Chicago Marathon: 2021 Experience

The 2021 Bank of America Chicago Marathon…where to begin? Of course, it was incredible but I think that would be an expectation. I ran this once before, in 2017, but I was so in awe back then since it was my first ever marathon and I just wanted to finish the race. This time, I was determined to pay attention and enjoy the nuances more all while still running competitively in order to achieve some goals I set for myself.

I arrived into Chicago in the early afternoon on Friday, driving in from Milwaukee, but I didn’t hit the expo that day. I did pay a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry and had the opportunity to enjoy their Marvel Comics special exhibit. That really was a treat and I highly recommend checking that out if you have the chance before the exhibit closes.

After a later than anticipated start on Saturday and a visit to the Shedd Aquarium, I made my way over the the marathon expo, waited in a forever long line to check vaccination status, and then picked up my bib and shirt, etc. I roamed around the various vendors for a little bit, not too long, grabbed some KT Tape, drank a Goose Island sample, and made my way out to make sure I got to my 5pm dinner reservation on time. After eating a fabulous meal at Volare Ristorante Italiano, it was back to the hotel to lay out flat me and hope to get a good night’s rest. (Full disclosure: I slept horribly, unfortunately)

RACE DAY!! It finally arrived! Felt like forever since I began the training cycle for this moment and yet it was time. After not sleeping well, I made another “error” by setting my alarm too early so I was up at 4:45am. For some reason, I thought it would take me longer to get to the start line since I was staying a little farther away than I did in 2017. So, I got dressed, had my protein shake and overnight oats, drank some water, and headed downstairs to the hotel lobby hoping to either catch an Uber or be able to utilize the hotel ride service, even though I didn’t call in time the day before to schedule myself on it. After half a cup of coffee, I secured a ride down to Grant Park and made my way, very very ahead of schedule, to gear check. Let the day begin with some dark pics and a selfie!

Thankfully, I came across a fellow BibRave runner and we chatted until the start time, getting some water from the Gatorade booth and making a final visit to the Porto’s. We also managed to find another BibRave runner and got to chat it up with her for awhile, which was really nice meeting them in person after so many social media exchanges. Now the time for stretches and breathing exercises before starting the slow, long walk to the starting line!

I’d like to say that this was a race where it all came together for me and the goals I had set were all reached and there were smiles all around…but, are you crazy?! It’s a marathon! Ha ha, and it knows how to humble you and make you respect it like no other race I’ve done. The race started in a yellow alert status meaning less than ideal race conditions but be careful and you’ll be ok. I personally started really well, maybe too well. My body felt good and I had a good pace but I wasn’t pushing it. I could feel it getting warmer and took my first water at the Mile 3 aid station, something I usually don’t do until Mile 6 on long runs. At Mile 5, a hearty shoutout from a fellow BibRaver, who was volunteering, gave me a very early energy boost. I mean, I literally felt the excitement rise up in me. And then there were all the spectators along the route. I feel I should address them all right here because they were amazing! So much support, so many funny and motivation signs, so many cheers and shouts, just an incredible feeling/moment/image for 26.2 miles throughout the city of Chicago. They truly know how to make you feel good even when things may not go right.

Above is a rare photo of me actually smiling while on the course and running. I never do this. One of the things I told myself heading into this race was to make sure I was smiling more and enjoying the experience and giving those on-course photographers smiles and not look-like-I’m-dying faces in their photos.

Now, back to the race. Somewhere in the early teen mile markers, the race went into a red alert status which meant dangerous weather conditions (the humidity had increased) and be extremely wary of dehydration and cramping and your body, in general. But I was still doing OK. I wasn’t feeling the humidity, I felt hydrated enough, and my legs were still holding strong. It wasn’t until Mile 18 where I started to feel soreness in my feet and my left lower back extending into my glute starting to talk to me. I’d say it was here where my race goals began to lean in the direction of harder to reach. But I kept plugging along. There were more stops for water and I began taking in Gatorade. I had had some pickle juice at Mile 8 (a decision I later felt was incorrect timing by me) and my Honey Stinger waffle.

