Picky Bars– Yummy!

I am proud to say that after sampling every flavor of Picky Bars, I am finally part of the Picky Bar family! I learned of Picky Bars when ordering running clothes through a Seattle based company called Oiselle. Oiselle sponsors a pro runner, Lauren Fleshman, who is one of the founders and creators of Picky Bars.

So what is it? A picky bar is a gluten free, allergy sensitive, athlete designed energy bar made from real foods. They have a 4:1 carbohydrate:protein ratio and can be eaten before, during, or after a workout. I have even had one for breakfast before and it kept me full for about four hours. There are five flavors: Blueberry Boomdizzle, Lauren’s Meganuts, Smooth Caffeinator, Need for Seed, and All-in-Almond.

The Blueberry Boomdizzle taste almost like a dessert. It is made of almond butter, blueberries, hemp seeds, and dates. I love this bar for post workout recovery.

Lauren’s Mega Nuts is what satisfies any peanut butter craving. While this is obviously not for those with peanut allergies, it is one of my favorite flavors!

The Smooth Caffeinator is my all time favorite. It has coffee added to it, so that you get a boost of caffeine. I use this bar during my long runs to give me an extra umph!

The Need for Seed is made from Sunflower Butter and is the perfect bar for anyone with nut allergies!

The All-in-Almond is like Lauren’s Meganuts, but made with almond butter. This is also one of my favorites.

Okay so, how can you get these bars? You can go to http://www.pickybars.com. I ordered a sample pack the first time and fell in love, so I joined the Picky Club. For 37.00 a month (includes shipping and tax), I get 18 bars of my choice and also cool goodies. The first month, I got a picky club t-shirt and a wristband in my package. When you do the math you are getting those bars for about 2.00 a piece which is a fair deal considering how much some other name brand energy bars (specifically designed for endurance athletes) cost. You are also getting free swag every month that you order. You only have to commit to three months and can post pone your orders if you don’t like it after that. The company is operated by Lauren Fleshman (a well decorated distance runner), Steph Rothstein (decorated marathoner), and Jesse Thomas (champion triathlete). All three obviously understand the importance of nutrition during endurance events and keep that in mind with their company’s products.

Me wearing my Picky Bars Gear!

Me wearing my Picky Bars Gear!

All of my bars for month one!

All of my bars for month one!

War at Windrock Race Re-cap

So, this past weekend was definitely an adventure like no other! I participated in a three stage mountain race that ended up totaling 35.63 miles (I got lost a couple of times adding on extra miles to what was supposed to be a 50K race). This race took place in a tiny town called Oliver Springs at Windrock Park. Windrock Park has 72,000 acres of ATV, mountain bike, and cross country trails and is also home to the Tennessee Valley Authority Windmill Farm, which powers much of the surrounding area. I won a free entry to this race through the event- Dirty Bird Events- and was stoked to do my first ultra-type of race.

The first leg of the race took place on Saturday morning and was  a four mile loop on a very technical single track trail. This trail was pretty steep and I was so excited, that I ended up charging all of the hills with full energy! I learned very quickly that this park was very rocky and that I would need to wear better shoes for the next legs, as I stubbed my toes several times on some pretty sharp rocks. This trail was a great warmup and taste of the next two legs of the race. I probably shouldn’t have pushed so hard during this first event (I placed first for females) because I needed that energy for the next two events!

The second leg, taking place Saturday evening was the “10K” uphill climb. I place 10k in quotations here, because it was actually a 7.5 mile course, but ended up being 8.25 for me after getting lost. This uphill climb took place on ATV trails, which provided it’s own challenge of dodging four wheelers and dirt bikers speeding down the steep mountain terrain! On this leg of the race, I climbed about 3,000 feet to to part of Buffalo Mountain where you can see the entrance of the windmill farm that we would get to enter the next day. Parts of this course were so steep that I literally bear crawled my way up to the top. This course was not for the weak minded and definitely tested my limits! At the end I could hear fellow participants shouting my name, but I could not see the finish and I seriously thought I had a psychotic break and was hearing voices. Luckily, it was only a .25 mile stretch and I learned, that I was not losing it! I placed 4th in females for that leg of the race.

