Why I Love Perfect Bars (and a Giveaway!)

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

I have been on a perpetual quest to find snacks that are not only easy to take on the go (sorry hummus) and are tasty (most protein bars are just gross), but still fill me up and aren’t filled with unpronounceable ingredients.

I’m happy to say that I think I’ve found a winner, and would like to introduce you to the Perfect Bar. Not just a cute name, I’ve found that Perfect Bars are great for a post-workout snack or a mid-day snack to get me through from lunch to dinner. I ate one the other day on my way to a workshop after my long run, and it held me over for 3 HOURS.

With so many healthy ingredients, you wouldn’t expect them to taste as good as they are, either, but I was pleasantly surprised. They don’t taste chalky like some other bars do, and they are true to the main flavor – the peanut butter ones just taste like real peanut butter. My favorite, the Almond Coconut, just tastes like almond butter and coconut.

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Here are the “tech specs” of the bars that I have fallen in love with:

  • Every single bar is non-GMO, gluten free, certified organic kosher
  • The protein in the bars ranges from 7 – 17 grams, which is (in my unofficial opinion) plenty for a solid snack or for post-workout recovery. For a more official opinion, I found an article on RunnersWorld.com that says between 10-20 grams of protein after a workout is more than enough to reap the benefits.
  • Organic honey is the preservative in the bars.
  • While they come refrigerated, the bars will last up to two weeks at room temperature.
  • All of the bars are vegetarian, and the Almond Coconut is vegan (it doesn’t have any dairy).
  • Many are made with peanut butter and/or dates, but the Almond Coconut and Almond Acai are peanut butter and date free!
  • Every bar includes their organic “Whole Food Powder” which consists of: kale, flax seed, rose hip, orange, lemon, papaya, tomato, apple, alfalfa, celery, kelp, dulse, carrot, spinach. I promise you can’t taste the individual flavors. I love sneaky nutrition!

I happened to pick up a Perfect Bar a couple of months ago (Almond Coconut) and it sat in the back of the fridge for awhile. I just pulled it out a week or so ago, and (thankfully) it was still within the best by range, and it tasted just as delicious as the fresh sample box that I taste tested. While the best by date is an obvious suggestion, rumor has it that the bars will actually last up to 9 months (!) in the fridge, if you can somehow not eat it before then.

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By now I’m sure you want to try some, too, right? You can pick up a bar in grocery stores like Whole Foods, Sprouts, Kroger, Safeway, even Costco, OR YOU COULD WIN A BOX FROM ME! The sample box has 7 full size bars and 2 mini bars, so you’ll get to taste almost one of everything. It’s super easy to enter below, the only catch is that you have to be a U.S. resident to win! The contest will close at 8:00 am MST on February 14, 2016, and the winner will be announced by 8:00 pm MST on February 14, 2016.

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6 Tips for Staying Motivated to Run in the Winter

Last winter was a disaster for me. I couldn’t get motivated, I couldn’t get out the door, and my training really suffered. This winter, I have been much more successful, so I wanted to share my tips for staying motivated and in shape during the colder months of the year.

wearing sunglasses

  1. Sign up for a winter or spring race. Nothing motivates you to get out the door like dishing out cash and having something on the calendar to work towards.
  2. Run before work or during the day, if possible. This has probably been the biggest change between this year and last year. This year, I work completely for myself, so I have the flexibility to run during the day when it is light out and warmer. I also have more energy in the middle of the day vs. trying to go out after a solid workday.
  3. Mix it up in the gym. There are several options for staying in shape that don’t involve the treadmill, such as the stationary bike, the elliptical machine, swimming, or a cardio class. I’ve gotten in to swimming this winter, and it’s been a ton of fun (as well as a full body workout!).
  4. Work out with a friend. If someone is counting on you to meet them at the gym or for a run, you are far more likely to meet that commitment. It’s much easier to make excuses for yourself than to your accountability buddy.
  5. Get cold weather gear. This is another big one for me. I hate being cold. This year, I’ve stocked up on cold weather gear and have been able to stay warm during my runs, which makes me WAY more likely to get out there. See my guide to winter running post for more tips about layering and staying warm while you run.
  6. Don’t try to stay in peak physical condition. For me, the winter is a time to build my base and keep my conditioning. If I gain something, even better, but my main focus is not to lose anything, so I can start up again in the spring when the weather is warmer.

