Review: Bulu Box (and coupon code!)

Sometimes, being a fitness blogger has some awesome perks. Recently, I was asked by the cool folks over at Bulu Box to try a sample box, and review it for the blog. I was delighted to have been asked, as I had heard of Bulu Box and had been interested in trying one. This was the perfect arrangement. I was provided one box to review.

Bulu Box is like many other subscription “box” services. Each month, the people at Bulu Box send you a box full of sample sized goodies to try. Bulu Box is the first health, nutrition and weight loss box. Each month, subscribers get a custom box filled with a new mix of 4 to 5 premium samples from top brands to try. Every sample is sufficient enough to decide if the product is right for you and there is a wide variety of products included in each box.

Here’s how it works: You sign up, filling out a profile of interests. Each month, Bulu Box sends you a box full of goodies. You try the goodies. Each month you can earn up to 100 Rewards Points ($10!) just for subscribing and sharing your thoughts via their online review system. Log in to your account to fill out your sample surveys about the products you tried to earn points. At any time, you can use cash or points to purchase full-size versions of the items you like.

I got my first box about two weeks ago. There were so many goodies in the box that it actually took me these whole two weeks to try everything – which is awesome.

Bulu Box

First, the Bulu Box is cool. My box was bright red and covered in inspirational quotes. I loved seeing it in the mailbox and spent a few minutes reading and enjoying the packaging. Seriously.

When I opened my box, I found it was full of awesome products to try. In fact, I used three of the products that very moment!

Bulu Box contents

I got chicken jerky, tea, vitamins, sport jellies, and an itch soothing cream. I made my tea, ate some jerky, and smoothed some cream on a huge mosquito bite within five minutes of opening the box. I was very impressed with not only the quality of the products, but the range of products included in my box. Each product was oriented toward a healthy lifestyle, but each was diverse. I liked that my box included food, tea, a product to use while exercising, and a skin cream.

The box was packaged nicely and the inserted pamphlets had more information about various products. Each product sample was sufficient to determine if I liked the product. I am still using the skin cream and I’ve had it for weeks. Confession: I ate all the jerky in one sitting (it was good).

Overall, I enjoyed my Bulu Box and will be heading over to their website to get my self some more of that jerky. I enjoyed sampling new products and think that Bulu Box is a wonderful addition to the bevy of sample box subscription services.

Interested in trying Bulu Box yourself? Use discount code SWEATPINK for 50% off a 3-month subscription to BuluBox. Happy sampling!!

How To: Race in Multiple Races

Back when I first started running, everyone I knew was training for one event. We would pick a race – a 10k, a half, a full, and train for that one race. We would build our training program around the race, run it, and then enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. Lately, more and more people are choosing to run in back-to-back races. Some run multiple events in one day, or one weekend. Others have been planning seasons that include three or more events in a series. I’ve tried running in multiple events and I love it! I have run in Tampa’s Gasparilla Distance Classic several times – with four races in two days. I’ve run in Disney’s popular Goofy and Dopey race series, with 39.3 or 48.6 miles across multiple races. This fall, for the second year in a row, I will run four marathons in four weeks. This type of multiple event racing isn’t for everyone, but, if you’d like to give it a try, here are my top tips for multiple event racing success:

