Sunday, March 26, 2017

quick, healthy meals: luvo review

Disclaimer: I received Luvo meals 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!

Mac and Cheese! Yum.

One of my biggest problems is eating healthy and feeling full. Marathon training usually means I'm hungry NON STOP! I want to eat all day, and sometimes (often) my cravings are for something that's not good for me (cheetoh puffs, fast food). Life is sometimes quite busy, too, which makes stopping for fast food a quick and easy option. Luckily, there is Luvo, a quick and healthy option for people needing something to eat without the time to cook. 

Luvo sent us coupons which we redeemed at the store.

You can find Luvo at most local grocery stores. Around me, both Jewel-Osco and Mariano's carries them. Jewel surprisingly had more options to choose from. I'm an extremely picky eater, and to be honest with you, I'm not into veggies. There's a few I enjoy, but mostly, they just aren't my thing. I'd much prefer to be eating fruits. I can eat veggies when they are, we'll say, 'snuck' into the meal. By that I mean the flavor isn't too strong and I barely notice them haha. I have a weak pallet – I can't eat anything spicy (lots of mild BBQ sauces are too hot for me haha). I don't enjoy peppers of beans... and I could continue, but let's just say I often eat like a kid.

A pretty good set of options to choose from at Jewel-Osco.
Hard to get a full photo without a bunch of other brands in there.

Lucky for me, even though Luvo contains an entire serving of veggies in their meals (along with whole grains and quality protein), there were quite a few options that I could eat and I enjoyed. I doubled up on a few that sounded like they'd be up my alley – I tried the Roasted Cauliflower Mac & Cheese (bowl), Kale Ricotta Ravioli (bowl), Orange Mango Chicken (steam pouch), and the Red Wine Braised Beef & Polenta. I was searching high and low for the breakfast foods, mostly the Steel Cut Oatmeal with quinoa and mixed fruits, but I couldn't find them anywhere. I was a little nervous about the Ravioli, as it mentions fire roasted tomato sauce, but it wasn't spicy, so I was good.

The Mac & Cheese cooked, but before mixing it up.

I think my favorite was the Mac & Cheese. The rest were all about the same – I don't think I could pick one over the other. And that's a good thing. I loved how quick they were to heat up. I've been spending a lot of time out of the house lately, which used to mean just stopping for dinner on the way home, but knowing I had some Luvo in the freezer meant I came home, popped one in the microwave for about 5 minutes, and dinner was served. 

After a 'quick' post-work run, Luvo came
in handy so I could eat before 9pm.

The bowls were covered with a plastic sheet like a lot of frozen meals, and then after 4-6.5 minutes in the microwave, you let it sit 1 minute, then peel off the plastic, mix and eat. For the steam pouches, you place on a microwaveable plate, microwave about the same time as the bowls, and then when finished you cut open the pouch with scissors (carefully as the steam is HOT), and then grab the closed corners and shimmy out the food. It comes out looking pretty close to the photo on the packaging, which makes you feel like a good chef (which I am far from ha). They also make planted power bowls, which didn't appeal to me, but I know it would to most other runners.

The ravioli before going in the microwave. Love the ease of
cooking and eating out of the paperboard bowls.

Other than the convenience, it's nice to know you're getting some healthy food into your system. I am in the heart of marathon training right now, so knowing that I'm eating something with nutritional value, fueling my body properly, means a lot. And I am actually noticing a difference in how I feel during my runs, which is huge. Also of note – the chicken and beef were raised without antibiotics. 

The two sides of the pouch. They make it easy for you to k
now which side is up and which side is down.

Here's a few nutritional info on a few of the meals so you can get a feel of what's in them:

If you are looking to stock your freezer up with some quick, easy, healthy meals to make when you are in a pinch (or even when you aren't – they are great for lunches at work, or just a regular meal when you don't feel like cooking), I would suggest looking at your grocery store freezer aisle for these entrees. There are a lot of options, and it's a nice change of pace from a PB&J sandwich that someone (read: me) eats everyday. They are reasonably priced, and I often see them on sale, so stock up then. You can go here to see if they sell them at a store near you. They also have an online store with $9.99 flat rate shipping on orders over $28.99. 

Orange Chicken Mango. Mango with chicken is an awesome combo!

Red Wine Braised Beef & Polenta.

Connect with Luvo:
website | twitter | facebook | instagram | pinterest 

What the other BibRave Pros had to say:
Mai | Lindsey | Jeannine | Ang | Sam

Sunday, March 19, 2017

hyper pink amazingness: xx2i france 2 review

Disclaimer: I received a pair of XX2i France2 Hyper Pink sunglasses 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!

Angie and I sporting our France2 frames at Mardi Gras Chaser 10k.

Are you tired of my reviews for sunglasses? I sure hope not, because I have another one for you! This time it's for XX2i Optics France2. You know how much I love the USA1, so I was excited to try the France2 which I had been eyeing for about a year, but never had the money in my budget for sunglasses when I had a pair I already loved so much. Thanks to BibRave and XX2i, my dream of owning these sunglasses is now a reality – and in the color I had wanted – pink!