Review: MESTRENGTH Performance Hydration Drink Mix

Disclaimer: I received a 10-pack of mixed flavors of MESTRENGTH Performance Hydration Drink Mix to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

You may or may not know that I’m currently training for the TransRockies 3-day Run in August, which means LOTS of long and back-to-back runs. I’ve been starting my search for hydration options that are going to help me both hydrate and recover for my next run, so I was really interested in trying MESTRENGTH.

mestrength box

What I received to review

From the website

MUSCLE CELLS REQUIRE TWO ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS TO FUNCTION PROPERLY – FLUIDS AND ENERGY. MESTRENGTH PROVIDES THESE IN A ZERO CALORIE, SUGAR-FREE BEVERAGE THAT COMBINES 5 KEY ELECTROLYTES FOR HYDRATION WITH 5 GRAMS OF CREATINE FOR PERFORMANCE TO HELP ATHLETES GET THE MOST OUT OF THEIR WORKOUT.

The Good

The powder has limited ingredients: Electrolytes (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium) and creatine, citric acid, natural flavor/color, and stevia. It’s also vegan and gluten-free, if that’s important to you.

All of the products, whether you buy a single flavor or the mixed flavors sampler, come in a prepackaged stick packs. You don’t have to measure or think about it – just mix it with 16.9 or 20 oz. of water and go.

I think the cost is pretty reasonable – just over $1/serving for 16.9-20 oz. of hydration (the 10-pack is a little more expensive at about $1.80/serving).

mestrength ingredients

The Not-So-Good

Unfortunately, the flavor wasn’t for me – I’m not a huge fan of stevia and it tasted both sweet and tart. I watered it down from the recommended 16-20 oz. to 24 oz., and still didn’t think it made much of a difference. That being said, other BibRave Pros, like Frank, LOVE the strawberry kiwi.

The Bottom Line

I like that MESTRENGTH has the limited ingredients and the price is pretty good. The product has no calories, which I think some people would really like, but I want some calories for my long runs. There is also no sugar, but I think that real sugar over Stevia would have improved the taste.

But, just because I didn’t like the flavor, doesn’t mean that you won’t. The 10-pack is a great way to sample the flavors and find out which ones you like and don’t like.

Have you tried MESTRENGTH? What did you think?

Review: 2XU HYOPTIK Thermal Compression Tights

Disclaimer: I received a pair of 2XU HYOPTIK Mid-Rise Thermal Compression Tights to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

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I recently posted about winter running, and how important it is for me to stay warm (I’m a big sissy). It’s usually pretty easy to layer up and keep my core and upper body warm, but I find it really tough to keep my legs warm, so I’m always on the look out for tights or pants that will keep me toasty. I was super excited for the chance to try out these 2XU tights, and I was not disappointed!

What I received to review

whole pants

From the website

Stand out, get noticed, and stay warm. HYOPTIK reflective logos help you stay visible when training in low light conditions. A soft brushed thermal inner layer helps retain warmth in cold climates. With coverage over the knee, powerful compression support and protect upper leg muscles to help prevent soreness and fatigue and long term overuse injuries. HYPOTIK THERMAL Compression helps you battle the cold and dark for outdoor training in winter.

The Good

I didn’t run a ton of miles in the tights, but I did run in the cold, and the thermal layer on the inside was warm and soft. While these tights didn’t keep me super warm right off the bat (they are thin tights after all), the thermal inner layer definitely helped.