  • Plan your season around the events as a whole, rather than around one event. For example, this fall I will run four marathons in four weeks. My goal is to run four marathons in four weeks, not to run one marathon well, with a few extra after that. Planning to run only one marathon, then running four sets me up for disappointment, fatigue, and injury. Plan a training season around your goal – which is multiple events in the season.
  • When running in multiple events, you simply can’t train the way you do for a single event. your base fitness has to reflect the nature of your challenge. When building your base, build a base fitness that will prepare you well for the challenge at hand. This means I need to run high mileage multiple weeks in a row to prepare for my four marathons in four weeks extravaganza. Doing Dopey? Plan to run long runs back to back most weeks, with three to four consecutive days of running. Match the training to the specific challenges of your goal.
  • Let your body be your guide. When you’re striving for a new goal, it can be temping to push through aches and pains. Treat the body well, and listen to its cues. Achieving a multiple event goal requires a healthy, fit body.
  • Find a cross training activity that you enjoy. Engage in it often to prevent burn out and to recovery from bouts of hard running.
  • When you have multiple events in one day, practice running twice in one day. Learn how your body responds to multiple events and work on a rest/fueling/hydrating plan that mimics the specifics of your goal events.
  • When you have multiple events across multiple weeks, every event before the last is part of the training for the last event. Plan paces and race strategy accordingly. Remember that every event you run is preparation for the next, so a tough day or a poor performance is just part of the training process.
  • Learn to recover well and practice recovery throughout the training. Develop recovery strategies that suit you and will work within your goal time frame. Develop a long and short term view on recovery. Think of recovery not just as something done in the days or weeks after and event, but something done in minutes and hours after each event. What you do in the first few minutes after racing, and in the next several hours, can make a big difference. Develop a daily routine for recovery and wellness.  Practice season-long recovery strategies, too, including such as massage, foam rolling, and other body work. The quality of your next race depends on your ability to recover as well as you can in the time that you have before the event.
  • The goal after your first event is to be recovered enough to race again. When races are very close (hours to days), accept that some fatigue will be part of every event after the first. When you have a week between events, use that week to recover, rest, and prepare the body to race again. As the time between events becomes longer, expand the rest/recovery time and start to add in easy-paced running. Use the time between events to maintain the fitness you have, not to train.

Dopey

Racing multiple events can be exhilarating and can add a new challenge to the racing season for even the most accomplished runners. When planning carefully, runners can have great success (and a lot of fun!) running multiple events. Need help planning your multiple event calendar? Consider hiring a running coach. More information on training with Dr. Rachel Runs can be found above, in the Coaching tab.

Race Review: Peaks Island 5 Miler

Last weekend, a running friend and I went on a great running getaway! We built a little escape around the Peaks Island 5 Mile Race, a race held on a tiny island in Maine. We planned to drive up to Maine, stay near Freeport, then run the race and enjoy some time on the island. Our planning hit a little block, though, when it came to the race. There was precious little information available about the race and the logistics of the race. Luckily, we are an easygoing pair, so we were able to adapt. This review is going to be some review, and some information sharing. I hope that sharing my experience will help others who might encounter similar confusion.

First, you’ll need to take a ferry over from Portland for the race. There is parking right at the Casco Bay Lines terminal, but it’s significantly more expensive than local parking lots. Find a parking lot that offers all day parking for a flat rate. We did, and walked two short blocks to the terminal.

Cacso Bay Lines

Runners do need to pay for passage on the ferry, less than $10 each (and getting off the island is free). You’ll get tickets at the terminal, then wait in a little lobby for the ferry. We took the 8:30am ferry, a special ferry for the race. It would have been fine to take a later ferry, but we wanted some time to look around. The race starts at 10:30, so a 9:15 ferry would be fine. The ferry ride was lovely, breezy and full of gorgeous views. It lasted about 20 minutes.

Casco Ferry

We got to the race location, a local Lions Club. The Lions Club has a large, grassy area, and a small building with bathrooms and a stage. Packed pick up was efficient, with three staff to assist about 10 runners. We easily got our numbers and then explored. There is no gear check, but people bring their stuff and leave it on the Lions Club property. We saw people with coolers, blankets, and many belongings. No one seemed to mind leaving their things, so we did, too. The picnic table spots went early, but many people sat on the grass or brought their own chairs. It’s worth note that the website says no dogs are allowed, but we saw many people with dogs and dogs are welcomed on the ferry.

Peaks Island Lions Club

A short kids’ race immediately preceded the 5 mile race, so we watched the kid and warmed up. We took in the gorgeous bay views and generally had a great time before our 5 mile race started.

Casco Bay View

The Peaks Island 5 Mile Race course runs around the island itself. It includes lovely sea views, a section through a woodsy area, and several miles through neighborhoods on the island. The course map wasn’t available before the race, save for this little picture at the Lions Club, so the whole race was an adventure. I didn’t know what to expect, but was treated to classic Maine.

Peaks Island Road Race Course Map

Peaks Island Road Race Course Map

The organizers, the Maine Track Club, say that the race is flat, but it’s really more New England flat with just a bit of variation.

