Sunday, January 29, 2017

nugo dark: a review of my new favorite protein bars

Disclaimer: I received a box of NuGo Dark to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

As athletes, we know getting the proper amount of protein to help our muscles recover is important. There are tons of options out there – it can be hard to decide what's best for you. In my experience, I've found a lot of great options, but I am VERY picky when it comes to taste and texture, and the majority of protein rich bars have a horrible texture and/or taste. And so I've been on the hunt for a protein bar that has the protein AND the good taste.

Honestly, I am not a fan of dark chocolate on its own. Chocolate itself isn't my usual go-to sweet treat, but I prefer milk chocolate or white chocolate. I figured I'd give these a try though, as it wasn't just straight dark chocolate. I'm so glad I was open minded enough to give them a chance, because they are AMAZING.

I was able to test the Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Mint Chocolate Chip, and the Chocolate Pretzel with Sea Salt. I think the pretzel was my favorite, but they were all quite tasty. Also available in the Dark line are: Chocolate Coconut, Mocha Chocolate, Peanut Butter Cup (NEED to try this one), and Spicy Chocolate. You can get a box of just one flavor or a sample box with three flavors.

I have a problem with going for my runs around lunch time and then I'm starving
 afterwards. Happy to have some NuGo on hand.

These bars are gluten free, non-GMO, and vegan. You'll get 10g of protein, 1g of fiber, and about 14–15g of sugar. So, they might have more sugar than other protein bars or what you might prefer, however, I'll take a little extra sugar for something that has the protein I need AND tastes good. Something can be super healthy, but if it doesn't taste good, I'm not eating it. That's that. Also, I'd rather some sugar than artificial sweeteners.

Information from their website:
REAL Dark Chocolate. REAL delicious.® REAL health benefits.
REAL Dark Chocolate isn’t just a delectable treat with delicious flavor. It’s a heart-healthy, antioxidant-rich superfood, and a staple ingredient in many NuGo bars. Research has shown that REAL Dark Chocolate may help maintain good cholesterol (HDL), lower blood pressure, elevate mood, reduce stress, and increase endurance when consumed before a workout. So if you want to lead a healthy life, get REAL. Get NuGo.

Better ingredients mean better taste.
At NuGo Nutrition, we believe that the freshest, healthiest ingredients are also the best tasting. We are passionate about keeping families active and healthy, which is why we’re so committed to keeping GMOs, artificial hormones, stomach-upsetting maltitol, and artificial sweeteners out of NuGo products. When you give your child a NuGo bar (or grab one for yourself), you can be confident that you’re getting only the best naturally delicious ingredients in every bite.

Coming from an extremely picky eater, I give these my stamp of approval. They taste more like a treat than a protein bar, and remind me more of a candy bar, but make me happier knowing they contain the protein my body and muscles need to help recover after running. Plus, they help curb my hunger until I can eat a real meal.

Give 'em a try! You can get a box of the DARK for 15% off using code BIBRAVE1 through February 8. They also have the 3 bar sample packs, so you can try a few flavors before committing to a box of 12 of one flavor. Another great thing about NuGo is you can find them in local grocery stores. Use their store locator to find one near you.

NuGo will be sponsoring #BibChat on Tuesday, January 31 at 8pm CT. Join a fun, hour long chat with a great group of runners and possibly win yourself some NuGo while you're at it :)

Connect with NuGo:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

illuminate your run: knuckle lights review

Disclaimer: I received Rechargeable Knuckle Lights to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

Let's face it, we can't always get our running in when the sun is out shining. Sometimes, we have to run before dawn or after sunset. In the winter, it can even be harder to run in daylight because those hours are so short. Running in the dark is hard – you can easily trip, fall, and injure yourself. Cars have a harder time seeing you. There's plenty of reasons to just skip.

Skip no more runs! Knuckle Lights are an awesome way to light your route so you can not only see where you are going, but so you can also BE SEEN by drivers. 

All charged up.

Knuckle Lights come with three different power settings: high, low, and blinking. I usually use high, because I like to see as much as I can ahead of me. Low is still pretty bright, and some people might prefer that. They are super lightweight (each piece is less than 3oz) and comfortable to position on your hands. You can adjust the size easily - so whether you want to wear gloves on your run or not, you can adjust the tightness on your hand without much hassle at all.

My favorite feature on these are that they are rechargeable! I had an original pair, and yes I loved them, but I got tired of having to buy batteries to replace the ones that died from use only a week after putting them in. They ate batteries more than I cared to buy batteries, so this feature to me is the big win. 

