Race Report: 2014 Detroit Marathon

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They say that you learn more from the races that don’t go according to plan than the ones that do, and I learned two big lessons yesterday:

  1. Even though a race can go very differently from how you originally imagined, it can still be awesome for other reasons.
  2. Sometimes it’s best not to be left to your own devices; the guidance of a third party (i.e. a coach) can help immensely.

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But I’ll back up to the beginning… Even though I set two alarms — one at 4:45 and one at 4:50 — because I was worried I’d oversleep, I ended up waking up around 3:45 in a panic about my race-day attire. The weather, which had been hovering around the 50’s and 60’s all week, had dropped into the low 30’s and would only get up to the low 40’s toward the end of the race.

I only packed a tank, but once I decided to run 26.2 “ultra-style” with my gear, I bought a t-shirt as added insurance to keep my hydration pack from chafing. But when I tested my arm sleeves during my 10-miler last week, they rubbed the inside of my arms, so at 4:00 yesterday morning I made a game-time decision to run in a long-sleeve top with a t-shirt over it.

Like I said before, a lot can happen over 26.2 miles, and you don’t want chafing to be any part of that!

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Hubby dropped me off a few blocks from the start line at 6:35, so I had just enough time to dash into Cobo Center — Detroit’s big convention hall where they held the pre-race expo — for a quick bathroom pit stop before heading over to my corral. It was (literally) freezing outside, so a lot of runners were huddled inside until the last minute, but I got out of there ASAP because I’d have to fight the crowd to get to my corral.

Because my original anticipated finish time was 3:50, I was in corral D. I just happened to line up next to that pace group, bunching together with everyone to share body heat, and smiled to myself. Let it go; let them go, I thought, and made a mental note to check my ego because we’d be parting as soon as I started my 10-minute run/1-minute walk plan for the race.

As “Lose Yourself” blared on the loudspeakers, the horn blared for the start of each wave of corrals and, before I knew it, we were off! I hung with my group for the first 10 minutes, settling into a comfortable pace, and then watched the swell of people move off into the distance as I pulled over to the side for my minute-long walk segment.

“Save something for the end,” became my new mantra, as well as, “I might be seeing some of you later!”

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At this point, I still wasn’t sure if my leg would hold up, so I told Hubby and my parents that we’d plan for a few checkpoints along the way. The first of which was mile three, just before I’d cross the Ambassador Bridge into Canada. It’s one of my favorite parts of the race, but I knew that if my leg was giving me trouble early-on, I’d have to bail there because my cell wouldn’t work once we crossed International waters.

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Luckily, besides some minor twinges, I was feeling ok (definitely not 100 percent, but good enough to keep going), so we crossed over the bridge as the sun rose. My pictures don’t do it justice, but you get the idea; I was more focused my form while high-fiving the border patrol and then tackling the uphill portion.

I did, however, pull over and take a quick selfie during my next walk segment. Not only did these one-minute breaks become my lifelines later on, but they also allowed me to document some of the course, which I thought would be fun for posterity’s sake!

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Another one of my favorite sights on the course is the view of the Detroit skyline, as seen from Windsor. This is about five miles in and where I began fueling, which ended up helping immensely when it came to keeping both my energy and spirits up throughout the race.

During walk breaks I alternated a bite of Bonk Breaker and a few pulls of water with some sips of my Tailwind flavorless electrolyte drink (ok, and maybe a handful of M&M’s from someone along the course!). The goal was to take it easy to try to avoid gastrointestinal issues, and these all seemed to sit well on my stomach.

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Another one of my favorite parts of a marathon is the spectator signs. There were some along the Canada stretch that made me smile, including “You are NOT anywhere near the finish” and “USA runners, you only need to work 90% as hard here.”

I kept up my 10 run/1 walk ratio and seemed to be keeping a steady pace, so I went into autopilot and switched back and forth between trying to keep my form and taking in all the scenery. Before I knew it, we were headed into the “Underwater Mile,” which is the tunnel that runs from Canada to the US.