Peaks Island 5 Mile Race Elevation

Peaks Island 5 Mile Race Elevation

Overall, the course was nicely laid out, well marked, and mostly free of traffic despite the roads being open. The finish line was no-fuss, with just a small table and timing mats. Immediately after the race, finishers were treated to a cook out (extra charge, purchased ahead of time). Runners made advance purchase of tickets to the cook out and were able to enjoy lobster, chicken, or vegetarian meal options. We got the chicken, which was par-boiled, then soaked in BBQ sauce and grilled.

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Awards were given out to top finishers. It was a speedy race, with lots of fast times. Following the race, my friend and I toured the island and enjoyed the small stretch of sandy beach for beach glass hunting.

Peaks Island

Overall, we had a lovely time at the Peaks Island 5 Mile Race. The communication before the event was lacking and the website was nonexistent, but the race itself was well done, well organized, and a great family event. I would recommend this race as a fun destination race for a weekend getaway. We will be back!

To Be a Running Coach

I’ve been a RRCA certified running coach for several years. I truly enjoy coaching and helping runners achieve their goals. If you’ve been thinking about hiring a running coach, do it! Coaches can help athletes of all levels achieve goals, stay accountable to a training program, and inspire you to believe in yourself. Still need convincing? Check out my post on reasons to hire a running coach.

This weekend, as part of another role in my life, I sat in on a running coaching class. Doing so as a certified, and experienced coach, has been an interesting experience. I have a few observations.

 

First, there are many types of coaches. I think many people assume that a running coach is a running coach. One of the keys to a positive coaching experience is having a strong goodness of fit between you and your coach. This refers not just to personality, but to training philosophy and beliefs about running. Most of the coaches-in-training talked about their running philosophy – everything from how much cross training to include to how long the optimal long run before a marathon should be. There was some overlap, of course, but many divergent ideas were presented about every idea. Some coaches-in-training planned to forbid cross training other than pool running. Others wanted trainees to run 18/20/22/24 as a marathon build up. Neither of these sounded like great ideas to me, but they seemed to find it workable. Some individuals had strong reactions to ideas presented and were willing to fight over the supremacy of their ideas. Others were open to learning and were flexible in their ideas. If you’re looking for a coach, find one who believes what you believe, or whose ideas sound feasible and reasonable to you. Don’t be afraid to interview coaches to find one whose ideas are compatible with yours? Not sure what the best training strategy is ok? That’s ok! Find a coach who seems interested in you, and who seems open to your ideas. They’ll lead you when it comes to running strategy, but be sure that you and your coach are compatible. Strong goodness of fit will lead to happier training and better results for you from a coach who understands YOU.

Hearing the coaches-in-training talk about developing training plans based on their strongly held beliefs about what works *for them* was a surprise. I’ve always been a bit of a science nerd. I read a great deal of literature about the science of running and have let the science dictate my own training. I usually try training plans myself before asking a client to run that plan. I study the literature and read the books – I believe the science and value the science over my own experience.

Finally, it’s clear to me that people love running. The coaches-in-training were passionate, engaged, and vocal about their belief systems. It was wonderful to be in the company of people who love running as much as I do.

Summer running

Race Review: Mystic Half Marathon

Here’s the latest from my brother on the run, his take on a recent half marathon.

Race Review – Mystic Half Marathon: The Spectator Version

It has been a long time since I have put together an update for Dr.Rachel and this is in part due to my running dropping off some.  I had been skipping runs and avoiding working out for the better part of a month.  After setting a new 10K record in May, I had stopped running to let a sore foot heal and get some work done in the garden.

The closest I came to running was attending the Mystic (CT) Half Marathon as a spectator.

Mystic Half Marathon

After an exciting ride to the race event, complete with 911 call for a vehicle accident that happened in front of us, we arrived at the Mystic Village just in time for check-in.  The freeway exit to the parking lot was crowded and a bit chaotic.  The traffic split in a Y only to circle the parking lots and reach the same end destination.  While the parking could have been easier, we were able to get a great spot and unload.  Dr.Rachel bolted off to check in for pacing while my wife and I wandered Mystic.  There was a small expo set up with a decent amount of people milling about and enjoying the pleasant morning weather.  Announcements were easily heard and when the runners started to line up, the wife and I found a hill to watch the event.

