Thursday, May 5, 2016

REVIEW: Nathan SpeedShot Plus Insulated Handheld

The AMAZING folks over at Nathan Sports sent me some new gear a couple weeks back and it's time to start spreading the word about my favorite pieces so you can give them a try if you are in the market for some new hydration solutions!

How sweet are they?! Look at all the goodies I received! 

First up is the Nathan SpeedShot Plus Insulated Handheld. To be honest, I have been using the Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Handheld for a while now and have loved it (I bought it with some money one of my grandmas sent me for my birthday last year) so I was stoked to try another one of the products from the handheld line.

There are multiple color options, but I was
sent the berry pink color.

I decided the ultimate test for this handheld would be how it would do during the Big Sur International Marathon. Normally I wouldn't carry a handheld for a marathon, but I didn't want to wear a belt so it was perfect for holding my PROBAR BOLT chews. (And figured if I could carry it without issue for over 26 miles then it HAD TO BE a winner, right?!)

In this picture I was holding the wrapper for my PROBAR BOLT chews
because I had just finished eating them a few hundred feet before.

The weather was less than stellar for the race (feel free to check out my recap if you haven't already), but because it wasn't super warm or sunny the 12 oz capacity seemed perfect. Big Sur tries to be as environmentally responsible as possible and actually offered BYOB {Bring Your Own Bottle} refill stations at every aid stop. As soon as I heard that I knew my handheld was perfect (and since you could technically fill your bottle at every station, even if it had been hot I think I still would have been fine with the 12 ounces). I ended up refilling around Mile 14 and then again around Mile 20.

Heading towards the finish line!

Refilled my bottle once I crossed the finish line and had to take a second to rehydrate before grabbing all my goodies!

Love the hi-viz reflective features on the pouch and bottle

I have also taken the Nathan SpeedShot Plus Insulated Handheld out on some of my training runs. I think that the size is perfect for runs between say 6 and 12 miles. If you have water fountains on your route and could top off your hydration, then you could probably go even longer {but obviously this is based on how much you drink, the weather, etc}.

Now that the temperatures are starting to rise I am stoked to have more handheld options! I love that I can store my phone in the pouch (I have a iPhone 5S in a wallet case) for safety purposes {and, let's be real, I've gotta have it handy for photo ops}. I can also throw my keys, fuel, chapstick, etc in without any issue (the expandable pocket holds a ton!).

And because I have been running with Nathan handhelds for a while I am familiar with the comfort, but in case you've never given this brand a try before let me tell you - it fits LIKE A GLOVE! The hand strap is fully adjustable, the fabric is super soft and there is a chafe-free thumbhole that enables grip-free running.

If you are interested in checking out the Nathan SpeedShot Plus Insulated Handheld or any of the other amazing hydration handhelds, you can visit your local run specialty shop. On the website there is even a search bar in the lower right hand corner that shows you where you can find the specific product nearby! #ShopLocal


Oh yeah, and I almost forgot, I'm linking up with Smitha over at RunningWithSDMom for today's "Try Out Thursdays". It's a LinkUp Post where you can review any new (to you) product, whether that be a race, food, running gear, coach, restaurant, etc. Head over to this week's post to see what everyone is sharing (and link up with us while you're at it!)!

At what distance do you bring hydration with you on a run?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

5 Tips to a Better Night's Sleep

Seeing as May is Better Sleep Month (Oh, wait, you didn't know?! Well, you learn something new every day, don't ya?!), I thought it was fitting to do a quick post about five tips that I have found super helpful (at least in my personal life) when it comes to getting a better night's sleep.

You see, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia when I was in High School and getting a good decent night's sleep can be the difference between a good day and the start of sending me into a tail-spinning episode. So, as you can imaging, I take this area of my life extremely seriously!

5 Tips to a Better Night's Sleep

1. Turn Your Electronics OFF

I know, I know, this is hard for us ALL, but it is uber importante! You don't necessarily have to turn your electronics "off" (I mean, let's be real, who actually has an alarm clock these days?!), but I have found that having my phone set to DND (Do Not Disturb) from 8pm until 6:30am definitely helps. It doesn't mean I am not getting the Instagram notifications, Tweet alerts or text messages, it just means my phone isn't lighting up and reminding me they are there. With that, it is easier for me to lay in bed and not be jarred awake by my phone blowing up like a firework grand finale (and if my phone isn't turning on I have noticed I am less tempted to roll over and check it every couple minutes when I should be sleeping).