I knew these sunglasses were great before receiving them, as one of my best running friends and BAMR Amy had them (also in Pink) and wore them all the time – even for her ultras. If they held up to her 24 hour races (obviously she wouldn't need them for night, but still), then I felt they would be acceptable for me. The main issues with most sunglasses is fit. Is the frame to big that the arms are too wide that I don't get that snug fit (without being too tight)? While I enjoyed the Hawaii1 a lot, as they were very lightweight and comfortable as far as no bounce and they didn't hurt my ears or nose, but they were a little too big for my smaller head size.

Cuties and XX2i France2 sunglasses.

Lucky me – the France2 are perfect. The frame fits well and sits nicely on my ears/nose (the nosepiece is adjustable which is nice – you can fit it easily to your face) and they never bounced. They blocked out the right amount of light and I think they look cool. I feel sort of badass in them, as if I'm channeling my inner Amy. 

They were perfect on my 14 miler. Can you tell I like pink?
Pink visor, pink earphones, pink sunglasses haha.

I've worn them for a lot of long runs and they have been awesome. Even when wearing a BUFF® to protect my face, since the frames are open on the bottom, they might fog briefly, but with enough air flow they cleared up quickly, so I never had any issues not being able to see. They never annoyed me – no bouncing, no fogging, not too tight or too big – they were just right ;)

Even wearing a BUFF® to cover my face, the France2 barely fogged up.

Some information about the frames/lenses (from the website):
XX2i France2 Pro Racing Sunglasses comes in Hyper Pink with Blue Flash lenses and Blue temple tips. Included with these frames will be a tank protector case and one microfiber soft carrying bag that can also be used as a cleaning cloth. Features on these sunglasses are perfect for running, cycling, golfing or just about any activity that requires the sunglasses to stay on your face and remain fog free. 

FEATURES: interchangeable lenses, adjustable temple tips and adjustable nose pads. 

WARRANTY: Lifetime Warranty! No questions asked, you break or scratch them, send them back to be replaced for a nominal shipping and handling fee! 

RETURN POLICY: 365 Days! We know it may take some time to try on and get comfortable with a pair of sunglasses bought online so that's why we give you a full year to do so! That's right, take up to 365 days to determine if you want to keep them and if not, send them back for a full refund less any shipping and handling fee.

I can tell you first hand that the XX2i customer service is FANTASTIC. It's an amazing company with great, durable, comfortable, high-quality sunglasses that come with a lifetime warranty and a 365 day return policy. I think their warranty and return policy speaks volumes of the type of company they are. They want to make sure you are happy with the product and shows they actually care. 

Not a super sunny day for the Lakefront 10 Miler, but it sure was windy,
The France2 helped protect my eyes from the wind/dirt so I could get this race done.

I love all of their frames and that all of them have some fun options in colors. White and black are great, but sometimes I need a little pop of color ;) The France2 come in a variety of frame and lens colors – it was hard to pick a favorite, really. Besides having my eyes on the Pink, I was also considering the crystal green flash lens green tips pair, but since I had wanted the pink for a long time, that's what I chose. I am very happy with them and will continue to wear them for plenty of runs (switching off with the USA1 of course).

16 miles done. France2 sunglasses hold up.

Get a pair (or multiple) of XX2i using code 'marchbibrave' and you'll receive 50% off. Act fast – the code is only valid through March 28.

Connect with XX2i Optics:
website | twitter | instagram | facebook

Check out what the other Pros had to say:
Tedrick | Amy | Angie | Mai | Jessica | Vanessa

Sunday, March 5, 2017

mardi gras chaser 10k recap

Disclaimer: I received an entry into Back on My Feet Mardi Gras Chaser 10k 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 BibRave review here – it's on the shorter side ;)

I ran the Back on My Feet Mardi Gras Chaser 10k for the first time in 2016. It was a great race, benefitted a wonderful cause (all proceeds go to BoMF Chicago), and delicious post-race snacks. I had such a great time, I knew I would be back for 2017 if my schedule allowed. Thankfully, it did. 

This year's race was held on Saturday, February 25 at the same location as 2016 – Montrose Harbor. The course was pretty much the same as well. What wasn't the same? The weather. I wore SHORTS in 2016... and this year, well, I had to bundle up a lot. Good old Chicago in February. Just three days before the race, the weather was in the upper 60s. Race day called for a high in the low 20s and about 16–20mph winds. That equalled a windchill of 9 degrees at the race start. 9! It was pretty dang cold. I think it would have felt more manageable if it was 9 degrees and no wind, but that wind just cut you. When the race began, it started snowing pretty heavily too. What a difference from 2016 haha. Oh well, no matter the weather, I always have a good time.

I was so happy that a few other running friends and fellow BibRave Pros and family members would be there too. I met up with Frank, Mark, Tina, Angie, and Josh. My aunt and mom ran as well. 