I really though the launch worked well – racers split on two sides of a median and then combined at the start line.  From our 100 ft view, it seemed like the race start went off without a hitch and was well organized.  We had joined a number spectators across the road and had a great view.  Afterwards, we treated ourselves to breakfast and coffee because, hell, we weren’t running.

Having thought ahead, we had taken a camera phone picture of the race course.  This helped us to locate a few locations to watch the event unfold.  After breakfast, we wandered through the rest of Mystic and to the 6.5-7 mile markers.  This was hard to find actually and several of the crossing guards couldn’t direct us to the right intersection.  Luckily, a race volunteer was able to help us reach the 7 mile marker as the first male was coming through.  This was a great viewing spot for us and there was a decent crowd to cheer on the runners.

After watching Dr.Rachel pass by, we headed directly to the finish line.  This was a quarter mile walk for us and 6 mile run for the racers.  We win again!  With our chairs and snacks, we watched as the runners crossed the finish line – again, this was set up well and we had no trouble finding a location to sit.

The star of the day was a race volunteer at the finish line.  We lost count of how many runners he helped. Whenever a runner was struggling, he ran out to them, grabbed their hand, and then ran through the finish line with them.  It was incredible and he continued to do this until the very last runner finished the race.  In all, he probably ran farther that day than any of the race registrants but never lost his energy or enthusiasm for helping the racers.  It was truly awesome to watch.

The post-race events were a mild celebration and again seemed to be well done.  While I cannot speak to the medals or course, this race was a lot of fun for spectators.  My wife and I enjoyed our time at Mystic and would come back to watch the race again.

Running Safety

Lately, the news has been filled with cases of runners in bad situations –interactions with motorists that went poorly and stories of serious harm seem more common. In the majority of situations, runners have done everything they could to avoid harm, but we can never be too careful. Here are some of my favorite safety tips.

First, stay alert to your surroundings. I know many runners enjoy running with music piped directly to their ears through a variety of noise-cancelling headphones. It is safest to run without music, fully able to hear the world around you. If you must run with music, consider leaving one headphone out of your ear and keep the volume to the lowest possible level. This will enable you to hear things going on around you, and help you stay alert for dangers that may be difficult to see. You’ll also be a good running citizen when you can hear the instructions and prompts of those around you.

Run against traffic when on the roads, or on sidewalks when available. By facing oncoming traffic, you can observe the driving habits of cars near you. You can also react more quickly to danger you see coming.

Look both ways before crossing streets (and train tracks) and make sure the driver of the oncoming car acknowledges your right of way before entering the roadway. You may have the right of way, but you still need to obey traffic signals that apply to pedestrians. Cross only in designated crosswalks and be courteous of drivers. Consider using hand signals or pointing in the direction you wish to go. This lets motorists know where you’re headed next.

Wear bright clothing and clothing with reflective details for dusk and dawn runs. If you must run in very low light, wear a headlamp, or a vest with flashing front and rear lights. Vests with built-in LED lighting are inexpensive and easy to find on the internet. Wearing one if you must run in low light will make you significantly more visible to others.

Carry or wear identification. I use a RoadID, a small wrist band (also available as a shoe tag, ankle band, and comfort wristband on RoadID.com) that includes my basic information. At minimum, include your name, date of birth, and the contact number of someone who can help in the event you are medically incapacitated. I have a medical condition, so I’ve paid extra to obtain a RoadID with a special code that enables first responders to access my medical information online in the event I’m unable to speak for myself. In a pinch, you can write this information on the inside of your shoe.

Carry your cell phone, and a small amount of cash. You never know when you might need a ride, a tasty beverage, or a donut mid-run.

Vary your running routes. Run in familiar areas if possible, but try to avoid taking the same route over and over again. Make sure someone knows where you are going and what time you will be home. I share this information with a loved one or fellow runner (who knows this is important). There are also several run tracking apps available that provide real time tracking for runners to be shared with individuals you identify. Among the most popular are the RoadID app and RunSafe. Both have alerts that can be customized for use in the event of an emergency. Run with someone when you can, or in populated areas.