The Knuckle Lights have magnets in them so when not in use, you connect them so you don't lose one. Then you just toss them on their charging dock. You can either charge via the wall or a computer (they come with the charging dock, usb cable, and adapter). They are red when charging and green when complete. Mine actually came fully charged, which was nice. You'll get 4 hours of use on high, 8 on low, and 14 on blinking (when fully charged). That's pretty awesome. 

Here's a full out description of the product:
  • 2 LIGHTS PER SET: The 2 units are held comfortably on your hands with soft silicone straps. The straps are easily adjusted to fit any size hand and even over gloves. The units connect together magnetically so they can easily be stored when not in use. The units are super lightweight at less than 3 ounces each.
  • 280 TOTAL LUMENS: Each unit is 140 Lumens on high power, so you get a super bright 280 Lumens combined. The LED pattern is a WIDE FLOOD BEAM, so it puts out light in all directions, providing a steady, even light in front of you that does not bounce around, even with your arms moving.
  • 3 POWER SETTINGS: High, Low and Blinking.
  • USB RECHARGEABLE WITH CHARGING DOCK: Simply place the units on the charging dock after each use and they will always be fully charged and ready to go when you are.
  • BATTERY LIFE PER CHARGE: 4 Hours on High Power | 8 Hours on Low Power | 14 Hours on Blinking.
  • IPX-6 WATERPROOF: The units can be used in any type of weather and will not leak or fail.
  • 5 YEAR LIMITED WARRANTY: Knuckle Lights are guaranteed for 5 years against defects in materials or manufacture

I even found them to be helpful to light up the basement to find a bottle of wine to open up when the light was out. They would have come in handy back in November when our electricity went out for a few hours in the evening. Oy.

I found them easy to run with and not cumbersome or annoying (and I'm the kind of runner that is easily annoyed - something scratching, chaffing, rocks in the shoes... you get the idea). I suppose the only issue some might have is if they hold their hands a bit different when running, in which case maybe the light might not shine in the right place? haha - but I figure that's a small percentage of people. 

So now there really are NO EXCUSES to get out there and do run your at any point in the day. Obviously most people prefer to run during the lunch hour, or at least when it's daylight outside, but we know that life can be in the way. Some might not have the time to get out during lunch. Plenty of runners have families and if they don't get out in the early morning hours, they don't have the time the rest of the day. Either way, running in the dark happens to us all. Make suer you are safe about it (by this I mean wear/use your Knuckle Lights, wear BRIGHT colors, reflective clothing, etc. I know a lot of running gear is black, but I beg of you not to only wear black... it's so hard to see you!).

Join the running community on Tuesday night (January 24) at 8pm CT for #BibChat sponsored by Knuckle Lights. I'm sure one person will be ending the chat as a winner of a free pair :) If not,you can get yourself a pair of Knuckle Lights with a 10% discount using code 'bibravepro'. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

f^3 lake half marathon and 5k info

Disclaimer: I received entry for F^3 Lake Half Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro.

I've run in the F^3 Half Marathon the past two years and will be joining in again for my third consecutive year. It's a great race that looks to improve every year, which I appreciate. You can read my recaps from 2015 and 2016 if you're so inclined. The weather the past two years was actually pretty tame, so it'll be interesting to see what 2017 holds, as weather has been all over the place this winter. The good news is that if it's cold, you get to stay warm up until about 5 minutes till race time inside United Club at Soldier Field and then head back in right after the race. 

Discount Codes and Frozen Frostbitten Feet Challenge
Use code BIBRAVE17 to save $6 on the half marathon
Use code BIBRAVE175K to save $5 on the 5k

Are you into challenges? F^3 has partnered up with Back on My Feet Chicago's Mardi Gras Chaser. Register and complete both the F^3 Half Marathon and the Mardi Gras Chaser 10k and you'll receive the Frozen Frosbitten Feet Challenge medal. (Psssst - save $5 on Mardi Gras Chaser 5k/10k with code RAVE, but remember, only the half and 10k count towards the challenge).

Packet Pickup Schedule
We have 6 days of packet pickup available, covering the City, the western burbs, the northern burbs and the southern burbs!

Here is the schedule:

Saturday, January 21, 2017  |  10:00 am – 6:00 pm 
Fleet Feet Sports – Old Town  |  1620 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60614

Sunday, January 22, 2017  |  11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Fleet Feet Sports – Deerfield  |  800 Waukegan Rd, Deerfield IL 60015

Monday, January 23, 2017  |  10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Fleet Feet Sports – Oak Park  |  102 N Marion St, Oak Park IL 60301

Tuesday, January 24, 2017  |  4:00-7:00 pm
Running for Kicks  |  7158 W 127th St, Palos Heights IL 60463

Thursday, January 26, 2017  |  10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Fleet Feet Sports – Old Town  |  1620 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60614

Friday, January 27, 2017  |  10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Fleet Feet Sports – Old Town  |  1620 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60614

Get Ready for Race Day - Read our Race FAQs
Want to see the race day schedule? Change your packet pickup location? Change your race distance? Check out the website for all race details and FAQs!