Weird side note here: on long runs, I find that I don’t get hungry or I don’t feel like ingesting food even though every rational thought says I should and would need food.

Back to the race and my pursuit of glory, haha. The struggle started to hit at Mile 21, especially with my left side. And then I had some side cramps, something I never ever get when running, so that was just bizarre. Mile 23 led to some right quad spasms which slowed me some. But I managed another smile at the photo stop!

As I hit Mile 25, there was one more, last second energy boost provide by yet another BibRaver who was volunteering his time! Thank you so much! And then it was the finish! I’m proud to say I crossed the finish line in a time of 4:03:35! I had three goals going into this marathon but only achieved one of them. Goal #1 was to better my 2017 Chicago Marathon time which I did and by a very decent margin. Goal #2 was to get a sub-4 hour time. To be so close and not get it will sting for a while, for sure. A couple less walking water stops and I might have hit that goal. Goal #3 was to set a marathon PR which I knew coming in would be a long shot but sometimes that’s what your goals are supposed to be, otherwise they wouldn’t be special. But, bottom line, I’m a Chicago Marathon finisher for the second time!

A lot of good feelings finishing this race and some great photos as well to document it. So happy to have met some of my fellow BibRave members and gotten to talk to them. Happy that I came out of this marathon without any major injuries and my health intact. Just happy in general. And I made sure to celebrate that night after driving home.

Happy running everyone!!

Race Review: The Non Cancelled Marathon

On May 1, I ran the Non Cancelled Marathon put on by Silver Circle Sports Entertainment. I’ve had the pleasure of running several of their races during the last year during the pandemic and they have done an excellent job abiding by safety protocols and providing a friendly and secure racing environment. The weather lined up nicely on race day, for the most part. There was a nasty 16-20mph wind that gusted frequently in one direction which not only gave resistance but made it slightly more chilly than it should have felt with the temperatures that day.

Aid Stations: I have to give this zero stars since this is the only thing to not return to normal yet. No aid stations and you were responsible for your own hydration and fuel for the race.

Expo Quality: Again, zero stars since there was no expo. Packet pickup was before the race (or the day before if you drove out to the organization’s headquarters in a 3 hour time window. Packet pickup was smooth and simple though; wear you mask while in line and grab your bib and pins if needed. Your verification was sent via email in the form of a Q-code. Nice and easy, just scan.

Course Scenery: This was an out and back course so the scenery didn’t change and if you did the marathon, like me, you got to run this out and back FOUR times. Yeah, four times. Buuuuut, the race was out on a paved trail and there were a lot of birds to look at while running. I even saw a sandhill crane attempting to camouflage itself in a marsh area off the course. That was pretty cool to see so close. Also, this race allowed for spectators and was that awesome to hear! Even if they were cheering for others or just cheering in general, it was really great to hear! It made what could have been a drag of a race into a more splendid experience.

Elevation Access: Minimal. Slight incline going in one direction and one or two very small up and downs just before the turn point.

Parking Access: There was some parking lots near the race start/finish but those filled up quickly. But there were plenty of side streets to park on so everything was good.

T-Shirt/SWAG: A bright red t-shirt with the race name and sponsors on it and a medal were the items provided for all race participants. I like the shirt; it has a nice feel to it and red is always a winning color in my book. And the medal, well, they didn’t like about it, lol. They promised the largest medal ever and it is gigantic! It announces you finished and in a big way.

The Silver Circle Sports group does a great job with these events and, in the last year especially, have been incredible having races that actually took place. They communicate very well, constantly sending out updates and they answer your direct question within one day of you submitting a query. I can’t say enough about how good of a group they are. I know when I sign up for a race by them, it will take place and I will have a good time, no matter what type of race it is.

Happy running!!!