RoadID app

Be cautious about where and how you post your routes on social media, including run tracking apps. If you run often enough, you’ll be tempted to start tracking your runs with GPS and posting them to Gamin Connect, Strava, Nike Plus, or some similar social sharing site. Be sure that your security settings are at least somewhat private, or don’t post runs that start or end at your house. Protect your personal information. Be wary about posting routes on other social media sites if your privacy settings are loose.

Be nice to other people. Avoid verbal altercations. Mind your manners and be a good citizen.

Carry something that makes noise, or practice whistling. You may need to get someone’s attention, or alert wildlife to your presence. Being able to make a loud noise is good.

While we can’t fully protect ourselves from the unknown, we can all take basic steps to reduce risks while still enjoying the sport we love. I hope that you stay safe out there.

On the Run, Again

If it seems like I’ve been traveling a lot, that’s because it’s true. I have been here, there, and everywhere. Some of my travel has been personal travel or races – my favorite kind of travel. But, some of it has been work travel. Work travel is hit-or-miss when it comes to fun. Some work trips are great fun, but, generally, work trips are a parade of bad food, bad hotel gyms, and bad locations. I’m staying in a hotel this week that is quite possibly the worst hotel gym I’ve ever seen. I’m starting to become a bit of a hotel treadmill connoisseur. I’ve seen the good:

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The ugly:

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But this one can only be described as bad. The air conditioning doesn’t work, leaving the whole room a stuffy 74 degrees. It positively reeks of mildew. All the equipment, and by “all the”, I mean one treadmill, one ancient elliptical, and one recumbent bike, is rusty and more than a decade old. The treadmill is off center and wobbles precariously any time the speed goes above 5.0 miles per hour. It’s not good. Thinking there may be a solution on some facet of the problem, I talked to the hotel management about the air conditioning. Their response was to close the gym. I guess you don’t know what you got until it’s gone. Now I’m missing my mildew and my wobbly treadmill.

Travel isn’t all bad. There are great adventures, like the day I ran 7 miles round trip to get deodorant I had forgotten to pack.

SLC

There are amazing restaurants with delicious foods I can’t find at home (like cheesy cornbread!).

Jim N Nick's

 

and great scenery.

Multnomah

Overall, it’s pretty great. I love traveling and the new joys it brings to my life.

Hit the Trail

Spring is a great time to add trail running to your training to take advantage of spring weather and enjoy nature. Here are my basic tips for getting started with trail running.

First, find a good trail. No single trail is the same. From wide, crushed rock trail like the airline, or rail trail, to single track cutting through trees, trails offer a wide variety of running surfaces and scenic options. In Connecticut, we are lucky to have an amazing trail system including the blue blazed trails, Joshua’s Trust trails, and a variety of town-maintained trails. Get to know your trail by researching online, or by asking other runners and hikers.

Trail running

Once you’ve found a good trail, prepare for the hazards you might find on the trail. If it has tall grasses or thick underbrush, consider wearing pants or tall socks to deter ticks. If your trail is sandy or has small, loose stones, tall socks or gaiters will help keep debris out of your shoes. While many trail runners use specially made trail running shoes, which have more aggressive tread and a closer to the ground feel, they aren’t always necessary. Consider how “technical” your trail is when selecting your footwear and gear. Generally, a more technical trail is one that is, more narrow, winding, steep, or has trail hazards like roots and rocks. Use good judgment in planning your trail run in order to match your trail with your ability.

Next, focus on safety. Take your dog or a buddy, or write your route out and share with a loved one. Make sure someone knows where you are going and how long you’ll be gone. Consider carrying water and a snack. Carry your cell phone and identification for emergencies. Once on the trail, keep your eyes on the trail so avoid rocks and roots. Focus on looking three to four feet ahead to create an imaginary “line” of travel, a plan for where you going to step for the next few steps. This will keep you focused and alert to potential hazards. Finding a line will become easier as you become more comfortable running on the trails. Make sure that you’re alert and be aware of landmarks and trail markings.

When trail running, it’s best to run by time, rather than distance to begin. Trail running can be exhausting at first and it can take much longer to cover the same distance on a trail than on a road. I generally add one to two minutes to my pace per mile, even on trails I know very well. Slow your pace and take time to look around and enjoy the beauty of the trails. Run by time, effort level, or heart rate and avoid comparing your trail pace to your road pace.