2. Use Your Bed For Sleep

The hubby and I don't have a TV in our bedroom (and I can tell you that although I am frugal, my "cheapness" is not the main reason for this). We try to use our bed for sleeping ONLY {Get your mind out of the gutter, okay?! Yes, we use it for "that" too, but you know what I mean!}. I know it is easy for us all to want to cuddle up in the bed and throw on our latest Netflix obsession, but training your body that when it lays in bed it is time to go to sleep can be of utmost importance!

3. No Pets Allowed

I am a super light sleeper, like just about anything and everything will wake me up. When Ryan and I were discussing getting a dog, one of my non-negotiables was that the pup HAD TO sleep in its crate. I get a rough enough night's sleep as it is, I don't need a fidgety dog moving around (or taking up valuable bed space) keeping me awake. {Seeing as the hubby sleeps like a rock and LOVES his doggy, once I get up in the morning I will let Walt out of his crate and he will go snuggle with Ry in the bed until he has to get up for work.} Let's be real, crate training a dog takes a lot of persistence, but those few sleepless nights at the beginning have led to months/ years of better sleep-filled nights ever since!

4. Start Calming Down Early

As a part of my running routing, I try to stretch and foam roll every day. When I first started running I had a bad run in with an incredibly angry IT Band and since then have realized that my body needs not only exercises other than constantly pounding the pavement, but also a release. After dinner, normally while the hubby is watching some off-the-wall movie he found on Amazon Prime, I bust out my foam roller and yoga mat. Not only does this help my muscles, but it also helps my mind begin to calm down for the evening. Maybe stretching and foam rolling aren't your jam, but maybe it's reading a quick chapter in a book {just not in your bed; see tip #2} or taking a warm bath, but whatever it is, take the time in the evening to start calming down prior to laying in bed to set yourself up for a better night's sleep!

5. Get Adequate Exercise

When I was originally diagnosed with Fibro (remember, this was years ago, before they were pushing medications like Lyrica), I was told to "eat healthy and exercise". I've gotta be honest, I thought that suggestion was sort of a cop out from the doctor (and maybe still do)... The idea behind it is if you tire out your body enough, hopefully you can fall into a deep enough sleep for your body to get sufficient rest. In theory (and for most "healthy" folks) that is a fabulous idea, but just not necessarily super helpful in my specific case. Even still, I do tend to get a better night's sleep after a good workout (for me, I think it is more because exercise tends to do the trick in helping calm my mind rather than the physical exertion sending me to sleep, but whatever the reason, I will continue to do it for as long as my body allows!).

And Casper, a sleep start-up that created the perfect mattress, sheets and pillow for everyone, has some AMAZING suggestions about how to combat different sleep problems we all tend to struggle with! We have much more important things in life to concern ourselves with than sleeping at night, #AmIRightOrAmIRight?! See if any of these sleep problems affect you and what recommendations Casper has to fight them!

The noise problem is totally up my alley! Since everything wakes me up, we have found that having (LOUD) background noise helps to drowned out other sounds that may wake me from my slumber. Both Ryan and I have white noise apps on our phones for traveling and we have a box fan in our bedroom that we have on HIGH 95% of the time (if it is too chilly for the fan we will put it in the closet but keep the door open as to avoid some of the wind but none of the sound).

What is the best tip you have for helping others get a better night's sleep?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

REVIEW: Eagle Creek Pack-It Sport™

If you follow many (or any) of the #RockNBlog crew then you have probably scrolled through your fair share of these #EagleCreekGear reviews... And, well, here's another ;)

You see, not only do we get access to Rock 'N' Roll Marathon Series races as a Rock 'N' Blogger, but we also get some other amazing perks, one of which is being able to test out gear and spread the word to our friends/ family/ followers.

