-held bottles I would start the race with and toss later when they became empty or annoying!  I usually don’t do this because I can’t stand wearing or carrying any type of hydration, but these tiny bottles were perfect and not bothersome.  I honestly believe this was a big help for me.  At the start line I ate a pack of those chews and then during the first 13.1 I drank one of the bottles and tossed the empty.  Around mile 14 (where the up hill starts) I did an energy gel and one little dissolving salt tab (not pictured here).  This year I was working on “preventative” rather than waiting for disaster (cramping) before using this stuff.  I felt strong going through the half way point and in the 2nd half was mentally prepared for the work (hills) I knew was ahead.  I literally spent the whole first half talking to myself positively and reminding myself that I can totally do this, and am so much stronger than last year.

In the 2nd half I finished the other bottle and had taken in 2 cups of water along the way. Around mile 22 I opened the other pack of chews, mostly just out of boredom, and I think only ended up eating 2 of the squares.  I was feeling pretty good, I never “hit a wall” per se, during this marathon.  I slowed in the second half when I took on the hills but never had the “I may die out here” feeling like I did last year.   I also did not experience any cramping, which if you have run this distance you KNOW the havoc leg cramps will cause on your race!

Since this course comes through the canyons there is not a lot of course support because people are not allowed to go into those parts of the course.  Other than the amazing volunteers, Medics, and Police Officers at the Aid Stations, there is no one on the course making it a very quiet race.  Thankfully it’s incredibly scenic to help distract you!

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This is a little glance at some of the uphill climb along miles 14-18 (this pic was taken by my Sister last year when she ran the Half).

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In the last 3 or so miles when you come into town there are finally people lined on the streets along the course cheering.  This is always when my emotions start running high.  I was looking at my watch and knowing that I could probably walk the last couple miles and still PR.  Honestly, I actually thought maybe my watch was off because I was in disbelief that I was this much stronger than last year and I definitely started tearing up when I knew that I was likely going to BQ.

My first 3 Marathons were before my kids, and although I was a runner I never “trained” properly for them, my fastest of those 3 was around 4:25.  Last year when I ran this course it was the first 26.2 since having my 2 boys.  My goal was to run under 4:00 and I ran 3:51 and was SO proud!

This year as I turned the corner and saw the finish line ahead I could barely see, my eyes were so watery — I had done it.  My goal for this race was to beat last years time of 3:51, so when I crossed the finish at 3:28 I was overwhelmed and I cried!

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Amy was at the finish waiting for me and she had also gotten a huge PR and her first BQ as well!  We had battled through some training runs together this cycle so I was happy to see it all come together for us.

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Another way I knew I ran this race smarter and stronger was last year upon crossing the finish I laid in the grass for nearly an hour with what felt like motion sickness. The sight of food had me dry heaving.  This year, I grabbed my medal and we walked straight over to the free pizza and pie!

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The Revel races hook it up food wise at their finish lines!  There was even a Waffle Truck you can see behind me here in this picture!

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Also, they give some of the biggest medals I’ve ever seen!

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I think I will be riding out this Marathon high for weeks to come.  I’m so happy with the way this race turned out for me, and am so thankful to everyone who has supported me along this training cycle.  It would be so tough to get through this without the people to lean on who understand and love what you do, too.  There are SO many highs and lows you experience during the months of training leading up to your race it’s nice to have others to pick you up when needed and also keep you grounded.  I said it earlier this week on IG, for as much of a personal and lonely experience racing can feel like at times, I honestly believe it takes a village to run a Marathon!

Congratulations to everyone else who ran this race, or the NYC Marathon the day after!  It was an epic weekend for marathon running for sure, and anyone who watched the NYC finish knows that!  You couldn’t watch @ShalaneFlanagan come through that finish and NOT be moved and inspired!

Who else ran Revel Canyon City or NYC this past weekend?  I always love hearing about everyone else’s races!

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Mercury Mile

I just received my first box from Mercury Mile this past week, and I’ve gotta say, it’s enough to make any runner swoon!  If you’re not following them on IG yet, you can do that here — @mercurymile

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I had zero skepticism going into trying this out as a friend of mine used to work with the people who created and launched this company — and I love that.  Besides that, they kinda had me at running gear.  I doubt it’s a secret that I love all things running.  Literally me with anything to do with races, running, or run apparel.

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Okay, moving on!

When you go to their website, you start by creating a Runner Profile and this is where you answer questions about your running.  They’ll ask about style, color preferences and any other information they feel is necessary to get to know you.  Once that is done, it is given to the “Stylist” assigned to you, who will use your answers to create your box of items.

Christina was my Stylist, and she definitely nailed it.

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I was seriously impressed by all the great quality brands they use!  Both of these Dry Fit tanks are made by Asics and Saucony.  Dry Fit has come a long way, in my opinion.  These tanks are really soft, and they both have a small pocket on the side (I tried to fold the bottom corners over to show) where you could carry a GU gel or something small, while racing.  So cute!

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There were 3 pairs of running shorts, which were perfect, and exactly my style.  Asics, Rabbit (these are their “Hopper” style which I run in and already love ), and one brand I hadn’t heard of called Five12 Apparel (the all-black pair).  Those shorts are extremely soft and comfortable (and fit comparable to the Nike Pros) — and how cool that they are made from recycled coffee grounds?!

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There were some fun smaller items as well!  Goodr sunglasses, which are perfect for runners, and some socks!

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They also included samples which were nice, too.

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The bottom of your box includes a (prepaid) envelope where you can send anything back that you didn’t like, or that maybe didn’t fit you correctly.  They allow you to exchange or return it within 7 days.

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All of my items fit perfectly, and there was nothing I was willing to part with.

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I am an online shopper when it comes to my running stuff, because as a Mom with 2 small kids, it’s just not as fun to shop in a store while pretending like you don’t know the loud, energetic tiny humans following you around!

“Delivered to my door” is speaking my love language.

Here is a link to the FAQ page on their website to answer any additional questions you may have.

Lastly, they created a Promo Code for me to share with you guys to waive your Stylist Fee!  Use Promo: Melissa when you shop.

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And be sure to tag me or let me know if you try it out.  I love seeing the creativity of each box!

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