The third leg of the race took place on Sunday morning. I had so many doubts running through my head after having done the first two legs the day before. My body was so tired, but I was determined to accomplish my goal of completing all three stages. This course had a very rough start of steep climbing up several jeep trails to the top of Buffalo Mountain. We also climbed boulders, rocks, and ran through deep mud at several points of the course. At mile four, I almost caved and actually shed a few tears after realizing how much pain I was actually in. I told myself that I would just get to the aid station and probably hitch a ride back to the finish. However, by the time I reached the aid station two other runners had reached me and I told myself, If I can hang with them for a few more miles, I will re-evaluate how I am doing. This worked, I ran with these two runners for several miles after that and was informed that they all thought about quitting as well. The three of us kept each other motivated and pushed each other up almost 3,400 feet of elevation to the Windmill Farm. When registering for the race, I really thought the Windmill Farm would be the best part of the course. While, this farm is not open to the public and we really were getting a treat to run through it, that 2.5 mile stretch of gravel road seemed to never end. We had run 13 miles up  Buffalo Mountain to get there and by that time, I was so physically and mentally exhausted! I get to see these windmills everyday on my drive to work and I never imagined them to be so HUGE up close! They are pretty amazing to see up close! I also realized that there are at least 30+ windmills up there, but can only see 3-4 from the bottom of the mountain! Once we got out of the windmill farm, we only had about four miles of Steep downhill running to finish. I thought, “oh, this will be great on my legs…”. WRONG! Running straight down a mountain after being in physical pain and fatigue is very hard. I slipped and fell several times, so I literally rolled down some parts of this descent. I have scrapes, cuts, and a sore shoulder as a result, but I made it down alive!

At several points, I never thought I would finish that race. I felt like I was in a Saw movie and someone had played a sick joke on us to see if we could make it out of the woods alive. I was very glad to have taken food, water, and gatorade with me as I would have passed out if I had not had proper fuel. I know I burned over 4,000 calories just in the 22 miler (my watch died and lost signal at mile 12 so I don’t have an accurate count) and I burned about 3,500 the day before. I lost six pounds in one weekend from the events and that was with eating the whole run (picky bars, bananas, and even a pb&j sandwhich) and consuming two plates of spaghetti and three angry orchard ciders on Saturday night. To be honest, I probably should have done a less challenging 50K for my first ultra, but I am so glad that I did this one because I feel so accomplished. Every time I drive to work and see those windmills I will know that I can conquer anything that I set my mind to. I would definitely recommend this race to someone who wants a race that will change their life and their outlook on what they can accomplish with their bodies and minds! I also made several new friends to hopefully share new adventures with!

Three amigos, keeping each other from quitting or getting lost!

Three amigos, keeping each other from quitting or getting lost!


Knoxville Marathon Race RE-cap

Okay, so it has been a week since I ran the Knoxville Marathon. After crossing the finish line, a series of events happened that has left me away from social media for almost an entire week. My dad had a heart attack while I was running the marathon and after crossing the finish, I made my way to the hospital. That night, my grandmother passed away as well. Then the next couple of days, I started a new job and then cared for my dad when I got off work. The good news is that  my dad is doing much better after having a blockage removed from his heart and he is recovering okay.

So for the race re-cap: This was my second full marathon. Participants had a choice to do a 5K, 1/2 Marathon, two or four person relay, and the full marathon. At the expo, I was shocked at how few people had actually signed up for the full marathon, the majority was running the 1/2. This is probably because the Knoxville marathon is probably one of the hilliest courses in the south east.

My race strategy was to start running with the 4:45 minute pace group and then kick it up at mile 20 if I felt good enough to run the last 6.2 at a faster pace. My goal was to finish under five hours. However, as I always do, once I started the race, I felt like I could go a little faster during the first few miles and I ended up catching up with the 4:30 minute pacer. I knew I could not push it faster than that pace, so I stayed with that pace group for almost the whole race. This was also my first time running in a pace group and I loved having others to share the experience with.

Our pace group used a run/walk method of run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute. This is typically seen in Jeff Galloway programs, which I have not tried yet. I loved this method, especially on the hills. At this pace, we were averaging a one minute walk break at every half mile.

The marathon start was at the Knoxville convention center at the heart of downtown. The first 1-3 miles wrap around the University of Tennessee through Neyland Drive. After taking a left onto Kingston Pike, we traveled approximately another mile before turning left into Cherokee Blvd. into the Sequoyah Hills area. I had trained in this area prior to running the marathon and I was so happy that my training paid off. This section of the course has very steep climbs and rolling hills which last for approximately four miles. The Sequoyah Hills area has very nice homes, well maintained yards, and has the Holston River on the left providing nice scenery. Residents were lining the streets cheering us on and several had placed unique signs such as “Naked Cheerleaders” coming up (with bras hanging on the trees) and the entire what does the fox say song lining the street!

After Sequoyah hills, you get to make a climb back up to Kingston Pike by climbing approximately 155 feet of the notorious Noelton Hill. Again, I was glad that I had ran this section of the course during training and knew how to pace myself.