New for 2017: Photo Booth!
F^3 partners at Physicians Immediate Care are providing a state of the art photo booth at this year’s race. You will have the ability to take and print unlimited photos from your phone. Photos will be available for pick up at the Physicians Immediate Care table located in the United club the day of the race! 
To get a personalized photo at the F3 Lake Half Marathon:
  1. Follow @visitphysicians on Instagram
  2. Take a photo using Instagram
  3. Use the hashtag #visitphysicians in your caption
  4. Pick up your photo at the hashtag printing station located at the Physicians Immediate Care booth

What Else Do I Get?
ALL runners will get a fantastic, soft, high quality, long-sleeve 1/4 zip shirt. Sourced directly from the USA! 
  • Breathable, moisture-managing interlock fabric
  • Fresh assurance with anti-bacterial treatment
  • UV protection
  • Ladies 1/4 zips have thumb holes!
  • All 1/2 Marathon Finishers will get the exclusive 2017 GIANT chunky medal!

Other Race Features:
  • FREE photography downloads
  • Pre-and post-race events in the United Club at Soldier Field
  • Results print outs inside the United Club
  • Runner tracking
  • Multiple days of packet pickup in the City and Suburbs with our new store partner, Fleet Feet Sports!
  • Will Call Packet Pickup
  • Hot chocolate and other warming goodies, provided by our sponsors
  • Legendary post-race party at Kroll's! First beer on F^3!
  • Bragging rights for life!

Newest Sponsors
We have some new sponsors on board who will be supplying post-race goodies for you at the finish line! From KIND Bars to Hummus to delicious hot cocoa, you'll have plenty to snack on while you show off your medal after the race! You've earned it! Plus, Kroll's is offering 20% off its entire menu for those who join the after party!

Partner Hotel - The Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel
Coming from out of town? Or just want a really easy commute on race morning? F^3 have once again partnered with the Radisson-Blu hotel in downtown Chicago. The hotel is conveniently located for Soldier Field, just a short taxi away. The address is 221 N. Columbus, Chicago. The special room rate is just $129. Book by calling them and referencing "Half Marathon" - (312) 565-5BLU      

F^3's Legendary After Party
After you have raced on Saturday, January 28th, head on over to Kroll's for the after party! Kroll's is the closest bar to Soldier Field and is easily accessed on foot over the 18th Street Bridge. With the support of Red Arrow Tap Room, the race will be providing your first beer at Kroll's for free, from Pollyanna Brewing in Lemont and Noon Whistle Brewing in Lombard. Kroll's is offering a generous 20% off its entire food menu!

Secure your spot - this race has sold out every year! 
(There is no race day registration.)

Code: BIBRAVE17 = $6 off the half marathon
Code: BIBRAVE175K = $5 off the 5k

Photos: F^3 website

Sunday, January 8, 2017

rise and shine 5k recap

Disclaimer: I received entry for Chi-Town Rise and Shine 5k to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

You can read my shorter review here.

Me and Eric before the race start.

I've found myself a new annual tradition for New Year's Eve and OF COURSE it involved running! The Chi-Town Rise and Shine 5k was held on Saturday, December 31 at Millennium Park. Packet pickup and the race pre- and post-race are was set up at the Chase Promenade and the race is one of a kind with a course that goes through Maggie Daley Park and Millennium Park (so far, no other race course has done that).

Always hard to decide on gear the night before for winter running, especially until you
 know what the winds will be like. My best attempt at a Flat Runner,
hoping I had everything I would need.

I found out about this race early/mid-December and knew instantly I wanted to be there. Swag included a pom pom hat and tech gloves with the logo on them (unique, and they turned out to be good quality, too!). What better way to start off your New Year's Eve and earn your right to party? 

They had packet pickup on Friday from 11am–7pm at Fleet Feet Old Town, but also on race day from 7:30–8:30am at the race site, thankfully. I give mad props and appreciate any race that offers day of without charging $30 to do so. It can be hard for people that aren't in the city to grab their packets on a Friday. Traffic is always pretty miserable, but even worse on Friday, and it's such a pain to drive 2+ hours to do so. Anyway, as you can probably tell, I chose to do pickup on race day haha.