Race Review: National Sweetest Day Run

So after running my first trail race in 3+ years in September, I thought why wait to do another one? I knew a friend who had signed up for this race, which had 5K and 10K options as well, and was doing the half marathon, so I was excited to sign up and run a race with her. This trail race, like the one I ran in September, did not disappoint. No Killer Hill’s this time but everything about it was pretty good. I’ll outline it all right here.

Course Scenery: The trails were beautiful to run on. This course was more dirt trail than grass field running, which I prefer. Many trees were in full fall foliage colors while the several pines had dropped needles throughout the trail making feel softer, if only to the imagination. There was some water that we ran around but it wasn’t easy to see much of through the trees. I also liked that this course stayed on trails and never crossed over any park roads. There were also some rustic old barns and sheds (probably used as county park facilities now) scattered along the course. Just gave it a nice feel.

Elevation Difficulty: Like I said above, no Killer Hill’s but, whoa, there were many ups and downs, several that were sharp inclines and steep declines where you had to be careful with your gait going down. And the one killer that did come, of course, was at the end of the half marathon portion of the course. No lie, it was a brutal, steep incline that led up to the final half mile remaining. My calves still remember it well, haha.

Aid Stations: Due to the COVID-19 virus and safety precautions, there were no water stations on the course and you were encouraged to bring your own water.

Expo Quality: No expo for the same safety reasons. Bib and packet pickup were accomplished one hour prior to the race at the race location itself.

Parking Access: Easy to find and right next to the starting point of the race. My only beef was that it was a county park but charged $5 for the parking. Not a fan of having to pay to park for a race.

T-Shirts/Swag: Nice long sleeve tech shirt and a cool looking medal for finishing. I COULD have gotten an age group medal too but I came up just short by one place. Boo!

Race Management: Another great job by Silver Circle Sports with organizing this race and keeping everyone safe with social distancing prior to the race. The packet pickup was quick and efficient. The race announcer had a lot of energy (and we needed it, so damp and chilly that morning) and made people laugh before their waves took off on the course. Great volunteers offering support and guidance on throughout the course as well. This group knows what they’re doing. I would recommend running any of the races they sponsor; they truly do a good job.

Any questions or comments, feel free to drop me a line!

Happy running!

Race Review: National Procrastination Day Run & Walk

Let’s start with this: I signed up for National Procrastination Day Half Marathon very last minute and on a whim/desire to just run a real race for the first time since January. How crazy and desperate was I? This was my first trail race since 2017 and I never, ever train on trails. At all. Seriously, never. Add in the fact that the half marathon distance for this race had a loop of three times going up a hill labeled “Killer Hill” and it definitely earned that reputation; holy cow was it steep! Now, this being a race taking place during the pandemic, social distancing and all that jazz, I’ll explain why I give this race 4 stars.

T-Shirt/Swag: You receive a pretty sweet long-sleeve t-shirt with the race name on it and a fun slogan on the back: You put the ‘pro’ in procrastination….I thought that was too funny! And the finisher medal they provided was a pretty nice medal. Post race didn’t have the usual fanfare of tons of people (they discouraged spectators, obviously) but there was some edible treats like Gatorade, pretzels and a granola bar that you could have on request.

Course Scenery: It was great. The race took place in a beautiful state park with wonderful trails and view points to look at while running; not to mention looking out from the top of Killer Hill. It’s been so long since I’ve done anything lengthy like this on trails so, for me, it was an amazing change of pace and I loved it. I’ll throw the Elevation Difficulty category into this section since they go hand in hand. My Strava app listed it as 1,102 feet of gain. So, yeah, it was a lot, lol. Not just Killer Hill either; there were some other inclines that were just tough where they were laid out on the course, but, of course, thankfully there were some declines too. Just gotta look out for those roots and rocks!

Parking Access: Easy and simple, except it required a park sticker otherwise you needed to pay five dollars, cash. Of course I drove in the vehicle WITHOUT the sticker AND failed to go to the bank the day before so I had no cash on me. Oops. Besides that, once inside, it was easy to find where to park and to get out after the race as well. Nicely organized….which leads to….