Although it’s one of the race’s claims to fame, it’s actually one of my least favorite parts of the course. Not only is there not much to look at, but it also gets pretty stuffy in there. I had been heating up in the previous miles, and by the time we were three-quarters of the way through the tunnel, I could feel my shirt getting soaked with sweat.

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But it’s all worth it for what you see when you exit! There’s a huge crowd cheering loudly, plus a banner that we all slapped as we made our way around the bend toward mile nine.

This was the second checkpoint; as soon as I had reception, I texted Hubby and my parents that I was still going. We made plans to meet up around mile 15 as I headed toward my third checkpoint — more of a mental one — 13.1 miles.

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By this time, the sun was up and the air was crisp — perfect running weather. We ran along the Lodge Freeway, which I thought was pretty cool — especially because it was along here that the song “8 Mile” came on my iPod.

No better way to run through the streets of Detroit than with a little music from Eminem!

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I took the opportunity here to take another selfie during my walk break. Then we rounded the corner and went up the offramp, which I think was around mile nine.

This is where my legs really started to protest; oddly enough, it was more my left hamstring and knee, which started acting up — most likely because I was concentrating so hard on keeping my right shin happy. I kept going, but started wondering if I’d have to stop at the half marathon point.

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Around mile 11, though, I really started doubting myself. But right as I started slipping into that dark place, I felt someone reach out and grab me — my friend, former-XC-teammate-turned-pro-triathlete, Terra Castro! Her timing couldn’t have been better.

We hugged, and I told her about my legs as she asked how I was doing. “You’re good, just keep it up — you’ve got it.” she said, and it was just what I needed to hear to suck it up, re-adjust my attitude and keep moving forward.

The pain was more of a tightness than a sharp feeling, so I knew I could continue safely with with my 10 run/1 walk plan — the battle from here on out would just be as much mental as physical. But I was still going steady when we hit the turnoff between the half marathoners and the full marathoners, so I took the turn toward the full and texted my family that I’d see them at the fourth checkpoint — mile 15!

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The next few miles until I saw my folks were a bit of a grind; there was a long straightaway down a long stretch of road, and I just remember thinking how I had to thank my running coach after the race. I hadn’t run this far since August, and after taking five weeks off during peak training mileage, I was really starting to feel it.

Taking the walk breaks, as he suggested, were extremely motivating. Not only did they give me a chance to catch my breath, but they also were an ideal reminder to refuel and re-hydrate regularly, which I remained diligent about.

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The segment between miles 16-18 was actually another one of my favorite parts of the race. My legs were getting progressively tighter, so it was a welcome distraction to check out the beautiful tree-lined side streets of Indian Village with their huge, old houses.

Having spectators line up on their front lawns to pass out beer, play polka music and wave funny signs was also an awesome part of this section. It reminded me of my first marathon in Chicago where people in different neighborhoods would pass out food, drinks and really get into the spirit of the race.

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I spotted my family as we turned to exit the neighborhood — awesome, I made it to checkpoint five and was almost down to single digit miles! I stopped for a quick photo with my parents, and heard my mom say, “Go, Jennifer! You’re really going to do this!” as I headed off.

As I headed toward mile 20, I knew that the toughest part was yet to come. Everyone around me was starting to slow as we all began to feel the effects of the miles. People were pulling over to stretch, I saw one gentleman with a bloody back from the pack he was carrying, and I started recognizing a few familiar faces from earlier on as we trudged along.

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No, I hadn’t hit the wall, per se, but I was flirting dangerously close to it at this point, as were all of those around me. But all I could do was keep up my 10 run/1 walk pattern, continue fueling regularly and just put one foot in front of the other.

Although I did literally run through this wall. Couldn’t resist!

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Miles 20-22 took us to Belle Isle, which is a 982-acre island park in the middle of the Detroit River. It’s absolutely beautiful, but I had trouble fully enjoying it because I spent most of this stretch talking myself into not walking the rest of the race.

Knowing you’re down to just six or so miles is an incredible morale boost, but at the same time you’re questioning how the hell you’re going to keep your body moving for another hour. And by this point, my quads were screaming — I was paying for my under-training with a searing build-up of lactic acid — so I gritted my teeth and decided to try to make a time goal to keep myself motivated.