Eagle Creek was kind enough to send the team THREE awesome products from the Pack-It Sport™line - the Fitness Locker, the Shoe Locker and the Roll Top Sac - all in BANGIN' Strobe Yellow {you know I love me some bright colors!}.

Below is a video of me with the spifferific products. (For someone who isn't super comfortable with video you just can't get me to shut up, huh?!)

What I failed to mention in the video is that we've already been using these products in our household for quite a while now. Eagle Creek has offices above where the hubby works so we are very familiar with their gear. Ryan uses a Fitness Locker to cart his running and climbing gear to and from work and the gym. He also uses a Roll Top Sac as a way to keep all of his work camera gear (like lenses and such) together. Both of those products went with him to the desert this past weekend when he joined friends on a camping/ rock climbing adventure. We also have a Pack-It Folder, another Roll Top Sac and a TravelLite™ Towel among other products.

So, as you can see, not only are these products PERFECTION when it comes to racecations, but they are handy and dandy in your every day life as well! They are convenient for runners, travelers and your average Joe-Shmoe alike ;)

If you're interested in checking out these products or others that Eagle Creek offers (like I said, we already own quite a few), make sure to visit their website and check out their bags, packs, luggage, organizers and travel accessories! With their guarantees on their products, you will NOT be disappointed!

And I truly hope to see you at a Rock 'N' Roll Marathon Series race in the near future! If you have yet to register, use "CARLEEMCDOT" on most of the races to save a little dough (and put it towards that Eagle Creek order).

How do you pack your race day gear?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Big Sur International Marathon Race Recap

Are you all caught up on our Big Surian Adventure? If not, click through the links below!

          * Camping In Big Sur {Part I}
          * Camping In Big Sur {Part IV}

When I was selected in the Big Sur International Marathon lottery we knew that the trip wouldn't be solely about the race. Sure, the marathon was going to be the culmination of the adventure, but the journey (just like with life in general) was far more important than the destination.

Well, now that I've hopefully given you a chance to catch up on the beauty and fun we had prior to Sunday morning, we have arrived at race morning together.

Just like most nights before a race, I slept HORRIBLY! I always fear I will sleep through my alarms (yup, I set multiple alarms and normally never even stay in bed till the earliest one goes off), so I toss and turn to check the time every twenty minutes or so. I think the added stress of having Walt the Wiener Dog with us was also playing into the lack of sleep. (The hotel we stayed at was dog friendly and the room next to us had a pup that would bark/ whine every so often, which would cause Walt to retaliate.) A few minutes before 3am I decided to pop out of bed and start getting ready.

Like I mentioned in the previous recap post, the race is a point-to-point, meaning you start at one spot and run to another (rather than starting and finishing near the same location). With that said, runners needed to be at the bus lines at zero dark thirty so they could take the 50ish minute ride to the start (at least that was about the length of time it took us getting picked up in Monterey to get to the start of the marathon).

This is what it looks like to have your race outfit centered completely around
a specific pair of PRO Compression socks ;) #RunMatchy
#FlatCarlee included a Sparkle Athletic skirtHandful sports braNathan
Brooks shoesKT TapeShwingsRoad IDGarmin Forerunner 220,
Sparkly Soul headbandMomentum wrapQALO wedding bandMudLOVE
Sparkle Athletic visor (with Girl Power 2 Cure flower), PROBAR BOLT
, mittens, Mylar blanket and a cheap pair of sleeves. 

I knew I needed to leave our hotel about 3:50am to get over to the bus pick-up for my designated time (we picked up our bus tickets at the expo the day before). Ryan, Walt and I actually walked the route from the hotel to the buses on Saturday afternoon (while we were waiting for the hotel to let us check in), that way I would be more comfortable with it in the morning. Thankfully it was only about a half mile away and a fairly straight shot.

I got the "late" option and I still had to be there by 4am!

I checked the weather before I left and it still seemed fair (at least in Monterey), with overcast skies and a light coastal breeze for the majority of the race. I was still thankful for the hand warmers we picked up, mittens and #TeamSparkle sweats, even if they reeked of campfire. I get chilly easily and would much prefer to be over-dressed and removing layers than shivering in a dark, cold parking lot before the race kicks off.

