Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Energy Bits Review

I've been reading a lot about Energy Bits on Twitter and on many blogs lately. I was interested because it seemed like every review I read praised these bits and highly recommended them. After a fun Twitter chat about a month ago, I was contacted by one of the Energy Bits team (Jonathan Levitt, who is absolutely fantastic at getting back to me ASAP and answering my many, many questions!). During our chat, he offered to send me a sample of Energy Bits to try out for myself! Awesome!

Source: Energy Bits

Now, you are probably wondering what exactly are Energy Bits. Energy Bits are small pill-shaped food made from 100% spirulina algae - and that's it! These bits are all natural (no caffeine and no additives!) and contain only 1 calorie per bit. A typical serving size is about 30 bits, so for 30 calories, you can't go wrong. Algae has some amazing health benefits, but I will let Energy Bits tell you more eloquently than I could:

Want more energy, more mental vitality, or a healthy high protein snack you can grab on the go? How about a quick way to boost your athletic performance, supercharge your run or crank up your endurance while working or working out? If so, ENERGYbits® are for you. Made from 100% organicallly grown spirulina algae and loaded with 40 nutrients, ENERGYbits® algae tabs have the highest concentration of protein in the world (64%) all for just one calorie per tab. Endorsed by the United Nations as the most nutritious food on earth, spirulina algae has been a favorite of Olympic gold medalists for decades and is a super food in every sense of the word, delivering instant and enduring energy to your brain and body.

Best used for:

  • Increasing Energy 
  • Increasing Endurance
  • Increasing Mental Vitality
  • High Protein Snack
  • Curbing Hunger 
  • Meal Replacement
  • Balancing Blood Sugar
  • Lowering Blood Pressure
  • Reducing Fatigue

Now that sounds pretty good! I received my sample last week with a bunch on information on algae. I actually find it so interesting how good algae is for you and yet, in the western world, it's relatively unknown - until now. Energy Bits is spreading the word on the health benefits of algae and I'm excited to get on board with it too.

All the goodies I received from Energy Bits!

I'll be honest. The first thing I did when I received my sample was smell the bits. Yes, I know that sounds weird, but everyone says they smell and taste "green" or like a fish tank. I can now tell you that this is 100% true. Since I was expecting the fish tank smell though, it didn't really bother me. And although it isn't the most appetizing smell, the health benefits of the bits far outweigh a little "green" smell.

I used my bits the other day for my 10k run. About 15-20 minutes before I went for my run, I ate 30 bits. Normally around this time right before a run, I need a snack (often I'll eat a banana or a energy bar or similar). This time I just took the bits, so I could really see how they work - otherwise, I would be quite hungry within the first mile or two. I decided to swallow the bits with water (I did all 30 bits in two mouthfuls), both because it seemed easier than chewing but also because algae is an acquired taste and I didn't want to turn myself off them before I got to reap the benefits! They went down easy and since you generally are taking about 30 bits per serving, I would probably recommend swallowing them anyways.

I went for my 10k run and felt great. I've been highly stressed out lately, so I was amazed at how clear my mind was and how great my body felt. I had no stomach problems with the bits.  I will say - sorry to be gross for a moment here - that I was concerned about burping or coughing and tasting the "green fish tank" in my mouth, but there was absolutely no unpleasant aftertaste whatsoever! I wasn't hungry for my first several miles and refuelled as usual around mile 3-4. Next time, I want to bring my bits with me, so I can use those as my mid-race fuel instead of the sugar and caffeine packed gels I have been using.

I had enough bits left for a second try, so this time I decided to use them before my tap class. I was feeling pretty tired on my way to class. Plus, we are just about to compete with our tap routine this coming weekend, so I needed all the brain power and energy I could get! I took the rest of my bits (approximately 30 bits with a mouthful of water) about 15 minutes before my class started. Again, I felt alert and energized, without the buzz or the shakes that often accompanies caffeine or higher sugar energy snacks. I felt full without feeling bloated, which is especially great when you are moving around so much. Overall, I had a great tap class with energy to last the full class and then some! Normally my legs feel a bit like deadweight after a full hour of tapping, but that didn't happen when I used the bits. 

There is a downside to these bits though, since they don't come too cheap. You can buy a bag of 1000 bits for $115 on their website. However, when you consider the cost of the bits compared to a gel or energy bar or similar, the cost per serving is actually very close! The bits are natural though, so you don't have all the additives and sugars that many of the gels and energy bars have, which is a definite plus.

I've ordered my own full bag of EnergyBits now (I hope they come soon!) and I'm excited to use them on a regular basis, not just before/during activity. There are so many benefits to algae, so I'm hoping I can both cut down on caffeine and get myself through the mid-afternoon slump at work by being #PoweredByBits. Energy Bits has a few other types of bits as well, including Recoverybits, Skinnybits and Vitalitybits, which are all great in their own way as well. Check out their website if you are interested in learning more about algae and the benefits of being #PoweredByBits!