I pre-paid for parking at Millennium Park Garage for $15 on Spot Hero (I think you'd get that same rate if you paid day of, but I know that garage is usually around $35 so wanted to make sure I got that cheaper rate). We arrived a little before 8am, went up to get our packets, and then went back to the car to stay warm and drop off our stuff rather than doing gear check, which was available. It was pretty chilly standing around (not too surprising - it's Chicago in December), but what made it cold was the wind. The temperature was 39 degrees, feels like 31, 13mph winds, 52% humidity.

Packet pickup was quick and easy - no lines and plenty of stations for the volunteers to scan your QR code from registration or look you up by name. Nice thing with the gloves and hat is you didn't have to worry about sizing. Also in the bag with the hat, gloves, and bib number, we also received lip balm, a box of Wild Garden Roasted Hummus crackers, and two Clif Bar minis. There were also full sized Clif Bars on the pickup table, so I grabbed one of those too.

There was stretching at 8:30 and corrals opened at 8:45. I ran into an Instagram friend and we chatted a bit, as well as seeing my friend Kathleen who I convinced to register (I didn't have to twist that arm too hard haha). Kathleen and I bonded over our Dopey Challenge 2015 training and running and being in Chicagoland area we of course have kept in touch.

Anyway, before entering into corrals I was able to find Eric, a fellow BibRave Pro, for a quick chat, hug, and of course photo. I was lucky enough to get another hug from him right after the race too. He's such a sweetie. Anyway...

Yeah, I was doing a lot of Stories on Instagram during the race haha.

The race began at 9am and runners went down Randolph Street going east, which was great because it's nice and wide to allow everyone to spread out so that the LFP congestion was little to none. I also loved that the course had no out and backs, which also helped with any congestion that could have happened. We hopped on the LFP going south – on the lower part that's against the lake. I warmed up pretty quickly during the run and took my gloves and hood off before hitting mile 1. The sun was shining and the wind died down, and it seemed Mother Nature was smiling down on us runners. 

Each mile had a mile marker and clock. There was a water and Nuun stop around mile 1.5ish? I'm not quite sure. The course turned and we headed back north on the upper LFP, turned west back on Randolph and turned a quick corner to run through Maggie Daley Park and then across the cool, windy bridge to Millennium Park. The finish line was just east of Pritzker Pavilion. Once you crossed, you received a bottle of water. A quick walk over to the pre- post-race site and you could grab half a banana, hot chocolate, a mylar blanket, Bai, David's Tea, more boxes of crackers, and Clif Bars.

The bridge I was talking about.

Almost finished!

I ran with my mom and we did 45/30 run/walk intervals. Even though I had only managed two short runs that week (my first since getting sick 3 weeks prior), and they did not go well at all, I was surprised at how well I was doing. I didn't have too many coughing attacks, so that was nice haha.

Happy I was still feeling pretty good.

At 10am they did the awards on the stage, with age groups being divided into 10 with I think 19 and under starting, then 20–29, etc. through 60+. First through third age group winners received a grey branded hooded logo.

The Finish Line.


Next up was the post-race party at Sweetwater Grill and Tavern. Unfortunately, they weren't prepared for the large group of us that went (not sure if they didn't realize most people would go there afterwards or what the deal was), but it took about 30 minutes to get our free drink. I felt bad for the workers, but if they had known, they could have had the mimosas pre-made rather than creating one for every participant on the spot. I think it would have gone smoother if they had carafes of them mixed and just needed to pour. Everyone seemed to be choosing that option over the Corona Light. The place was pretty packed - all of the booths and seats were taken up by runners eating brunch and getting a drink.

Kathleen and myself keeping warm at Sweetwater.

They had a Snapchat filter! How fun.

After we got our drink (we didn't mind waiting since we were killing time), Kathleen, my mom, and I went to Girodano's for lunch. Stuffed Pizza. Yum. It was nice to catch up with Kathleen in person and a nice way to sort of end the running year. My racing season never ends, as I have at least one race every month, but I felt accomplished for the day and had a fun time.

Some crazy hair haha.

Results were online the next day and photos were up about a week later (in a Facebook album which you can download your images for free - thank you - the only time consuming part is finding yourself since they aren't tagged haha). They also had a survey they wanted participants to fill out to get opinions on how the race/packet pickup/course etc went — showing they are interested in improving (though I didn't see much other than the post-race party needing any extra attention).

Awesome times.