They is definitely compression in these tights. They felt a bit tighter than my other running tights, but I’ve been dealing with a minor muscle strain, so the compression really helped my glutes to feel protected. The compression also helped with my day-to-day recovery. I wore the tights for at least 30 minutes after each run, and my legs felt great the next day.

side view tights

The overall fit was great – I appreciated the mid-rise, and it was high enough to reduce the “muffin top” effect. There is also a little pocket inside the waistband. There was no chafing, no seams, and I didn’t feel very sweaty after running in them.

The box also says that the tights are antibacterial and have UPF50+ sun protection. The HYOPTIK logos are also reflective for high visibility at night.

The Not-So-Good

These babies are expensive (but look for a discount code at the bottom of this post!). The 3/4 length is $99.99 and the full length is $139.99. If these end up lasting for several seasons (which I think they will), then it would be worth the investment for all of the “running tech specs” involved in the tights, but having only had them for a short time, I can’t speak to the longevity of the product.

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The Bottom Line

I plan to wear these to run throughout the entire winter. I love that they support my muscles and help me recover more quickly.

If you want a little more support for your legs when you run, you should definitely get yourself a pair.

Get a 20% discount!!! Enter “RUN20” at check out. Good until 2/29.

Review: Hoodie Thermal BUFF

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

If you saw my post yesterday about winter running, then you know I’m not a huge fan of it, and a big task for me is trying to keep my ears/face/head warm without having to wear a full on balaclava. When I heard of the opportunity to review a BUFF Hoodie as part of the BibRave Pro program, I jumped at the chance.

hoodie spread out

What I received to review

From the website

Hoodie BUFF is a stylish and superbly comfortable hooded garment made for cold weather protection with a double layer of fabric at the neck for extra insulation. Long enough to cover the nose and mouth but a little less technical than its stable mate Hood BUFF Hoodie BUFF is brighter, funkier and very wearable.

The Good

It’s definitely super warm. There is the actual hood part, the buff neck piece, and then another piece of buff fabric that you can pull up over your mouth. The hood is a thick, knitted Polartec Thermal Pro that is soft and warm. The neck and mouth pieces are made from naturally anti-microbial Merino wool, so not as thick, but still soft and warm. The materials wicked sweat without getting wet and kept me warm and dry during my runs.

I really like that there are two Buff pieces in addition to the hood – the one was easy to tuck down into my jacket to keep my neck warm, and the other piece was easy to pull up around my mouth. It was thin enough that I could easily breathe through it, but was enough to keep my breath (and my lungs) warm.

The Hoodie has two drawstring pieces so you can cinch down the hood and make it tighter on your head, which is helpful if you have a smaller head like I do. Making it tight also pulled it around my face to keep my ears warm.

Even though it’s not specifically designed to be windproof, I wore it on a run with the wind was gusting up to 22 mph, and another day when it was a steady 6 mph, and it still kept me warm.

hat and gloves

The Not-So-Good

The Hoodie is a one size fits all, which is great because it will fit anyone, and you can wear it looser if you just need a little protection, but not-so-good if you have a small head like me. Even cinching the hood super tight leaves some space in the back that makes it a little cooler than it would be if it was totally tight against my head. That being said, it wasn’t a huge difference, and I just pulled up my jacket hood to seal everything in.

The Bottom Line

I love this thing and I wear the Hoodie Thermal BUFF pretty much any chance I get. I have worn it just around my neck, as a loose hood, as a tight hood, with the mouth piece up, with the mouth piece down, in windy conditions, and in pretty cold conditions (a 30-degree run). The Hoodie has not let me down. It has kept me warm and wicked sweat without becoming too wet, sweaty, or stinky.

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I highly recommend the Hoodie Thermal BUFF for runner, hikers, snowboarder, bikers, or pretty much anyone who wants to stay warm in the winter. The retail price of $45.99 feels very reasonable to me, considering I will wear it every winter for a variety of activities. There is also another version that isn’t quite as insulated, the AW Hoodie BUFF, for $37.50.