If you are interested in trying out some bits for yourself, I have a sweet discount for all my readers! Use the code IRONRING at the checkout on EnergyBits.com for 30% off!

Personal Photo

Note: I was provided with a complimentary sample of Energy Bits to try. However, all the opinions expressed herein are 100% my own.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Spring/Summer Races

Those words seem fitting right now. I've been thinking a lot since I ran the Princess Half in Disney World and I realized that I am much stronger and much more capable than I thought. Let's be honest for a minute. My training for the half was pretty slack. I basically did one long run every weekend for two months, peaking twice at 8 miles. And I ran a half marathon! Would I recommend doing that to others? No, I think it is very important to train properly and I'm very thankful I was not injured. In fact, I didn't have any pain during my half until the sides of my thighs got super tight at mile 12 (which I think is amazing in itself).

If I can achieve a half with that sad "training" plan, just think of the possibilities if I commit myself to training!

I just completed a 5k run this past weekend (benefitting Strathcona County Victim Services). While it was no 26,000 person race - there were about 200 runners - it was a lot of fun and supported a great cause. I got a new PR for my 5k distance (35:00 exactly!) and I did the entire 5k without a walk break! I'm so proud of myself, since that's the farthest I've ever gone without a walk break!

I'm also signed up for a few other races this spring/summer:

May 12 - 10k Mother's Day Run
July 6 - Color Me Rad 5k
July 27 - Run for Women 10k
August 25 - Edmonton Marathon

Oh yeah...I signed up for my first FULL marathon! What?! Am I crazy? Yes. Yes, I am. But I know that if I train, I can do this. I'm not aiming for a particular finish time. I just want to finish. It's scary, but it's also really exciting. I don't know if this will be the first and last marathon I ever run, but I'm ready to challenge myself and prove to myself that I am so much more capable that I ever imagined.

Now, I'm off to run 10k in the beautiful spring weather #PoweredByBits! I'll have a review of Energy Bits posted soon!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

runDisney Princess Half Marathon 2013 - Part 2

If you missed Part 1, you can check it out here!

Away we went across the start line. There were lots of people, so it started off a bit slow. I hit the start button on my interval timer (set to 2 min run, 1 min walk intervals) and began my race. Less than a minute in, Aaron told me he was going to go for it, so I was on my own! I was happy to see him run off because I knew I was much slower than him, but also because I knew that I needed to run and finish this race on my own terms and at my own pace.

Before I knew it, we were 1 mile in! It was hot and muggy. I was already so sweaty. But I didn't care! I was running a half marathon in Disney World and I felt awesome! I was maybe 1.5 miles in and the elite runners appeared on the other side of the highway to head back to Epcot! Those ladies would have been around mile 10 at that point. Wow - that was both awesome to see and slightly disheartening since we just started - and there was still a long way to go!

Mile 1 Marker

I passed the pirate ship and princes/heroes, but the lines were already so long that I didn't stop. I was keeping steady with my 2/1 min intervals and before I knew it, we were coming up on the Magic Kingdom! Thanks to the single runner I met at this point who took a pic for me! Note how sweaty I am - and we haven't quite made it to Mile 3 yet!

Magic Kingdom Entrance

The thing about this entrance is that it is a bit deceiving. We had a ways to go before actually getting into the Magic Kingdom. I kept on going and soon passed the 5k marker. Shortly after, I came up to the villains! Now, if you know anything about me, you know I love the villains - particularly Maleficent (just look at my race outfit haha). And she was here! I've only ever seen her in a parade (once), so obviously I had to stop - long line or not! I figured I would make the most of my wait in the line and ate one of my Clif Gels while I was stopped.

Chillin' like a villain (sorry, I had to!) - taken by Marathonfoto

I lost over 10 minutes at the villains but I didn't care! After I left the villains, I decided to run more and ignore my interval timer for a bit. I knew it would be slow going through Magic Kingdom, so I tried to make up some time. I didn't realize that we would be funnelled through a few underpasses on the way to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). I did still run as best I could through this area, but there was a lot on congestion with so many people trying to get through.

 Heading towards the Transportation and Ticket Center

I kept on running and it was great to see so many people cheering us on as we ran through the TTC. We passed some of the big puppets that were out during the 20th Marathon Weekend. I rounded the bend just past the puppets and got my first glance at Space Mountain in the distance. I passed the Mile 5 marker and then glimpsed Cinderella's Castle for the first time!