I'll definitely be doing this race again next year. I think it was on the 'smaller' side this year with maybe 1200 participants, but I bet it grows each year, which they said they planned on making it a yearly event. Though it was on the 'smaller' side, I'd say it was a great turn out for having just over a month to get people signed up. If you're in Chicagoland next year for NYE, I'd tell you to check this race out and earn your right to party on NYE :)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

recovering with epsoak sport epsom salts

Disclaimer: I received an 8.5 pound canister of Epsoak Sport to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

It's a new year, and whether you make resolutions or set goals for yourself, one thing you should be focus on in 2017 is your recovery. I know it's something I need to focus on myself. Getting in your training is important, and I think we all know getting proper recovery is just as important. If we don't allow our muscles to recover properly, we risk injury which would stop us from doing that thing we love so much.

I'm not always the best at getting in my stretches or rolling out my muscles after my runs, and that's something I want to work on in 2017. I try to focus on getting protein post-run, but that's probably another thing that I need to focus on more. One way you can help those muscles recover is by using epsom salts. 

I had the chance to try out San Francisco Salt Company's Epsoak Sport. I received an 8.5lb canister of the Energizing Epsom Salt. Epsoak Sport Energizing is an awakening and invigorating Epsom salt blend infused with eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils for deep muscle restoration after a workout. They also have unscented and Soothing (lavender infused).

After making cookies for a few hours and going for a walk, my back hurt a bit.
Epsoak Sport bath was in order, naturally.

I used to use epsom salt back when I was Irish Dancing. I would soak my feet to help my sore, blistered feet feel better and I loved it. So taking it to a full bath to help my legs for running sounded heavenly. I'm not sure why I didn't do baths when I was dancing, as I'm sure my leg muscles would have thanked me back then. But oh to be young and bounce back easily haha. It's not quite the same these days.

I've been sick since early December, since returning from Mexico (are you tired of me talking about that yet? haha). Having epsom salts gave me a reason to relax and take a hot bath. The eucalyptus and peppermint scent helped to clear up my sinuses and gave my sore muscles some relief. I basically slept for 2 weeks sitting up and my back was killing me. Relaxing in the hot bath with the epsom salt helped relieve that pain. 

I haven't had a ton of time to run, this past week was actually my first week back with 3 runs so far of about 3 miles. My legs are taking some time to get back into the swing of things, so adding in the Epsoak Sport baths has helped me get back in the game by relieving any muscle soreness.

Epsoak Sport shelf life is 6–12 months and you'll want to store in sealed bag or container in a cool, dry place.

There's a scoop in the container, and you add two scoops to a warm running bath. Two scoopfuls of Epsoak Sport is necessary for optimum recovery; anything less and you aren't getting the full detoxifying and restoring benefits of the salt. The container mentions you can use 4 scoops for maximum sports therapy. Want to make the bath even more relaxing? Light some candles and turn off the lights. Enjoy the scents of the salts and candles, and just sink into that bath. Ahhhh...

Don't have a bath tub? No problem. You can still soak your feet in a foot bath or any kind of rubbermaid container large enough for your feet :)

Info from the website:

Pure Epsom Salt is the best post-workout muscle recovery soak for athletes. Epsoak Sport Epsom Salt is a pure mineral compound of Magnesium Sulfate. Our Epsoak Sport Epsom Salts are premium grade making it the best quality for athletes. 

Benefits of Epsom Salt Baths for Athletes:  
  • Decrease sore muscle recovery time
  • Sports injury prevention
  • Detox the body
  • Reduce inflammation

Epsoak Sport Energizing dissolves easily in warm water to create a muscle soak bath not only soak away the sweat, blood, and tears but also the aches, pains, and inflammation after a hard workout or long day on the field. The faster you recover, the quicker you can get back in the gym to train at your peak level. 

High quality essential oils are mixed with our premium Epsom Salt to create the perfect post-workout soak. Eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils are known to have a beneficial effect on muscle soreness and recovery after a long, hard workout. 

Benefits of Eucalyptus Essential Oil:
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Sore muscle recovery
  • Anti-microbial
  • Odor remover

Benefits of Peppermint Essential Oil:
  • Boosts energy
  • Relieve sore muscles
  • Anti-microbial
  • Naturally energizing​

6 mile run and 2 mile walk, ended up having some coooold legs.
A hot bath with some Epsoak Sport warmed me back up.

Ingredients: Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salt), Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Eucalyptus Globulus (Eucalyptus) Essential Oil, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Essential Oil. 

We all train hard, why not recover easy? You can save 10% on Epsoak Sport 5lb bags in all scents using code RAVE10. I recommend getting yourself a bag and helping those tired and sore muscles recover.

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What the other Pros had to say:
KolbeEricaHaley | EmilyLisa | Jeremy