When I got over to the bus area I was shocked! The line of runners was over TWO BLOCKS LONG! I would assume that the Monterey pick up was probably one of the most popular ones for the marathon, but still, with the field being less than 5,000 runners for the full distance it seemed like everyone and their mom was at the bus stop at the exact same time.

Thankfully the volunteers seemed to be extremely well organized and kept the lines moving at a decent speed. I'd say I was on a bus within 15-20 minutes and ready for the trek ahead.

The bus ride was easy. I ate my banana and tried to relax as much as possible. I was constantly reminding myself that any uphills that the bus was chugging up was a good thing because since we were driving the course backwards those would be downhills for us running... But, man, those hills were relentless and never really gave up for the 26.2 miles!

Once we made it to the starting area everyone got off the buses. They funneled us into the Ranger's Station at the Big Sur Pfeiffer State Park (the camp grounds we stayed at on Friday). It sort of reminded me of sardines in a can (even though I'm a vegetarian and have never actually seen sardines in a can). The starting area was a tight squeeze with port-o-potties lining both sides and people meandering or sitting in the middle. I made my way to a potty line, figuring the sooner I went the fewer people would be in line.

After my pit-stop, I tried to find Kristin and Pam. I had seen Pam at the Expo and she mentioned that the two of them would be near the coffee. I tried to find them but I don't know if it was the dark, the sea of runners or just bad luck but we never were able to connect (PS I turned my phone on airplane mode once I texted Ryan that I had made it to the buses because I knew the service was spotty and I didn't want to waste my battery).

Another 40 minutes or so went by and I decided to hit the bathrooms one last time (it was about 30 minutes before the start of the race and I knew the lines could take a while), then I put my sweats in my gear check bag before heading to the starting line.

They started filling the corrals from the back forward (there are three self-seeded corrals - Corral 1 for anyone expecting the finish under 3:45, Corral 2 for runners expecting to run between 3:45 and 4:45, and Corral 3 for runners expecting to finish between 4:45 and 6:00 {six hours was the cut off for the course}). When Rudy called for the second corral I started making my way towards the main road. Obviously I had to stop to take a starting line selfie!

FUN STORY: A few days after the race someone mentioned they saw me in one of the official videos... And it was when I was taking that picture! You can watch the video HERE (I am around :06 into the clip).

Once all the runners were in the corrals we got down to business {no, it was NOT time to defeat the Huns} - National Anthem time! I had a fellow runner snap a quick picture of me before we started moving up.

Then I made sure to give my legs a quick pep talk: "This one is not about time, it is about the views. When we get tired, we will take a break. I have put you through a lot these past 10 weeks, so this race is just about the enjoyment. YFGT!"

I taped my knee just to be safe, but I am HAPPY to report that I
had ZERO knee pain the entire run! 

Soon enough the speed racers were off and Corral 2 was inching our way towards the starting line.

The sun was rising and we were getting ready to run the coast, the hills, THE DAY!

3, 2, 1 and we were OFF! Now I don't know about you, but I have a HUGE problem with pacing myself. Having "fresh" legs {more meaning I had been tapering and hadn't really run for the few days before, not necessarily that my legs were fresh as daisies due to all of the racing I had done in the prior two and a half months}, the adrenaline of a race, having others running fast around me, etc makes it extremely rough to hold back. Even still, I told myself that the first few miles were a gradual downhill and that I needed to run smart and conservatively!

The first few miles were in the redwoods. It was beautiful! I didn't take any pictures because the road was pretty crowded with runners and I didn't want to cause an accident (also, my hands were in my mittens and didn't necessarily want to fidget with them to try and snap a crappy photo), but believe me when I say it was beautiful!

I had remembered that Rudy had mentioned runners would start feeling the wind around Mile 5 because that is when you start getting out of the trees and hit the coast. OH AND BOY DID WE FEEL IT! I guess it was my fault for not looking at more race recaps, but apparently the wind is a hassle most years... (But I also heard from multiple people that this was the WORST YEAR in recent history for the wind! Did you watch the video I linked to at the beginning?! You can see the craziness in it!)