A Cold Girl(or Guy)’s Guide to Winter Running

I should start off by saying I grew up on the cold, snowy east coast. I never really liked the cold, but I could deal with it. Then I moved to Southern California and it ruined me. Now that I’m in Colorado, I spend most of my time during the winter trying to stay warm. So when I need to get in a run outside, it can be tough to figure out what to wear to stay warm (but not too warm once I get going).

I think I’ve got a pretty good system, so here are my best tips for when the weather is around 30 degrees. And obviously, try out different things to see what works best for you.

1. Check the weather.

Surprisingly, it’s not as simple as just looking at the temperature. Cloudy is going to be colder than sunny. Windy is going to be colder than calm. Humidity or impending snow can also affect how cold it is, so instead of looking at the main temperature, you want to look at the “feels” like temperature.

weather app

2. Wear two non-cotton layers.

Don’t wear cotton. When it gets wet, it stays wet, and you get cold. I like to wear a long-sleeved technical shirt and a light jacket (though sometimes I’ll wear a wind-resistant fleece). You will be cold when you start, but for me, two shirt layers feels just right once I get warmed up.

3. Wear full-length tights with a liner.

Tights with a warm liner are going to keep you warmer than other pants that might have more air circulation. I’ve been wearing the Hyoptik tights by 2xu, which not only are full-length with a liner, but have compression as well. The compression feature is supposed to promote blood flow and help your muscles warm up faster, too. Make sure you wear a pair of socks that comes up  at least a little higher than the tights or you will have some cold ankles!

tights

4. A note about socks.

Again, you may want to stay away from cotton so they don’t get wet and cold. I like running in wool socks (such as Smartwool) in the winter because they give me a little bit of extra warmth, but technical socks like Feetures are also nice.

5. Don’t forget a hat and gloves.

Whether you go for an ear warmer headband or all-out with a Buff Hoodie, a warm head = a happy runner. Sometimes I pull my jacket hoodie on overtop, just to seal in the warmth. I really like my newest gloves because I can still use the touchscreen on my phone with them, a feature to consider whether you want or not.

hat and gloves

6. Packs.

I use a Spibelt to hold my phone when I run because I don’t like holding it in my hand. When you hold your phone in your hand, you also can’t do tip #7! Same thing with having to hold a water bottle, except holding water could also make your hands cold. I know several other BibRave Pros highly recommend Orange Mud hydration packs, and I am a fan of Camelbak packs.

7. Pump your fists.

Even with gloves, your hands might get cold, especially if you hold them lower when you run. By pumping/squeezing your fists occasionally, you get the blood flowing and can warm them up.

8. Spikes (if there is snow/ice).

After a particularly precarious run last year, I don’t plan to run on snow/ice without some sort of spike in my shoe. I haven’t needed any yet, but Kahtoola is a highly recommended brand. I’ve tried YakTrax, and they are a built bulky and interfere with my natural gait, so they didn’t work for me. Maybe they would be better in a bit deeper snow instead of just a thin layer on the sidewalk.

9. Keep your running buddy warm, too!

Buster in coat

For more running clothing tips in other temperatures, Runer’s World has some suggestions in What to Wear Running.

 

Review: XX2i USA 1 Sunglasses

Disclaimer: I received a pair of XX2i USA 1 sunglasses to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Happy 2016! I thought a great way to kick off the new year would be with a review and a sweet discount, so let’s get right to it.

full kit

What the “Sport Polarized Kit” Comes With:

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The Good

I was nervous to try out the XX2i USA 1 sunglasses because I have a pretty narrow face, and a lot of times “sport” sunglasses just don’t look good on me. I was pleasantly surprised when I took these out of the package and tried them on. They fit great! The adjustable rubber nose pads were super comfortable and the sunglasses didn’t bounce when I ran with them. The rubber temple tips (aka arms) also helped keep the shades in place.