Race Management: Great job by the Silver Circle group who put on the race. They had had all the precautions in place so that there was social distancing for all runners as we queued up for the race. There were staggered start times for each wave of runners so there was no bottling up at the start or even during the race itself. I never felt too close to anyone on the course. You were required to have a face mask while waiting in the start line and post race if you were waiting for another runner to cross or just needed to stretch out. Now, I gave low scores to Expo Quality and Aid Stations but not because they were horrible. They really deserve an N/A since they didn’t exist for the obvious reason of COVID-19 and the risks having them before the race and on the course.

I enjoyed this race and the, albeit brief, event around it. The course was great; it was a nice return for me to a trail race. The race organizers and all of their volunteers were absolutely wonderful. Friendly and encouraging when crossing the road in the park (where there was a person slowing/stopping cars) and the gentleman running at the back of the pack cheering on those runners to the random volunteers just monitoring mile marker points also offering up kudos. They all were just a great group of people at a real life racing event and they made it enjoyable when it easily could have been a hassle. Bravo! If ever in the mood to “procrastinate” you should run this race when in Wisconsin!

Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question!

Happy Running!!!!!

Sponsor Review: Raley’s Supermarkets, SPONSOR of the Napa Valley Marathon

Disclaimer: I received a $25 gift card to review Raley’s Supermarkets as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!

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Now, that the Napa Valley Marathon is over it is NOT the time to neglect your body and all you did to prepare for that race. It’s been a week since you ran, so you need to make sure you not only rest but keep putting fuel into your body. Specifically, recovery fuel. And, yes, Raley’s can help you in that department as well. Visit their website to see how simple it is to find exactly what you’re looking for and how to spot it in the store. They have every category for you from Clean Label to Gut Health to Organic to Keto-Friendly. And everything in between too!

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Post marathon is an important time for the body. There’s a lot of recovery going on so be sure to take advantage of Raley’s nutrition strategist who provides the necessary tips and information to make your marathon experience not only enjoyable on race day but afterwards as well. I mean, you need to prep for that next marathon!

I hope you take the time to visit Raley’s website and utilize all the free information, tips and advice they offer as well as visit the store and stock your pantry with some great products that fit whatever need you may have in your dietary lifestyle.

Happy running!

Sponsor Review: Raley’s Supermarkets – SPONSOR of the Napa Valley Marathon

Disclaimer: I received a $25 gift card to review Raley’s Supermarkets role as a sponsor for the Napa Valley Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!

OK, raise your hand if you like grocery shopping. There’s never a “good” time to go and do it. There are always so many distractions of foods you need not be buying and then there’s the challenge of finding the right food for you. Throw in that you’re training for a race and need the right nutrition to supplement your hard work and it can be a nightmare! And that’s where a business like Raley’s comes into play. They sponsor the Napa Valley Marathon so they can better help their runners get associated with a healthy diet and the right foods to provide the energy they’ll need to have a successful race experience. So, how do they do it?

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One of the best features the within the store itself offers is what it calls “Shelf Guide Icons” that are located throughout the store. Each of these icons makes it easier (and more time efficient) for you, the shopper, to get in and get out and get what you need. Some of the icons used include: Plant-Based, Organic, Keto Friendly, Clean Label, No Sugar Added, Carb Friendly, High in Protein and Gluten Free. Obviously, this make it easier for you to navigate quickly through the store and acquire the foods you need/want that will assist you in your race preparation.

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Another amazing option provided by Raley’s is their Run Smart! nutritional campaign. They GIVE you the tips and suggestions to have a great race experience and how to properly train for the race, what to do to take care of yourself during the race and, finally, what you need to do at the completion of your race.

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This is how you sponsor a race! Raley’s has it down pat and has your back for the Napa Valley Marathon. And, more importantly, they have your health on their mind. They are there to suggest, to help or just to assist in any way. Screen Shot 2020-02-18 at 8.10.30 PM

I suggest you take a look at some of my Bib Rave Pro friends who have also contributed blogs discussing the benefits of Raley’s Supermarkets and how they work hard to make your race day experience a great one.

https://theswagmama.com/2020/02/01/grocery-shopping-love-it-or-loathe-it/

http://ampdwellness.crazyhamster.run/grocery-shopping-yay-or-nay/?preview=true&_thumbnail_id=6604

http://www.thisoldrunner.com/blog/need-help-eating-right-before-during-and-after-a-race-try-raleys-nutrition-guide

Hope you enjoy their viewpoints and notes!