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I spotted Hubby between miles 22 and 23, and he ran alongside me for a few minutes to cheer me on toward the final stretch. He saw that I was majorly struggling, so he tried talking to me to keep me distracted, but I was in no mood for chatting.

At this point I knew I would finish, the only question was how long it’d take me. So try as Hubby might to engage me, I just smiled and thanked him, saying, “I love you! I’m trying to finish in under 4:30!” before popping in my ear buds and buckling down for the final 5K.

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By this point, I’d eaten my entire Bonk Breaker bar and drank up my 20 ounces of Tailwind, so I took half a Carb Boom energy gel (which I picked up at mile 16) along with a few gulps of water. I had a little more than two miles to go to the finish, and I wasn’t taking any chances by letting my blood sugar drop before the final mile or so.

Seeing the Detroit skyline come back into view helped — so close! — as did a change in scenery along the RiverWalk leading up to mile 25. Just. One. More. Mile.

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My parents were lined up at mile 26, which was the perfect final distraction before the home stretch. The finish line wasn’t yet in sight, yet I knew we were close, so seeing them right before we turned the corner gave me one last boost of adrenaline.

With the finish line in sight, I kicked it into whatever gear I had left and went as fast as I could for the final .2 miles. Regardless of how many marathons you’ve run, that burst of joy and relief you feel when crossing the finish line never gets old.

Official time: 4:17:18.

My legs were the angriest they’ve ever been after a race; I duck-walked down the chute to collect some food, get my photo taken and meet up with Hubby and my parents. But I was so thankful to be able to finish, not to mention grateful to my coach for giving me a game plan to get there in once piece.

The final to-do item on my race-day list? Kick-starting the recovery process with a deep-dish Pizza Papalis Chicago-style pizza and a warm Epsom Salt bath.

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Thank you all so much for following along and cheering me on for what’s truly been a roller-coaster of a training cycle. Looking through your tweets, posts and comments on race-day morning gave me just the extra “oomph” I needed to keep pushing forward, running happy and appreciating the small victories along the way.

And in case you’re wondering…yes, I still have that sub-four marathon goal on my list. But I’m going to give my body a bit of a break in the meantime so I can heal and focus on becoming a better runner.

After all, they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So, I look forward to that next adventure together!

Detroit Marathon: Week 18 training recap

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Well, here we are — 18 weeks down, and just a few days to go! The bad news is that my calf has been acting up this week (aching after Monday’s treadmill run), but the good news is that I’m at peace with my game plan for race day, which is “slow and steady.”

After training took a turn for the worse in the past two months, my first objective was to heal up enough to get to the start (check!). Now it’s time to focus on getting across that finish line on Sunday.

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Here’s what the past week looked like, according to the original training plan:

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And here’s what I’ve actually been doing, as per my run coach’s recommendation:

  • Monday: Run on treadmill (30 run/1 walk x 2), PT exercises
  • Tuesday: Elliptical (45 mins), strength training, PT exercises
  • Wednesday: Run (45-60 mins), OFF, PT exercises
  • Thursday: Recumbent bike (30 min), strength training, PT exercises
  • Friday: Run (30-45 mins), Elliptical/bike (30 min), strength training, PT exercises
  • Saturday: OFF, PT exercises
  • Sunday: RACE DAY!

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As far as race prep goes, I’m treating it more like an ultra and aiming for stamina over speed. This means I’ll be carrying a hydration pack with some essentials instead of going for the usual less-is-more approach to race day.

Since I also lost some endurance during my time-out from training, I’ll need to fuel early and often to avoid the inevitable “wall” as long as possible. So I’m packing salt tabs, TUMS and both water and Tailwind flavorless electrolyte beverage in order to be self-sufficient on the course (this is helpful both physically and mentally, at this point).

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Also in my Ultimate Direction Jenny Ultra Vesta? A few Bonk Breakers, Picky Bars and Hammer Gels, along with my cell phone for emergencies (i.e. worst-case scenario = DNF), which I’m hoping I can avoid by skipping this week’s runs so I can rest up my legs and get my calf calmed down.