Space Mountain

First Glimpse of Cinderella's Castle

We ran in a side entrance onto Main Street and it was packed! There were people everywhere - cheering, clapping, shouting, some with noisemakers, some with signs! It was amazing. But the part that really makes your heart jump is that first moment of seeing Cinderella's Castle at the end of Main Street. What a great feeling!

Running down Main Street

 In front of Cinderella's Castle

From here, we veered right into Tomorrowland and ran through Fantasyland. I was about to run through the castle! How exciting, or so I thought. It was cool that they had trumpeters above playing Rocky music as we went through. But it was so packed in the passageway that you could really only shuffle your way through. It was also super smelly and sweaty in there, so I have to say, it was all in all not the magical experience one imagines when running through the castle. I suppose had I been in an earlier, faster corral, I would have made it to the castle before it got so busy on the course. I'll have to get faster for my next race haha!

About to run through the castle

Sweaty but feeling good! - taken by Marathonfoto

We ran through to Liberty Square, where I stopped for a bathroom break. I wanted a real toilet, not a port-a-potty. The line in the women's bathroom was out the door (not surprising), but I ran into the mens washroom instead and there were lots of empty stalls! I wasn't the only girl in there either, so I didn't feel bad. Just past the bathrooms, I saw Jesse from Toy Story and she had only a few people in line! Score! After that photo, I passed the 6 mile marker and kept running past Splash Mountain and out the other side of Magic Kingdom where Cinderella and Prince Charming were taking pictures. There were tons of characters in the park, but there were so many lines and I had already lost so much time with my picture taking that I decided to keep going. I ran past the 10k marker and back onto the main road.

Soon after leaving the Magic Kingdom, I hit the halfway mark! Halfway already, and I was still feeling great. No aches or pains! There were firefighters and the song "Girl on Fire" by Alicia Keys was playing. Great song, but a little slow. I would have liked a faster song to get me going.

Then we were on the highway for the long road back to Epcot. It was pretty frustrating at this point, since the course was limited to one lane. People were running in the ditch and some even running outside of the pylons, against the calls of the cast members urging us to stay on the course. I heard one girl even got hit by a cab by running outside the pylons! (She wasn't hurt from what I read and did get up and keep running.) But for safety, you really should stay in the pylons! I saw Mary Poppins and some of the chimney sweeps around Mile 7, so I stopped for another picture because the line was again very short.

This is where the mental game really begins. The stretch of highway between miles 7 and 10 is long and pretty boring. There were a few character/entertainment spots, which was nice, and areas with cast members and volunteers cheering us along. But that is where you start to get tired. I walked more during this stretch and as I was approaching the food station, I started to get really hungry. We got Clif gels at Mile 8.6, which was much appreciated. The only downside was that the next water station was probably almost a mile ahead, so a bunch of us scarfed down our gels thinking the water station was going to be coming up right away. Needless to say, the sticky gel residue isn't all that awesome to have in your mouth without water for another mile.

I stopped for a pic with Princess Atta (A Bug's Life) because she didn't have much of a line either! After the Mile 10 marker, we began to loop around on the overpass that leads back into Epcot! We passed a Green Army Man from Toy Story who was cheering us up the hill. He told us at the top of the hill we will hit Mile 11 (true) and then it was all downhill from there (not so true)! Now, maybe he meant downhill as in the homestretch with only 2 miles to go, but there were still two more overpass hills that we had to get over before we were officially "downhill".

On the overpass just before Mile 11

Before I knew it, I was over the last hill and running by the Mile 12 marker - one mile to go! I was running through the pathway to get back into Epcot and heard my dad shout my name! I stopped for a moment to talk to them (of course, my dad almost made me cry with his "We're so proud of you!" haha) and I said something like "I'm so tired!" But with less than a mile to go, I was so close! So off I ran!

Under Spaceship Earth in Epcot! 

Running through Epcot - taken by Marathonfoto

I ran the hairpin turn at the front of Showcase Lagoon to turn back towards Spaceship Earth. A cast member cheering us on shouted "Only 0.3 miles to go!" I couldn't believe I was so close! I kept running - at this point my thighs were getting super tight and sore so I ran most of the way through Epcot (I think stopping to walk would have slowed me down completely!). I ran past the Gospel Choir at Mile 13 and there it was! The finish line!

The Finish Line

I did it! Crossing the finish line! - taken by Marathonfoto

My official time was 3:20:15, which I have to say, I am super proud of, given how many stops I made! I really enjoyed my experience with runDisney and would definitely run another runDisney event. While there were certainly some moments where there were just too many people on the course (i.e. one lane of traffic is not enough space for that many runners!), I think the purpose of these races (particularly the female-focused ones) is to have fun and just get out there and run! It just gives me incentive to get faster and qualify for an earlier corral so I can start sooner.