And, as always, happy running!

 

 

The Journey to the 2020 Milwaukee Marathon

Disclaimer: I received an entry to the Milwaukee Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

So, let’s start at where I’ve been and then move onto where I’m headed in my running life. Below you’ll see a pic of me just before entering double sports hernia surgery (with a faux fear face) and then a pic of me when it was all finished and I had awoken from the anesthesia. This all came about from over training throughout most of 2019 for various races, the final one taking place in November. Three days after that race, I was under the knife and being repaired.

 

The recovery stage was and has been difficult. I am not a patient man and the main restriction of no running was brutal. All I was allowed to do for the first two weeks was walk on a treadmill with zero incline. After the two weeks, I was allowed to lift weight restrictions (which were to stay under 25 lbs. total, so I didn’t lift at all) and do what was comfortable except when it came to legs. The remaining restrictions included no squats, no lunges, no core work at all and no planking. So I did a lot of upper body work and kept up with the walking on the treadmill and added slow bike riding at the gym.

 

Then after a month and half, I was allowed to run finally. No speed work but at least it was something other than walking. My goodness, was it ever a breath of fresh air to be able to run again. I started simple, on the treadmill and then slowly stretched it to the outdoors where the terrain obviously is less predictable. It was just nice to move the legs again and begin to think about training for specific goals as long as there were no setbacks with this new lifted restriction.

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Now here we are, two plus months from surgery. All restrictions have been lifted for both running and lifting. Yoga is back in my practice as is leg presses, etc. for leg day at the gym. Happiness is not enough of a word to express my feelings towards being back in the groove. It hasn’t been forever, but, I also know that this is just the beginning of a new runner version of me. I need to change my running gait to prevent this from occurring again. I need to build back up my endurance and stamina. The challenge has been presented and I am not ready to tackle it.

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So, how does that relate to the Milwaukee Marathon being held on April 11 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin? I wasn’t sure where I’d be at this point in time but I said if I was ready, I would at least make a go at a half marathon knowing I wouldn’t be ready for a full. So Milwaukee it is! Training has been going well so far as I’ve started to extend my distances in runs from 6 miles to 8 miles to 11 as a high so far. Nothing too strenuous and I haven’t pushed myself too far at this point. I can say I’m excited to be training for this half. I ran the same race last year but did the full marathon and set a personal PR by over twelve minutes! I’m really hoping to improve my half PR this time! I’m excited to race the streets of Milwaukee again at an event that was really topnotch last year. The improvements that the new group running the race implemented were huge in making it a success. Everything from packet pickup to the race to the post race party were ideal. A really great time so I’m looking for round two of fun. And you should join me if you’re looking for a half marathon or a full where you too could PR your time. If I can do it, so can you! Visit the site, pick a distance (they also offer a 5K) and sign up! Use code “RUN15” to save 15% off your entry fee! And you have time because the next price increase isn’t until March 7, 2020. Need another reason to sign up. If you do the half or full distances, here is what you will get:

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A tech t-shirt, an awesome medal, a quarter zip fleece and a beer following the race. Not to mention a great post race party atmosphere that takes place right at the Fiserv Forum, the Milwaukee Bucks new arena. I hope to see you there!

Happy running!

Race Review: Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon

What a race, what an event and what a city! OK, I knew the city was badass already before the race but this was my first visit to Las Vegas that wasn’t just for gambling and drinking. This had purpose and, therefore, I needed to behave and not get too involved with the excess that is Vegas. This is a race I’ve been excited to do for a while; a destination race that had been on my bucket list. And it did not disappoint! Running down the Strip with various bands playing all types of music from rock n roll to old Vegas crooners to Elvis classics, all with the bright neon lights brightening up the course was simply magical. The crowds on the Strip were lively with their cheers and the starting line was electric as each wave was released onto the course with a giant fire display pulsing up from the start line overhang.