We got out to the open road and we were literally smacked in the face with headwinds... And not a light breeze like I was originally planning for when I looked at the weather report, like 30-40 mph winds that we were running in to THE ENTIRE TIME! OUCH! Like I told the hubby when I finished, I had planned for the hills (even if I still wasn't 100% trained for them), but the wind was something I was NOT expecting and it KICKED MY BUTT!

As soon as the wind almost knocked me on my booty I had to throw up my hands and chuckle. I told Ryan that I was shooting for a 4:15-4:30 finish (taking it easy, walking some of the uphills, stopping to snap pictures, etc) but when the wind was out in full force I was slightly worried that I might miss that goal.

Since the race wasn't going to be a goal race for me, I knew I wanted to stop for as many pictures as possible. No, it's not like a runDisney race with character stops, but the scenery is pretty stunning and worth a photo or two (although, looking back through my pictures I didn't stop as many times as I had thought AND most of my pictures have my ugly mug in front of the amazing backdrop... I probably should have just tried to capture the scenery instead... OOPS!).

As you can see, my fly-aways were a bit out of control ;)

Taking a brief break during another one of the climbs...

Before I knew it I was getting ready to make the climb up to Hurricane Point... The dreaded two mile hill to Bixby Bridge (from Mile 10-12ish). I knew we would be rewarded with more beautiful views and even being serenaded by a pianist and his grand piano at the top of the hill, so I tried to chug along as best I could (but also tried to take it easy and not thrash my legs, especially with more than a half marathon to go). I played little games of running to a certain cone and then walking three more before running again to take my mind off the length of the climb. It may not be super steep (I think in total you gain 560 feet between those two miles), but it is definitely unrelenting to say the least!

The Bixby Bridge went up in 1932! Can you imagine building something like this back then?! I can't! 

Taking a little break to dance to the piano song

I was stoked that after the climb to the top of Hurricane Point we had some downhill to cruise on... Well, that was until I got there and realized that the crazy strong headwinds were making downhills just as difficult... I was literally getting blown back UP the hill... Not quite the reprieve I was hoping for after the work I put in to get up the hill!

Well, I had two choices - whine and mope about the wind or embrace it with a smile on my face. I am sure you know which option I picked! It didn't make the run any easier or the wind any less powerful, but it did keep me chugging along.

I don't necessarily remember much of the course... I mean, it was hills and amazing views, followed by more wind and hills mixed with stunning scenery... I really don't know if there was more than a half mile total of flat ground - we were either going up or down the entire time (and the road had a slant to it as well, so you had to work with that too).


Please know that I am NOT complaining, just trying to be as honest as possible for folks thinking of taking on this race in the future. I think the total elevation gain was in the 2,500 feet range, so nothing too terribly steep, but constant rollers for sure. For me, this was a great race to take it easy and enjoy the ride (because, in my opinion, with the difficulty of the course it would be incredibly difficult to shoot for a PR).

When you see Dean Karnazes, you ask for a selfie, no?!

The views... I mean, I would climb a mountain to see views like this, wouldn't you?!

A little after mile 23 there is a STRAWBERRY PIT STOP! Oh heck yes! They were BIG and DELISH! You know I had to stop for a berry (and a selfie)! Around this time was when I turned airplane mode off on my phone and shot Ryan a text to tell him where I was and when to expect me. (We have also been using the Find My Friends app on our phones - which #TeamSparkle found extremely helpful during Ragnar - and Ry was able to get a visual of where I was on the course without needing to pay for the runner notifications.)


I much appreciated the "green-ness" of the race! They suggested runners bring their own bottles and had "BYOB" refill stations at the end of each aid stop (with both water and electrolytes). Since it wasn't super warm (it was actually fairly chilly and wet) I only stopped twice to fill up my handheld, but was super stoked to have the option! They even had pitchers at the finish line as to save more cups! I am always pumped for less waste! I believe Rudy mentioned it at the beginning of the race "Nothing should touch the ground except for your feet" - especially since if you were to throw your cup, the wind would have blown it out to sea instantly. I love races trying to be more environmentally responsible!

Obviously this is a picture at the end of the race...