My official finisher photo! - taken by Marathonfoto

I loved the bling (who doesn't want an awesome tiara medal?!) and proudly wore it around Epcot with my "I Did It!" shirt later that day. Of course, I had a nice cold bath and shower first followed by pizza! Yum!

So what's next for me? I have a 5k race on April 21 and a few more races lined up for the summer! But I'll tell you about that a little later :)

Friday, April 12, 2013

runDisney Princess Half Marathon 2013 - Part 1

I know, it's taken me a long time to write this post. Yes, I've been busy, but I was also having a hard time deciding what to say. This was such a emotional day and journey for me that I worried as soon as I wrote my recap, it would be officially over. I guess technically this race is long over now, but that doesn't mean I'm done running. But we'll leave that for another post...

The Princess Half Marathon weekend at Disney was a whirlwind. We flew on a redeye flight to Orlando, landing early Saturday morning. I misjudged my ability to sleep on the flight (who was I kidding? I barely slept at all!), so it was a long, tiring day.

After checking into our hotel (All Star Music Resort), we headed over to the Expo at Coronado Springs. First, we picked up our bibs and then got in line for our race bags and t-shirts. I heard that Friday at the Expo was a madhouse, but everything went smoothly for us, even with a few lines. Then we headed over to wait in the runDisney merchandise line because I wanted an "I Did It!" shirt to wear after the race.

Bib Pick-up at the Expo

We wandered around the expo for a bit and tried a bunch of samples. I bought a couple Team Sparkle skirts for myself and one for Aaron, who was going to wear it for the run the next day. I bought The Stick, which I was so grateful to have in the couple days after the race! I also picked up a few tanks from the Raw Threads booth for myself - Evil Fairy Maleficent (that I wore for the half marathon) and Cheshire Cat.  There were so many things I wanted to buy, but I had to stop myself somewhere. This was day 1 of our trip!

A sign at the Expo - couldn't have been more true!

We went back to our hotel briefly before heading out to an early dinner. I honestly wanted to fall asleep in my Macaroni and Cheese I was so tired. Aaron and I had this moment where we both just looked at each other and said "I don't know if I can run this tomorrow, not if I feel like this." We had been hydrating plenty, but the exhaustion was catching up. We got all our our race gear lined up and ready for the morning, so we wouldn't forget anything. We went to bed at about 6pm on Saturday, preparing for our early start the next day.

My alarm rang at 2:30am on Sunday. That is a terrible time to be awake, but I was so grateful at that time to have been tired enough to go to bed at 6pm the night before. I actually got a good solid sleep! I jumped out of bed and started getting ready. I had a bagel with some peanut butter and a banana for breakfast. We were ready to catch a bus for 3:30am out front of our resort.

Just about ready to go catch the bus!

We walked outside our room and BAM. Hot, muggy, humid air. We were in for a hot race, but that wasn't going to stop me. I just came from the snow, so I embraced the heat and just told myself to keep hydrated.

We made it to the buses and were off to Epcot! There was a lot of traffic getting into Epcot at that time, but the bus ride only took about 20 minutes. I was excited. I was feeling good. Then we walked for about 0.5 to 0.75 miles just to get to the Family Reunion Area. There were people everywhere. The DJ was blasting music and people were milling about. There were some crazy costumes! The crowd was also 99% women (not surprising, since it is a women-focused race).

Aaron and I on our way to the Family Reunion Area!
(Photo by Marathonfoto)

Heading into the Family Reunion Area - so many people!

We went through a very smooth bag check (I checked the jacket I had brought to toss, since it was so hot and also a pair of flip flops - I was so happy I had them after the race!) and got in the long port-a-potty lines on the other side.

So many port-a-potties! The lines were huge!

We grabbed some more water, ate a banana and began the walk long hike to the start corrals. This walk was probably close to a mile by the time we made it, but in all honesty, it was a good warm-up for me. Along the way,  I ate some Sharkies and Aaron had a Clif bar. We also made one more bathroom break before getting to the corrals.

We made it to Corral E with about 15-20 minutes to spare before the race started. We found some space and did some stretching. We couldn't see much back from where we were, but we could hear it all.

Looking towards the start line from our place in Corral E (you couldn't even see it!)

The Fairy Godmother said her magic words, the fireworks went off and the race officially started! We slowly started shuffling forward towards the start line. The awesome thing about runDisney is that every corral gets its own firework send-off with a different song!

The race begins!

As we were moving forward, there was a great moment with everyone in the corrals singing along to "Don't Stop Believing". Finally, we were at the front. OMG - this was it! I was going to do this. The Fairy Godmother began our countdown...

...and away we went! Well, it was more of a walk shuffle across the starting line because there were so many people, but it was still exciting for me.

Ready to race? Me too! Part 2 to follow...