Need a PR Race? Run Illinois Marathon!

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Illinois 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!

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I had the privilege of running the Illinois Marathon on April 22nd. This was an important race for me for two reasons. One, I have never run a Spring race and training in the winter in Minnesota is one hell of a challenge. Two, this was my redemption race. With a disappointing finish in my marathon in November, I was eager to make this race count. I accomplished what I set out to do and that is to PR the Illinois Marathon! Training is the typical reason why you PR, but it is all about the race in the end. There is a reason why some of the fastest marathon times are done on a super flat fast course in Berlin. I owe a lot to Illinois Marathon and here is why.

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Pre-Race Weekend: Everything prior to the race weekend was done by the book. I was receiving valuable information regarding the race, partners, medals, lodging and occasional runners humor. Right as I signed up, I looked through the entire site and could find easy and helpful links for getting my lodging sorted out, figuring out race details, and learning the course. The team behind the marathon did an awesome job with their Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts to keep them updated and answer any questions that anyone asked. Week before the race I received a digital packet that had absolutely everything you can think of in there.

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Race Weekend Events: The first thing I did when I got into Champaign, IL is go to the expo. There were a billion volunteers there. Well not a billion, but they were everywhere. They had lines on the floor directing you where you needed to go and the volunteers had awesome foam fingers that pointed in the direction where the expo was. Everyone I talked to was fell informed and had an answer to all my questions. I was running the I-Challenge so I had to pick up two bib, get two string bags, and get two shirts. It was painless. Afterwards, I walked around the expo, bought some last-minute things and took a picture with Abe Lincoln. Once again, everything was well laid out and easy to navigate.

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Race One: On Friday night, I ran the night time 5K. It was my nice warmup to the marathon which was happening the next morning. The course went through the University of Illinois and finished by running into their football stadium. Once again, there were a ton of volunteers there and everyone was super helpful.

 

Race Two: On Saturday morning, I ran the Illinois Marathon. The morning started out great. There was plenty of space to warm up. Volunteers were giving out coffee and bagels, every runners dream. There were plenty of portable bathrooms, and there was a truck that took your gear to the finish line. At the starting line, I found the pacer that I wanted to run with and at the gun we were out for the run. This course is EXTREMELY flat! It is a very fast course to run. It was easy to stay with the pace group, but there was a bit of congestion when we came into the park area in the first 13.1 miles. The race really opened up after the half way point when we dropped off the half marathoners. Along the entire route there were awesome volunteers, drink and food stations, aid stations, and bathrooms. It was an awesome run through the University of Illinois and the surrounding areas and it was pretty freaking awesome running out of the tunnel of the stadium and seeing yourself on the big screen.

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After The Race: After the race I was given an awesome medal, a water, a blanket and shook hands with one of the race directors. I got a sweet picture and was off to the stadium concourse where I got all the food I can ever want. Bananas, chips, pasta, pizza, granola, fruit, water, and sports drink. It was a great way to hold down the extreme hunger that I had after my race. Once you exit the stadium you are greeted with a block party. There is a band, tons of food and most importantly BEER. Every runner got a nice cold one from a local brewery.

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Final Thoughts: This is a race that I will be back to run. Every marathoner’s dream when it comes to the quality of the race and the speed of the course. This has to be one of the fastest courses in the Midwest, maybe right behind Chicago. If you are looking for a Spring race where you know the race director and their team of volunteers is going to kill it and you are going to be able to run straight and flat, the Illinois Marathon is for you.

 

Keep The Run On

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New Running Gear In Your Mailbox

Disclaimer: I received The RunnerBox 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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How awesome is it to get new running gear in the mail? It is great to get something that you know will help or enhance your training and running. Whether it’s equipment, food or clothing, it is always exciting to get something new to try and use. Well I found a way to have that feeling happen at least every other month. The RunnerBox has taken the best part of getting new running gear and packaged it in a neat box that shows up at your door every other month.