I’m hitting the expo on Saturday to get my race packet, but will be taking it easy other than that. It’s an odd feeling worrying less about time/pace and more about my ability to finish, but I’ll be following Coach’s orders and doing a 10-min run/1-min walk ratio to try to get ‘er done as swiftly — and safely — as possible.

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Stay tuned for race updates via social media, and I’ll be posting my race recap Monday. Any positive vibes & healing thoughts much appreciated in the meantime so I can finish healthy and strong; thanks very much!

Making a game plan for the Detroit Marathon

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It’s no secret that things haven’t gone as smoothly this training cycle as I would have liked. But rather than getting angry at my body and blaming it for not being able to hold up to the rigors of a tough running schedule, I’ve accepted responsibility for a combination of faulty mechanics and inattention to the finer points of injury prevention.

As such, my original goal time of 3:50 — which seemed well within reach based on my pacing prior to injury — is pretty much a pipe dream at this point. After taking a month off from running to heal my medial tibial stress response (aka almost-a-stress-fracture), I’ve come to grips with the fact that I’ve got to reset my race-day expectations.

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Frankly, I’m not sure exactly what will happen between when the gun goes of and when I (hopefully) cross the finish line, which both excites and terrifies me. Why? Well, a lot can happen over 26.2 miles.

But after giving it some thought, I’ve made the following goals for Sunday’s race to keep myself motivated and moving forward:

1. Good Goal: Cross the finish line, healthy and injury-free, regardless of time

2. Better Goal: Finish somewhere between four and five hours, depending on how the run/walk ratios go

3. Best Goal: Finish with a new personal record (anything under 4:07:46). Yeah right, but a girl can dream?!

Although my run coach and I have been discussing strategy this past week, I’m still digesting his suggestion for a 10 run/1 walk ratio. There’s a delicate balance between taking it slow and taking it too slow, so I’m trying to figure out the right mix of pacing and duration of runs to get me to the finish line as quickly as possible and in one piece.

Overall, though, I think I’m going to treat it like an ultra — over-prepare and find a steady pace so I can finish strong. My plan is to see how my final runs go today and Friday before finalizing the run increments, which I’ll probably end up tweaking during the race based on how my legs and lungs are holding up.

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Am I bummed about not being able to “race” this race? YES. But there comes a point where you have to not only deal with the reality of a situation, but also be appreciative of what you can do instead of what you can’t. Plus, three things have really changed my perspective on this race in the past few weeks.

First, one of Hubby’s and my most beloved friends passed away late last month. To describe him as the successful businessman, doting husband and loving father he was just doesn’t do him justice, however; he was one of those one-in-a-million people who made an impact on the life of everyone with whom he crossed paths.

So I’m dedicating this race to Burt Baptiste. And to his beautiful family — his wife, Danielle, and their two daughters, Milla and Emme. Their strength, poise and positive attitudes in the midst of tragedy have inspired so many of us, and I hope that I can have some small part in helping to make sure that his memory is never forgotten. #RIPBB

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Second, one of my running heroes, Kara Goucher, wrote a terrific blog post on handling setbacks with grace, patience and perseverance. The entire piece hit home with me (well, aside from the whole ‘professional athlete’ part), but one line in particular struck me as she was describing her injuries, disappointments and what has been a long road on her return to racing:

“Instead of stressing about how far behind we are, we need to focus on the progress we are making and continue to make….I may not be where I want to be, but I am so grateful to be here at all.”

With a laser focus on planning, training and prepping for a goal race of the season, it’s so easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. But even with our setbacks, our injuries, our derailed training plans, it’s important to keep things in perspective and find joy in the journey because you never know exactly where it’ll lead — or what you’ll learn in the process.

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Third, my friend Doris Steere has unknowingly served as inspiration by example while she’s been on her own journey this season. After dealing with similar calf issues eight weeks out from her goal race, she proceeded to break a rib three weeks out. But rather than give up, she hit it hard with rehab work and ended up at the starting line of Augusta 70.3, saying:

“I make no promises for race day except to try and do my best with the hand I’ve been dealt….without quality training sessions to look back on, I’ve got to rely on muscle memory, experience, determination and pure grit.”