The polarized lenses are amazing! They are slightly tinted and reduce glaze – everything you want in a polarized lens. I wore them the other day when it was snowing (because I can’t go anywhere without sunglasses) and they were great.

XX2i also has a pretty ridiculous warranty – 365 days (yes, a full year) to try them out. If anything goes wrong, you can return them with no questions asked and only pay the shipping. For someone who is going to be active and outdoors often in these shades, I like not having to worry that I’m going to destroy my sunglasses and be out of luck.

The lenses are also interchangeable, so you could add prescription lenses if you wanted to. I didn’t try out this feature.

The Not-So-Good

It was nearly impossible to change out the temple tips and the nose pads. Despite taking the advice of some other pros who suggested turning and pulling the temple tips, I wasn’t able to get them off. It was easy to take off the nose pads, but the screws wouldn’t go into the new ones. Upon further inspection, there was rubber blocking the holes and I tried to just push the screw through and use a needle to poke it out, but it just didn’t work.

The top nose pad is what the kit comes with, and you can see how the hole is poked through vs. the blue ones are not.

The top nose pad is what the kit comes with, and you can see how the hole is poked through vs. the blue ones are not.

The Bottom Line

I really love these sunglasses, and highly recommend them, and at a retail price of $59.99, it’s a great deal, too.

That being said, I recommend you buy the exact colors you like, because if you have my luck, you aren’t going to be customizing the nose pads and/or temple tips.

sunglasses on table

And here’s the promised discount code. It’s the only one that XX2i offers, and it’s an amazing deal – 50% off!!! Just use the code “XX2iRocks” when you checkout.

Running El Moro Canyon in Laguna Beach

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When we lived in California, El Moro Canyon at Crystal Cove State Park was one of my love/hate runs. I loved the challenge, the scenery, and being able to soak my feet into the ocean afterwards. But it kicked my butt every. Single. Time.

The main loop is just under 9 miles, but you can easily add on more mileage. Be sure to bring plenty of water – it gets hot out there!

The last time I ran El Moro, I stopped and took some pictures along the way. Check it out!

After you climb the first hill, you are rewarded with a view of the ocean!

After you climb the first hill, you are rewarded with a view of the ocean! Then the hills continue for 3 more miles.

The view from the other side of the park, near the ranger station.

The view from the other side of the park, near the ranger station.

Mini cactus field.

Mini cactus field.

The view from the other end of the park. Hard to believe the ocean is only 4 miles away!

The view from the other end of the park. Hard to believe the ocean is only 4 miles away!

Almost done... it's not all dry around here!

Almost done… it’s not all brown around here!

The ocean on the other side of the PCH.

The ocean on the other side of the PCH. One of the best parts of this run!

Athens Marathon Race Recap

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In 2008, we decided to go Greece to run the Athens Marathon with Apostolos Greek Tours. Before getting into the race re-cap, I highly recommend Paul Samaras and his tour. He is such a nice man, and you can tell he really wants you to have an amazing experience in Greece.

We had a pasta dinner the night before, and had the hotel set up the breakfast early that morning so we could get something to eat before we left. The race didn’t start until 9 am so it was nice to not have to get up super early. We slept until about 6 am, got breakfast, and then I got on the bus to head towards Marathon at 7. Eric didn’t have to leave until 7:30 since the 10K started near the stadium, which was my finishing point.

On the road to Marathonas.

We drove through the Greece countryside and arrived in Marathonas at around 8:15. It was cold and a little windy, but the wind would be at our backs once the race started. Jeff Galloway, the run/walk master, was with the tour and was leading a 1 min. run/1 min. walk group with a goal of finishing in 5 hours. The night before he told us that the course was difficult and we should expect to run 20 minutes slower than usual, but my secret goal was to set a pr (break 5:20).