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The RunnerBox partners with a bunch of companies that focus on improving your training and running and boxes up their samples. Bi-monthly they send out a box filled with samples of food, drinks, training equipment and accessories to their subscribers. I received mine at the beginning of January and immediately put that little box to work. I got everything from protein bars and powders, to a natural energy drink, to hand warmers. Lucky for me, winter in Minnesota is cold, so that night when I went for a run I could use the hand warmers. Then when I got home, I was able to try the new tea that I got to warm up. I also got some protein bars which were delicious and I was able to bring them with on my travel day when I had to go down to New Orleans for work. I also received some interesting items, like a chickpea mac & cheese pasta and shots an all natural energy drink. I won’t say that I loved everything I received, but that’s the beauty of this subscription.

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The coolest part about The RunnersBox is that they are sending you samples. Meaning, I can try them out before having to spend money on committing to the product or the brand. With so many products out there that can help your running, it becomes very hard trying to decide which ones are best for you. This is a simple way to try a bunch of stuff. For under $25, I am trying 5 – 10 new products when otherwise I would spend over $100 on everything in that box.

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Other than being able to try a variety of different products for runners, The RunnerBox has options for cyclists and tri-athletes with The CycleBox and The TriBox. Most runners aren’t just runners so this is an opportunity for them to try some other gear too. These boxes are great for yourself and for gifts. Kind of a simple no brainier.

Watch out all my runner friends, I think you all know what is coming for your birthdays!

For more information, check out www.TheRunnerBox.com

#KeepTheRunOn

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Must Have For New Year: Rudy Project

Disclaimer: I received a pair of Rudy Project Fotonyk sunglasses 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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I am very skeptical when it comes to sunglasses. I have had maybe 30 different pairs. They usually break, get lost or get donated away because they don’t fit. It becomes frustrating that it takes that much effort for me to find a pair that works. I have been running with a crappy pair that I stole from my buddy. They are not even meant for running and they kill my ears.

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Lucky for me, I was able to snag a pair of Rudy Project Fotonyk shades earlier this month. Once again skeptical, I told myself that I needed to give these a fair chance. That was before I received them in the mail. All the skepticism went into the trash, just like my other sunglasses.

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There are two important things when it comes to sunglasses for me; the need for them in Minnesota and the fit/quality of the product. It may seem that sunglasses are not needed in MinneSNOWta. Heck, it snows all the time here right? Not quite. Since there is so much cold in Minnesota, it is important to be protected. The Fotonyk’s delivered on that front. They covered my eyes from the cold so that when I ran, the wind and the air would not cause me to tear up or hurt my eyes. Also, it is extremely bright here when fresh snow is on the ground. So even when you are running and not staring at the sun, you need to project your eyes from the bouncing reflections.

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Quality of the product has always been an issue for me. Everything from the fit, to the lens quality, to the material that the frame it is made from. These sport sunglasses get the job done. You can feel that the material the frame is made out of is quality material. The frame is also adjustable, The nose guard can be adjusted to the needed fit and the needed size away from your face. This was really helpful. Also, the frame’s lower part that goes below the lens can be removed. This helps to adjust to your style and it allows for changing out the lens. Speaking of the lens, this is where you cannot put half the effort into. The Fotonyks kill it on the quality of the lens. The lenses use Rudy Project’s technology to allow you to utilize the maximum surface of the lens and they are interchangeable so that you can put a new color on or a clear lens when you are running in cloudy conditions.

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The only criticism that I have is that they are a little tight on the face. That boils down to the fact that I have a weird face. They fit great on a medium sized face and even for they still do what they are intended to do. Each pair of sunglasses that they have is labeled with specifications and what face they fit best. For me, I am going to continue to wear them and run in them. I am not looking in the mirror when I run so it does not bother me that they are a little small looking. The quality is great and so is the performance. If they took them away from me, I would spend the $150 on them.

Keep The Run On!

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Five Tips to Winter Training

Being from the frozen tundra of the upper Midwest, a large chunk of my training is in cold conditions. I have gained some experience training in the cold and have some tips for a successful winter training season. To be exact I have five tips for a successful winter training season.

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If you live in a warm climate, I am jealous and there are only two tips for you: stay there and go run.

Don’t Fall Into The Holiday Trap: with Thanksgiving over, and the countdown to December holidays in full swing, people use this time of year as an excuse for omitting their training until after January 1st. Don’t do that. By starting your training early and powering through the holiday season, you will be able to build up some power and stamina.