And she did just that, managing to nab a new PR despite a blown-out tire, poor road conditions and an aggravated rib on race day. Now, if that isn’t motivation enough to keep on going when the going gets tough, I don’t know what is.

d5042a196e8f155d502ee76d8c240fe0So, final thoughts going into the race this weekend? Getting to the start line is victory enough this time, and even though I’m not sure exactly what shape I’ll be in when I get there or how the race will go, I do know the way in which I want to finish.

My week 18 recap will go up Friday, and I’ll be posting race updates on social media this weekend before the official recap goes up Monday. Thanks, again, for following along…here goes nothing! 

Recipe: Paleo-friendly banana bread

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Eating healthy can be tough when one of your favorite fall activities is curling with a hot pumpkin-spiced latte while something yummy bakes in the oven. But after watching the eye-opening film Fed Up (if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a must-watch), we’re making a concerted effort to cut down on sugar, forgo processed foods and make smarter tweaks to our favorite recipes.

Like this one I found for banana bread — it seems like we’ve always got a few over-ripe bananas that need to be used. They add natural sweetness, and using coconut flour in baked goods is an excellent lower-carb, high-fiber and gluten-free alternative to wheat flour.

The best part, though? Due to the higher fiber content, coconut flour doesn’t spike your blood sugar as quickly as grain-based flours — i.e. you won’t have that inevitable crash that comes post-sugar high. So you can have your cake…er, banana bread…and eat it (guilt-free), too!

Paleo-Friendly Banana Bread

(Recipe adapted from CivilizedCavemanCooking.com)

Ingredients: 

  • 4 bananas
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 c coconut flour
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp agave syrup
  • pinch sea salt

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit
  2. Combine bananas, eggs, nut butter and butter in a mixing bowl
  3. Once wet ingredients are blended, add in coconut flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, agave syrup and sea salt and mix well
  4. Grease or line a 9×5 loaf pan with parchment paper before pouring in batter
  5. Bake for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean
  6. Remove from oven and flip bread out onto a cooling rack
  7. Slice and serve!

This was my first time experimenting with coconut flour, and I’ve gotta say, I’m impressed. The texture and consistency seem similar to whole-wheat flour, which will make your baked goods slightly more dense.

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Not so dense, though, that you lose the cake-like quality of a good banana bread. And surprisingly enough, we didn’t even need butter; it was perfectly delicious and moist enough to munch on straight out of the oven!

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How do you feel about making over your favorite recipes with healthier ingredients? 

Detroit Marathon: Week 17 training recap

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Marathon training while crunching through fall leaves — even though this season’s program hasn’t gone exactly as planned, I can’t complain!

As you can see, the Hanson’s program doesn’t do a heavy taper in the final two weeks before the race (49 miles?!), which is good because I’m also slowly adding mileage to get my body acclimated for a few hours of activity at once.

Here’s the original schedule:

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And here’s my adapted version:

  • Monday: Revocycle class, strength training, PT exercises
  • Tuesday: Run outside (10 run/1 walk x 6 = 66 mins)
  • Wednesday: Elliptical (45 mins), PT exercises
  • Thursday: Run outside (20 run/1 walk x 3 = 63 mins), PT exercises
  • Friday: OFF, PT exercises, stretching & foam rolling
  • Saturday: Run outside (25 run/1 walk x 3 = 78 mins), PT exercises
  • Sunday: Elliptical (60 mins), strength training, PT exercises

I’ve got some new scenery this week, too, because I’m home in Michigan, visiting family and working remotely while I’m squeezing in my final workouts before race day. There’s still a whole lot of green in this picture, but the leaves are starting to change, so it’s a great time of year to be here.

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And my workouts are going pretty well! The upside is that I haven’t lost a lot of speed and I have been able to maintain some good endurance with my cross training.

But the downside, as I’m finding out, is that I must be compensating ever so slightly on my left side to favor my right. I’m feeling a few aches and pains in my left hip, hamstring and knee, so I’ve got to be careful.