Because the race is along the 1, there are very few spectators (we would see a couple folks in front of a campground here or there, but the majority of the folks on the road were runners or volunteers). If this is something you need to keep you stoked when running, you may want to think twice about this race. There is quite a bit of on-course entertainment though! There were bands, dance teams, cheer squads, drum lines, etc all out fighting the elements alongside of us and trying to keep our spirits high! It was much appreciated for sure!


The one thing I would have liked on the course was salt (and NOT the type that I was covered in from the sweat and sea water)... Most of the aid stations had oranges and bananas (I think I grabbed an orange slice or two over the course of the race), but other than that they didn't have much else (there were two stops along the way that had GU, but that is NOT my JAM... it reminds me of sucking down snot and I am NOT into that!). My body was craving some salt and there was none in sight. Next time I'll throw a few pretzels in my handheld's pouch for safe keeping (and late race snacking).

Before we knew it we were heading towards the finish line! I would be lying if I said I wasn't pumped for it to be over. Although the views were absolutely gorgeous, I was cold, soggy and wanted out of the wind! Ryan let me know that he and Walt were near the finish line (where the flags were) so I turned on my laser focus and made my way to my guys!

Heading in towards the finish line!

Obviously I still had a big smile on my face... And it was even bigger when I realized I was ALMOST DONE!

I ended up crossing the finish line with an official time just under 4:12 - not to shabby for my third full marathon in 10 weeks (along with an ultra Ragnar Relay, a 5K and a half marathon). This was definitely the most beautiful course I have ever run, but you really earn those views because it was definitely the hardest race I've run as well.

It definitely could have been worse...


I met up with the hubby and pup after crossing the finish line to take a couple pictures. (I swear, next time I will ask someone to take a picture of Ryan and I... We never remember to get one together, even though he's my number one cheerleader and biggest supporter!) A couple folks asked to pet Walk, which we gladly obliged (who doesn't love a wiener dog, I mean, really?!).

Minus his ear being blown inside out from the wind, this is a pretty cute shot!

And just like that, we were heading to the car to make the 8 hour drive back home. We stopped at the gas station to grab some Tylenol for my back (I think the pounding of going up and down the hills, along with maybe being a little scrunched over to fight the wind had my back uber tight) and I took one last picture before changing out of my sweaty gear and into some comfy, warm clothes.

Folks have asked my thoughts on the race. After additional time to think about it, I still stand by my original thoughts. It is honestly one of the most beautiful races I have ever done, but I don't think I would do it again. I would DEFINITELY go back to Big Sur to camp and enjoy the area, but I think this race was probably a one-and-done for me... which is GREAT news for YOU because that means one less runner in the lottery pool! And even though I probably wouldn't do it again, I totally think everyone should give it a go (at least once). Oh yeah, and truth be told, if it was closer I would totally do one of the other distances offered (you could do a marathon relay, 9-miler, 10.6-miler, 21 miler, etc).

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the bling! IT IS MY FAVORITE! It isn't your standard medal, they are actually hand crafted pieces of clay and as the marathon weekend approaches, elementary school children from the Monterey Peninsula attach the leather cords to the medallions. It will be something I will treasure for years to come!

Please ignore the scary eyes... Blame it on the exhaustion... 

Have you ever ran in a race with crazy headwinds before?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Workout Recap - Week 18

Sunday, April 24th – Big Sur International Marathon, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Monday, April 25th – Rest Day, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Tuesday, April 26th – Strength Training (abs, back, legs and arms), 4 mile run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Wednesday, April 27th – 3 mile run with the hubby, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Thursday, April 28th – PiYo Sweat Workout, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Friday, April 29th – 10 mile run, Stretched & Foam Rolled

Saturday, April 30th – Rest Day, Stretched & Foam Rolled

I know, I took TWO rest days this week, what a slacker, huh? KIDDING! Although my body felt fine after the Big Sur International Marathon on Sunday, I have been going, going, going like the energizer bunny for the past 10 weeks (in which I have run 3 full marathons, an Ultra Ragnar Relay, a 5K and a half marathon) so I gave myself an extra chill day! Since finishing Big Sur I don't technically have a training plan in place, but do have quite a few races on the horizon so will be chugging right along in hopes of ROCKING them!

How were your workouts this past week?