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EXPO QUALITY: The expo was easy to get to; just had to jump on the monorail and it dropped you off right by the Las Vegas Convention Center. I went on Friday afternoon and there was no line to get my bib so that was really quick. After that, I perused several rows of race merchandise and Brooks shoes too. Bought the special race designed Brooks Launch and a pair of the new Adrenaline GTS 20s since they were 15% off; couldn’t pass that up! I also grabbed a couple of other items in the merchandise area before heading out to the vendors. I need to make a racing list from this point forward as I realized at the expo I had forgotten a couple of items at home, so a new running belt for storage was needed as well as some fuel for the race. The forgetting of the fuel was more frustrating than anything since I had just restocked at home, but, oh well. Lots of vendors to go through, from Honey Stinger to Geico to Knockaround to many others. Lots of photo options as well in front of signs such as #StripatNight and Vegas Strong.

T-shirts/SWAG: A fun race shirt that was made to match whatever distance you were running for the race. The medal for the race was also pretty cool with a Strip design and at the top a spinning wheel that has the date of the race and the distance you competed at.

Parking Access: No parking really. But most people stayed on the Strip or nearby. And if you lived in the area, Uber/Lyft/taxis were suggested to use to get to the start line.

Aid Stations: The volunteers at the aid stations were 1005 awesome! Shouting out cheers and support at every one. Full of enthusiasm. They were one of the best parts of the entire race. Loud enough to know where water was, where Gatorade was, when there were gels or bananas., just so helpful.

Course Scenery: The Strip was awesome to run down and through, and even heading towards downtown Las Vegas was pretty nice, going past wedding chapels and some smaller casinos. There were some quiet parts on the course as well, not well-lit and more residential, but, where they could, the organizers put bands out in those places as well to keep you grooving.

Elevation Difficulty: Moderate if you did ran the marathon, none at all if you ran shorter distances. The marathon was the only distance that had elevation. When you headed away from the Strip the course had you run over the freeway system and circle back a few times so there were a couple of going uphill, but nothing too strenuous.

Race Management: Plenty of communication in the months leading up to the race. A lot of help at the expo answering questions. As I previously stated, the volunteers were amazing and prepped excellently. The starting line was smooth as was the Start Village, where all runners congregated prior to going into the corrals. The finish line was perfect with not every handout right next to one another; they provided space for you to collect yourself and your free items as you walked along to the exit point.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon was a great race, plain and simple. I had a blast and I would highly suggest that this be the race you aim to run in this series if only for the opportunity to run the Strip at night.

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Madison Mini Marathon Training Update

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Madison Mini Marathon race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Well, this is going to be the most boring update you could ever possibly read. Ever since the wondrous month of April where I set personal bests in my marathon finish time and in my 5K finish time, I have done almost nothing in the last six weeks. I ran twice in the  month of May, accumulating just over 13 miles for the month and so far zero miles for the month of June. Why? Because of what is likely a sports hernia.

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No, I am not making a self-diagnosis here. I waited those first couple of weeks in May doing nothing and then attempted to run. After having pain and discomfort return almost immediately, I shelved myself again and made a doctor’s appointment. The doc did some tests and said it wasn’t a hernia as far as he could tell but that it was likely a sports hernia. I was also given the card of a hernia specialist if I wanted to be absolutely positive of the diagnosis. So, what have I been doing instead? Well, a lot more lifting with upper body (carefully) and some lower body (even more carefully), some bike riding at the gym and, finally, walking. Lots of walking.

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Lots and lots of walking….