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It’s also going to be tough to rein myself in on race day. I’m still mulling over my final goals because — as you can see from the pacing below, which was from my recent 20 run/1 walk workout — I could potentially make a run for it because it’s a flatter, more forgiving course than my last one.

But I don’t want to injure myself too badly in the process, so I’m going to see how the next few workouts go before making an official game plan. As much as I want to push myself, it’s not worth another round of rehabbing at the PT, so the toughest battle come race day could actually be the mental one.

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In the meantime, though, my coach has me sticking to my PT work, foam rolling some Trigger Point release techniques in order to keep things loose and functioning properly through full ranges of motion. The goal is to work up to a 60-minute run with no walk breaks next week before we bring mileage down toward the big day.

Onward to week 18; thanks for following along!

Fave Fix: FlipBelt running belt

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Running is a constant game of trial and error. Sometimes you strike gold with a shoe that complements your stride or a gel that sits well on a sensitive tummy. Other times you strike out, be it a chafe-y short, a hat that overheats…or that time I tried to outsmart myself during a half marathon and store two gels in my sports bra (long story short, it ended very badly for both ‘girls’).

So I’m always on the lookout for gear that allows me to take any element of chance out of runs, particularly the long ones where there’s A) a higher risk of something going awry, and B) decent odds that I’ll be a good distance from home when it happens. And bonus points if it allows me to go hands-free, because we all know that the amount of “stuff” you have to carry is directly proportional to your mileage — meaning, mo’ miles, mo’ problems juggling my keys, phone, headphones, gels, water, etc.

Enter FlipBelt, which is one of those so-simple-it’s-brilliant products — literally, it’s a tubular fabric waistband in which you can tuck all your must-have items while exercising (click here to see it in action). And to keep everything even more secure, all you have to do is flip the belt inward, effectively “locking” the openings against your body so nothing pops out.

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Easy-peasy. But does it work?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had notoriously bad experiences with products that sit around my hips while running. Be it my mechanics, anatomy or just personal preference, I get super annoyed when anything slips, bounces or is at all noticeable (again, like that time I tried a hip hydration pack and ended up having to strap it — mid-run — around the lower half of my butt to keep it from jostling around = #RunningFail).

The shot above is of me in the FlipBelt with six gels in it, plus my keys (there’s even a handy little lanyard key clip if you’re especially OCD about losing them, like I am). I took it for a few test runs during some of my recent treadmill workouts, so it got put through the paces thoroughly at both a walk and a jog.

My verdict? It didn’t budge, bounce or otherwise both me. Success!

The only con I can see is that it isn’t waterproof, but that’s probably so you don’t end up with a big, hot ring of sweat around your waist. And if you want to store your phone in the FlipBelt and keep it from getting wet, there’s an easy fix: just slip it in a waterproof Ziploc bag, and you’re good to go. When you’re using it to play music, however, or want to access it more often, like I do, then you may want to opt for an armband for regular access.

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Not only is it easy-care (the fabric is machine washable), but it’s also so easy-wear that I’m even considering breaking my “nothing new on race day” rule and using it in my upcoming marathon to tote all the essentials — nutrition, phone and keys — for 26.2 miles.

For more information or to order one of your own, visit FlipBelt.com.

This post was sponsored by FlipBelt through their partnership with Fit Approach. I was not compensated monetarily, but was provided a FLipBelt for review. As always, all opinions are my own.

Guest Race Recap: Hubby takes on the Portland Half Marathon

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Since I’m sidelined from racing while I prep for Detroit these next two weeks, I thought I’d hand the reins over to Hubby to let him share his race-day experience from this year’s Portland Marathon Half.

Although his pre-race plans are, ahem, “unconventional” (sorry, hanging out in a bar and drinking beers the day before the race does not count as carb-loading, hon), he did managed to fight for a strong finish and snag a shiny, new PR.

Here’s how it went down, in his own words:

Portland Half Marathon 2014

With Jen getting back into the swing of running, but not wanting to push it too much leading up to her Detroit Marathon, I ended up running the Portland Marathon Half myself yesterday. I thought, why not just run it for fun? But of course, once race morning came, I figured I’d push it a little. Having done the Portland Triathlon two weeks ago, I still had the competitive juices flowing.