Finally, work to improve your trail running performance by including strength and balance exercises into your training two to three times per week. Exercises that strengthen the calves, ankles, and feet are particularly useful. Consider adding lunges on a pad or stability disk, single leg squats, bridges, dead lifts, calf raises, and other exercises using a wobble board or stability disc to develop foot and ankle strength and stability.

Once you’ve tried trail running, grow your confidence by running on the trails at least once per week. Try new trails and make friends with other trail runners. As you grow in your confidence and strength, tackle more technical trails, or sign up for a trail race. Trail running can be a great way to see new sights, meet new people, and enjoy Connecticut’s natural beauty.

Enjoy the trails!

On The Run: Des Moines

I’m on the run again, this time to Des Moines for the RRCA National Convention. I got in late last night, but was sure to get up early for a run along the Des Moines River with some running friends. I love running around a new city. There is simply no better way to see a new place than on foot. My group met early and ran toward the Des Moines River, where there is a lovely trail system. The paved trail goes along the river a ways, past a ballpark, over a very cool pedestrian bridge, and to a Japanese garden.

Spring in Des Moines

The flowers were in bloom and the weather was perfect for running. It was gorgeous! Later, we will take in some of the Drake Relays and I will run in the Hy-Vee Races. I can’t wait for a weekend totally dedicated to running!

Brother on the Run: Random Travel Running Moments

My amazing brother on the run has been traveling for work and has had a few hilarious runner experiences. In this post, he shares a few fun anecdotes. I know many of you can relate. Here’s Troy:

Running during a business trip can be a challenge or at least it can be for me.  Between the longer hours, tiny hotel gyms, and odd settings; getting a run in doesn’t always happen.  However, I tried during my last business trip to make the most of warmer weather and get a few runs in.  Oh Texas, always an adventure.

Pulled Over for Running

While staying near the Kemah (TX) Boardwalk, I tried to get 4-5 mile runs in every other day.  Unfortunately, this meant having a running day come during a monsoon – it was pouring rain and kept most people indoors.  I decided that I had a run to get and I was going to get it in.  Dr.Rachel has always pointed out that race day might not be perfect weather so training in sub-par weather can only help you prepare.

Fully dressed in running gear (half my stuff is fluorescent orange) including water bottle and Garmin I headed out for my 5 miles.  I was about half way through when a local cop pulled up to question me!

‘Was everything ok?’   ‘Did I need a ride somewhere?’ ‘Did I realize that it was raining?’

It was very nice of him to check on me (and I do appreciate it) but considering I have never been pulled while driving, being pulled over while running was a bit odd.  It took two days for my shoes to dry.

Most ‘Runner’ Thing Ever

After a hotel change, I was in a new city and still needing to log some miles.  I decided to do something new, something different for me.  I got dressed in all my running gear and headed to the local running store.  One question “where do you run?” was all I had for the clerks.  On The Run (Webster, TX) was great and showed me maps for both in city and trail runs in the nearby area.  I have never felt like more of a runner than going to a running store in a new city for course suggestions.

Bayou Trail Runs

The above conversation led me to the Armand Bayou trails in Pasadena, TX for a quick 5 mile run.  Not but 100 feet into my run a walker warned me about the trail ahead being ‘wet’.  It hadn’t rained for days so I thought nothing of it and continued on my way.  Mistake.  What was supposed to be a solid tempo run became some kind of crazy fartlek run where I sprinted for 100 yards and then walking through bogs and swamp pits in an attempt not to lose a shoe or fall in!  Trail runners probably laugh at this; this path is flat and covered with crushed gravel for the most part with only some slightly flood-ridden zones.  I just might not be much of a trail runner after all.

Treadmill or Beer?

I ended my trip back to the old standby: the hotel treadmill.  The particular chain of hotels I stayed at offer a cocktail reception once a week, a reception that just happened to fall right on my run night.  There is nothing like the joy of running 4 miles when, through the glass, I can see the other guests enjoying drinks and appetizers.  When I say 4 miles, I really mean 3.27 miles before I needed an ice cold beer also.  Running is hard, running when you could be drinking a beer by the pool is impossible.