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Equip Yourself to Avoid Laziness: if you are training in a cold climate you have to be sure that you have all the needed clothing and equipment to be able to go out on your runs at any temperature. By having things like running jackets and warm pants, Buff hats, mittens and wool socks you will be able to whether any weather and avoid making the “It’s too cold” excuses.

Have A Back-up Plan: sometimes there are situations that are out of your hands and an outdoor workout is not an option. Always have a backup workout that can be done indoors. Whether its inclined intervals on the treadmill or cross-training with weights, you should be able to always have a good workout.

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Be Seen at Night: this kind of goes hand-in-hand with equipping yourself for the weather but this is for the dark. During this time of year, you must be seen since it is dark at 5pm. I suggest getting the following to make sure you are visible: Headlamp, Reflective Buff, and Brilliant Reflective Safety Strips. The headlamp will help with seeing where you are running. The Buff will keep you warm. The Brilliant Reflective safety strips can be placed on all your running clothing and gear and you will be seen as a human rather than a cone.

Check Your Self: it is easy to fall into bad habits during this time of year. Anything from drinking too much hot apple cider (with a little extra somethin somethin) to eating too many holiday cookies will slow down your training. Make sure to find balance between the things you eat and drink.

So, there you go. It is as simple as waking up with a hangover January first. To find success this winter season, start training now, get the needed equipment (holiday gift list?), and have a workout and nutrition plan.

Let me know if you have your own tricks when it comes to winter training.

Keep the run on!

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An Up and Down Roller Coaster Race

Disclaimer: I received an entry into Madison 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!

After putting so much time, effort, and miles into training for a marathon, it can be really hard to have to come to a realization that you are not going to be able to reach your goal because of an injury. I start by saying this because of two reasons; the first one is because this is what happened to me during the Madison Marathon, and the second is because there were so many people throughout the race that encouraged me to continue to fight through it and push through to the end.

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I “ran” the Madison Marathon on Sunday, November 13th, 2016. I was super excited about this race because I was representing BibRave at the race and there were three other BibRave Pros at the race running the full and half. My girlfriend and I came in to town on Saturday mid-day. We checked into our AirBNB, which I highly suggest to do since there are plenty of options around town. We went straight to the expo to pick up my bib and check out what the expo had. Unfortunately, the expo was nothing exciting. It was super easy and quick to get the bib and my long sleeve running tech shirt (they are awesome). We met up with the Angie (@AngieMaskeBerka) and Gina (@hanzelboyzmama), the other BibRave Pros, and headed to an Italian restaurant to get our carbo-loading on!

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The morning of the race, we got to the capitol early to meet up with Casey (@beardontherun), the fourth BibRave Pro running the race. We took some sweet pictures and I was on my way to my typical pre-race ritual. I won’t get into the dirty details of that. The weather was crazy good for this race. I comfortably ran in a tank and shorts the whole time. The first half of the race starts at the capitol building, runs through the arboretum, then through UW Madison, and then back through the city. The second half is a little boring but the last 6 miles are pretty sweet. The course is pretty hilly but if you train for it, it’s all good.

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Here is the crappy part. At about mile 16, my previously injured quad decided to give out. It was everything from annoying to purely painful. All the miles, all the running, all the commitment slowly started to go down the drain. I started to do a combination of light jogging and walking, which towards mile 20 became a slow and steady walk.

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Here was also the great part. As much as I struggled and as painful as it was; spectators and runners got me to that finish line. So many people told me, “keep it up,” “you got this,” “don’t give up!” Everyone was so encouraging that it made the longest hour and forty five minutes of my life feel not as long.

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The race finished at the capitol with the announcers congratulating me by name as I crossed the finish line. I got a medal and a photographer snapped my finishing picture. Panera Bread gave me an awesome bag with food. I’m pretty sure that was the best turkey sandwich, bag of chips and a cookie I have ever had. Also, Michelob Ultra gave out the very deserving beer.

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In the end, the Madison Marathon is a very scenic, hilly, beautiful, well organized race. For me, this will be written off as a scratch, but now I have a reason to come back and run it again! Thank you Madison Marathon for the awesome race and thank you all the spectators and runners for pushing me to cross that finish line.

Keep the run on!

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