The Start

Yesterday morning could not have been more beautiful. I am an Oregon native and always remember Indian summer in October, but it has been an exceptional last week. With a Saturday filled with watching Beaver football and Timbers soccer, however, you might say I didn’t really prime myself with an agreeable “diet,” although I did rest my legs.

I woke up early, put on my gear, decided to run in my new Hoka Conquests, and ran the mile or so to the starting line. I got in the corral and almost immediately the race director announced we would be singing the national anthem — only someone would start us off, and the crowd would finish the song ourselves.

I stood next to a older guy in orange and black, and assumed he was a fellow Beaver fan; he was hoping to get a 1:45, and I thought I’d try to do the same. The gun went off, and away we went.

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Miles 1-5

This was essentially the only uphill portion of this race. Compared to the last half I did in SF (Rock ‘n’ Roll), it was nice to only have a couple small hills and, really, the rest was pretty flat. I took off a little quicker than expected, around a 7:30 pace.

I will say that these are some fun miles with bands playing, high-fiving pirates, signs encouraging “cropdusting” and a picturesque loop up towards OHSU and above south waterfront. The climb was worth it, though, for the early morning views of Mt. Hood off to the right on the way back into town. My favorite parts were the bands playing music on overpasses and forklifts.

Then the route headed down towards the Willamette waterfront, and I could see our apartment building as we started a long straightaway up to mile nine in north Portland.

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Miles 5-9

These were miles where I could definitely feel the dehydration start to set in. It’s a long, pretty flat stretch that seems to never end. I downed Ultima at pretty much every fuel station and had a few gummy bears, which helped a little but seemed to upset my stomach a bit.

I decided at about mile eight to just do water from then on. I think this helped, although I could feel my pace slowing. My friend from the start passed me, and I stayed on his heels until about mile 11.

What I enjoyed most here was being able to run my first half along with full marathoners. It was inspiring to see these people make the turn around mile 10 toward the East side and still have another 16 miles that, thankfully, I didn’t have to run.

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Mile 10-13.1

I would call these the wish-I hadn’t-“dehydrated”-myself-yesterday miles. About mile 10 my legs started to feel really heavy, and I felt really thirsty. Just when I felt I needed a fuel station, there wasn’t one for about a mile and a half.

Around 11 miles in, I walked through the fuel station and drank two glasses of water, gave myself 30 seconds to walk and then started to plod along again. My pace had slowed considerably to about 8:45ish per mile as I got back into town and started the final stretch.

With the announcer congratulating me on a strong finish, I pushed across the finish line. My unofficial time was 1:50:27, which was about five minutes slower than I wanted, but still a PR and a fun morning run in my favorite city.

Final Thoughts

Today was one of those runs where I never felt like I got “in the zone.” I was also a bit frustrated with the last three miles, as this has always been my weak part of each half. A lesson learned today is that I need to prep my body the day before with something other than the fantastic Oregon IPAs and Moscow mules.

I was tasked to take a couple of pictures along the route, which I didn’t do a great job of. But I did get a picture of a girl’s tattoo that I though Jen would love. It’s a Dairy Queen ice cream cone — which, come one, we all love — and the word “Hustle.” Side note: My first job was at the Dairy Queen in Corvallis, Ore., where I unofficially invented the mint Oreo blizzard (Jen doesn’t believe this story, but it was corroborated recently by someone I worked with at DQ).

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All in all, it was a great day, and I wish I could have had Jenny there by my side, but I know she was there in spirit. And I was happy to have earned my Besaw’s Eggs Benedict and an afternoon of watching football and napping in the park.

Next up for me: the Silver Falls Trail Run half marathon on Halloween weekend with some great friends from the Bay Area. Uh oh, I have a feeling I may be “fueling” in the same manner as I did before this one, too. And can’t wait till next year’s PDX half…or maybe full???? I still don’t know how Jenny does it!!

Congratulations to all Portland Marathon participants, as well as anyone else who was racing this past weekend!