My mom and I got there around 8:15 (only took about 40 minutes to get there). There was ample free street parking near the start/finish line. We went to grab our packets. Mom got hers easily, but to my horror my name wasn't on the list! I knew I had registered for the 10k, but she checked the 5k in case – wasn't on there either. Of course I wasn't prepared and didn't flag the confirmation email, so I had to do some digging to find it. Luckily, I did in a few minutes (though at that point my hands were frozen as I left my gloves in the car thinking). I had to fill out a registration form (but not pay again) so they could get me a bib number and put me in the system. Not very painful, but strange nonetheless. I got a unisex medium white 1/4 zip tech pullover (the swag for this year – last year was a white long sleeve shirt).

We ran into Angie and Josh as we headed back to the car. We all said we would reconvene and chat via text so we could get warm again after pickup in our cars haha. Around 9:15 we got out of the car again to take some photos and chit chat. I went to the bathroom around 9:30 – no wait. There were about 10 porta potties near the start with a hand washing station. I think I went back to my car after for 20 minutes to warm back up before the start. And then, before we knew it, we had to line up. 

Looking good in our XX2i France2 sunglasses!

Both the 5k and 10k began at 10am. They had some pace signs so people could line up accordingly. The National Anthem was sung and we were off. The first .25ish mile was on the street on a small, coned off section. I think this was because of some potholes/cracks in the sidewalk area. We could have used a bit more space, as it was pretty congested that first part, but soon we were on the lakefront path and it started to thin out. I began my run/walk intervals of 50/15 around .5 mile. It's also then I noticed my watch was set on walk mode! NO! I would have left it, but it doesn't have the data screens I like to use when I run, so I stopped and re-started it in run mode. Womp womp. This made it hard to really know what my pace was each actual mile, but I could tell I was running a good pace for me. I was able to keep Tina in my sights, and we did a few pass each other moments, and I said if I was able to keep up till mile 4, I would try running with her the rest of the way without my walk breaks. Somehow, I did just that. 

Me, Angie, Josh, and Frank :)

Four of us wore 2XU Hyoptik tights! Ha.

I love out and backs because it gives me a chance to cheer on other runners and look for my friends. I high-fived Mark, shouted out to my aunt and Josh, waved at Angie. It's awesome. The turn around came a little after mile 3 with some Clif Bars (and my mom wasn't too far behind me, as I knew she would be), and then I hit mile 4 and started running with Tina. We chatted a bit and enjoyed each others company. It was really nice to be able to run with someone that could help me keep my pace and not go too fast, which is my problem when I try to run continuously. We stopped at mile 5 for some water. The volunteers weren't handing it out, and when I asked if there was any, they said it had frozen over. I took a cup anyway, and with a light squeeze the ice broke down and there was water underneath. Very cold, but I needed to wet my whistle. Mark met up with us around 5.5 and ran the last bit with us.

Mark and Josh.

I thought that I had a PR, but wouldn't know for sure until I looked up my official results. I was able to get Tina's watch finish time (since we started and finished together), and that pretty much told me I did, but I like the official results to tell me for sure and by how much haha.

Angie and Frank.

At the finish line I grabbed a cup of Gatorade, a banana, Clif mini bar, medal (instead of a ribbon it was beads, which was cool), Bai, Entenmann’s Mini Bagels (plain and cinnamon), Entenmann’s Little Bites, and a cracker type thing. Shortly after grabbing everything, we cheered on Frank and my mom finishing. Oh yeah at the finish line they also had mylar blankets.

We took some photos, said goodbye to Frank, and then decided to head over to the after party at Fat Cat. We were able to find a small parking lot for $2 an hour, so did that and then crossed the street to get to Fat Cat. When you walked in, they had the BoMF table with raffle tickets for sale (lots of raffle prizes – shirts, hats, jackets, etc) and you could also grab your beer with your bib beer ticket. After maybe 10 minutes, we were able to get a table large enough for our group and then hit the $15 buffet. 

The buffet was stocked with some delicious food  – Yogurt bar: Greek yogurt, house made granola, fresh fruit, sliced almonds, sprinkles, and honey, bananas foster brulee french toast, chicken fried chicken with gravy, red beans and rice, house made biscuits with Fat Cat home made jam and whipped butter, scrambled eggs, brunch potatoes, bacon. My favorite was the french toast, bacon, and potatoes (oh and the biscuits with jam and butter haha). I think we all ate enough to get our money's worth ;) 

I didn't like the beer options, so just drank water to rehydrate. Even though it was a cold day, I still sweat plenty haha. 

Some of the plates of food. We were hungry.

Mark and Tina had to get going before the hour was up (for parking), but my mom, Angie, Josh and I hung out for about another hour or so. It was great to chat and catch up with some of my best running friends. My mom had some friends there too, so after parting ways with my crowd we chatted with them for a few minutes before hitting the road.

I enjoy all races, but races where you have friends are even better. I loved spending time with everyone, cheering each other on, and of course, taking all the photos possible :)

One last photo of the group wearing orange :)

I'd definitely keep this race on your radar for 2018. It's really fun and is for a great cause (you can read more about that here).