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As you can see, I’ve tried to keep my humor up with these walks but it hasn’t been easy. It has been extremely frustrating and I am close to losing my mind. This is not how I envisioned my Madison Mini Marathon training taking place. I am not in the danger zone yet, but it is getting close to where I will not be prepared by mid-August for this half marathon (where I was greedily hoping to set another personal best.) It is Wednesday, June 12, today and I plan to run or attempt to run before the end of this week. This is mainly to see if I have healed enough. If I have not, then I plan to call the specialist to see what is going on and if I will be healed and ready to race by August. Worst case scenario then would be I could run it but it would be for fun and nothing else. Fingers will be crossed. I’m just really sick of walking at this point. And don’t let the smile fool you, haha.

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If you’ve been running and training out there, maybe you’d like to race the Madison Mini Marathon this August! It isn’t too late to sign up! And if you use code BIBRAVE5 at checkout you will save $5 on your entry! Hopefully we will run this together!

If you have any thoughts or questions, feel free to ask or comment!!

Happy Running (or walking)!!

Product Review: Orange Mud Gear Vest Pro

Disclaimer: I received an Orange Mud Gear Vest Pro to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Call me a believer in a product I didn’t think I needed and certainly never had a want for before having the opportunity to test it out. It’s a hydration vest. “Why would I want one of those?” “I can map out running routes to come across water fountains.” “I can bring a sport belt with water bottles attached to it if I want.” “This vest thing is going to be cumbersome and annoying bouncing around my body.” These are all phrases and questions I said at one time or another. This product review will explain why I was wrong and, to be frank, an idiot thinking that this was a piece of gear I didn’t need.

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I will address each of my questions above to answer why an Orange Mud Gear Vest Pro is a great item to own. Yes, I can map out running routes that take me past multiple water fountains, but wouldn’t it be nice to venture down new paths without being concerned about where necessary hydration will come from. And this vest makes it possible to carry plenty of water for marathon training runs. The included bladder fits 35oz of liquid and you can add a 500mL bottle and a 600mL bottle to the front pockets on the vest.

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Why wear this when I can wear a sports belt that hold water bottle as well as everything else I may need: driver’s license/ID, energy chews, reserve battery charger for phone, energy waffles, etc. If you check out the picture above here, you will see the answer for my ID and charger. A zippered pouch right in the middle that is out of the way but completely secure leaving me no worries of anything falling out or being in the way if I am trying to pull out energy chews/waffles. And where am I putting those items? The two pictures below show the front access pockets that can be used for those items. In the first photo, I am using one of the extra water bottle pockets to store my energy waffle. The second picture shows one of two over the shoulder velcro pouches that held my energy chews. Both easily accessible and my fuel remained intact and not mushed down.

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ADDED BONUS MOMENT: On the top clip in the front of the Orange Mud Gear Vest Pro is a whistle. Yes, I said whistle. When using this vest in the early mornings or late evenings, what better option to include in the makeup of the vest itself. Scare away coyotes (or other aggressive animals) while using your pocket space for pepper spray if desired.

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The final question/concern was why would I want something bulky filled with water bouncing around as I ran? The fact is that it IS NOT bulky and bouncing around your back. Honestly, every time I have worn the hydration pack, I haven’t even noticed it being there. It isn’t on too tight but it also doesn’t flop around when running or when trying to get a sip of water. It has been the perfect complement to my runs and other gear options I take with me on long runs. I truly do love this product and am glad I had the opportunity to test it out.

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Still on the fence about trying out the Gear Vest Pro? Give them a try while saving some of your money by using code “BIBRAVEGVPRO” to get 15% off any Orange Mud product! And have faith in what you are buying! Orange Mud provides great customer service and backs their products. Manufacturing defect? Lifetime replacement. Have an accident with your pack? Leave it on the top of the car and take off? They understand and will offer a replacement at a “fair charge.” Also on their website are guidelines and suggestions for proper care and cleaning of their packs and bladders.

I hope you have found this product review of the Orange Mud Gear Vest Pro to be helpful and useful in guiding you to getting your own hydration pack if you were in the market for one. Solid product, solid company!

Should you have any questions or comments, please feel free to drop me a line and I’ll be sure to get back to you!

As always, happy running!