With Jeff Galloway before the race.

After listening to some Madonna, and then taking an oath about having fun and enjoying the race, it was on! Jeff wanted to start after everyone else had gone, and for the first time I started dead last. There were only a few thousand people there, so we were actually only about 5 minutes behind clock time. The temperature at race start was 61 degrees with the wind at our back and lots of cloud coverage – practically perfect marathon weather.

The starting line. I told you we were dead last!

After the first couple miles, we started a loop around the tomb of the Athenian soldiers, who died during the historical war between the Persians and the Athenians. The 1/1 run/walk method was awesome and the race was flying by. Jeff and his wife, Barbara, were so positive and fun to run with. Eric and I had looked at the course map beforehand and didn’t expect much of the hills that we saw – they were mostly long and gradual, but a couple were a bit steep. The hills did start to take a toll on my knees, though. Besides being hilly, the road is slanted which any runner knows can create imbalance issues. By mile 7 my knees started bothering me, but I tried to ignore them. They continued to bother me, and ended up hurting for 3 weeks after the race, but I think my positive attitude (and the cream/spray I kept getting on them) really helped me through.

The tomb.

We continued through the countryside, with cheers of Bravo! and Calimera! (good morning) coming from people who had come outside to cheer us on. Around mile 16 we started to get into the suburbs of Athens and began to see more buildings. This was also about the time that I started to lose the group. I had to stop to get some cream for my knees and slow my pace down a bit and they pulled away. I kept them in my sights for the next 3ish miles and then they were gone. But I was looking forward to seeing Eric at mile 24, and I made a friend who was part of TNT who was there running as well.

In the countryside.

My hamstring started to cramp off and on around mile 20, but I would push through the running minute to get to the walking minute and then it would go away for a couple minutes. One thing that helped me get through was something that another member of our group said which was, “I can do anything for a minute”. I remembered this when I started to feel tired and when I started to cramp.

The blue line is from the 2004 Olympics. We followed the same course.

I got to about 23.75 and there was Eric. I had almost made it! I wasn’t crashing, either, it was awesome. My crash during this race was in the middle, around 12-15. Eric was surprised to find me in a good mood, and I was kind of surprised to be in a good mood. Maybe it was the spirit of Phidippides and the olive branches in my visor. A little after mile 25, both my hamstrings started to cramp and my quads. I have never cramped in my legs before, so it was a little bothersome. It would come and go, and it pretty much went away in a few minutes.

He looks way faster than I was going at this point.

Right after mile 26 Eric had to leave me because he couldn’t run into the stadium with me, so he had to haul it through the National Gardens to see me finish. As I was “sprinting” to the finish, EVERYTHING cramped. My left big toe was cramping, which has only happened with tight climbing shoes. As I was running in I turned to my right and saw a stray dog jogging in a few feet behind me, which kind of made me laugh and I forgot about my cramps for a second.

You can see me down there in the pink shirt!

And then I was done. It was amazing. Here I was in the Olympic Stadium with the olympic rings above the stands (which we climbed up the stairs to right after the marathon), with the acropolis and the Parthenon in the distance, and it was amazing. My final time was 5:14, a PR by approx. 6 minutes. :)

My medal!

Eric made me climb up there, but I don’t regret it!

The view from the top.

Welcome to Miles of Abbie!

Running at Night

Thanks for being here!

I’m Abbie, and I’ve lived in Colorado since 2011 (before that we lived in California and I grew up in Delaware). I’ve been a runner since 2005(!) I’ve done 5Ks, 10K, Half marathons and four full marathons (Rock N Roll San Diego, LA Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon, Athens Marathon), and am currently training for the TransRockies 3 day Run… 58 miles in the Colorado mountains over the 3 days. I might be one of those crazy runners.

This blog is all things running – race recaps, product reviews, running adventures. Follow my blog with Bloglovin