After climbing back up to Kingston pike, the marathon course leads you to the greenway system. Mind you, 1/2 marathon runners and full marathon runners are sharing the course so it was packed once you get to the greenway. My favorite part of this section was the themed water stations. On the third creek greenway section, there were people dressed up Duck Dynasty Style and they were using duck calls to cheer us on! This was so much fun! Also, there were several bands playing music on this section!

After exiting the greenway system, you get to run back through the university area and eventually get to Worlds Fair Park. At this section, the 1/2 marathoners make their way to the Stadium to finish, while the full marathoners make their way up Central Avenue and North Knox. After the split, the course becomes fairly quiet and isolated. I was thankful to be running in a pace group to keep myself motivated to push harder.

Running in downtown Knoxville you get to see several of the older establishments, businesses, and also several of the non-profit organizations that serve Knoxville’s citizens. At Mile 20, you reach the South Knoxville Bridge and cross the Holston River into the Island Home area. The bridge is scenic and allows you to get the full view of how far you have run already! I hit my wall at approximately mile 22. Somewhere during mile 17-20, my foot started cramping. I believe this was due to the road being tilted and my shoe placing pressure on the side of my foot. I still have a bruise from this, but I started slowing down due to the cramping. Eventually at mile 23, my pace group had gone on without me. I could still see them in the distance and my pace coach had advised me to continue to use the run/walk method and that I would get to the end and maintain and PR. I took his advice.

The island home area, was nice, had a lot of music, but did not have very many spectators cheering us on like the first 1/2 of the course. You basically make a loop around the residences and come back out to Gay Street Bridge at mile 24. You make another very steep climb at this mile marker to get back up to downtown Knoxville.

Mile 25 takes you through market square where there are many spectators. At this point I saw the 4:45 pace group again, but was informed that they were about 5-6 minutes ahead of pace. I just kept repeating my goal of finishing before them in my head and pushed as hard as I could that last mile. Once you get out of market square you can pretty much hear and see the stadium. You cross the starting point at the convention center and then have a huge downhill decline crossing the street to Neyland Stadium. This is deceiving because then you climb another steep hill lasting about .3 miles into the stadium area. After that it is an easy flat section to finish that last .2 into the stadium to cross the finish line!

Pros of the race- I would have done fine not taking a water bottle with me on the course. There were often times multiple water stations with gatorade in the same mile. Many of the stations offered GU, but I don’t use GU, so it didn’t really benefit me personally (they hurt my stomach). I carried my own fuel during the course (nathan’s almond butter, welch’s fruit snacks, and a Picky Bar).

The expo for this race was great! I got two  bags of rice (I found this interesting, but I used them to make homemade chicken fried rice after the race!), two peanut butter energy bars from Bear naked, and really awesome coupons in my virtual goody bag. I also picked up an additional t-shirt that has the elevation profile for Noelton Hill on the back and an awesome pint glass as a souvenir. I also ordered a medal holder (I will post a blog about this when it arrives!) for my apartment.

Cons- After the split from the 1/2 marathon course, things get pretty isolated and quiet. This is the time when you really need the motivation to keep pushing hard to the finish. The views are scenic, but if you are a person that feeds off of the energy of the spectators, it takes a lot of willpower and mental strength to keep yourself motivated from mile 15-23.

Summary: I will run this race again. It was an entirely different challenge from the last marathon I ran in DC. The hills in this course are deceiving, but I love challenging myself with the hills of East TN. You also get awesome views of the smoky mountains, all of the cool buildings in Knoxville, and the University of Tennessee! I also enjoyed the pace group I ran with and will probably run with a group for my next road marathon as well!

My chip time at the finish was 4:40:41, which means that I ran this course (which was by far the hardest road course I have ran) a little over 34 minutes faster than my last marathon in October. I set a new PR for myself and that is all I wanted to accomplish!

race swag!

race swag!

Me, before the start! It was 34 degrees that morning, but warmed up to about 55 by the end of the race.

Me, before the start! It was 34 degrees that morning, but warmed up to about 55 by the end of the race.

2014 Tentative Race Schedule

2014 Race Schedule

March 15th – USMC Engineer 5 Mile Challenge (OCR)

March 30th – Knoxville Marathon (road)

April 12-13th -War at Windrock 2 day 50K (trail)

April 26th – MARSOC 5 mile challenge (OCR)

May 26th- Foothills Sprint Triathlon (sprint Tri)

May 31st– Run for the Rose 5k (road)

June 14th– Fear the Reaper 12 hour challenge (OCR)

July 19th– Loonies Midnight Marathon (Road)

August 10th– Secret City Triathlon (sprint tri)

August 16th– Haw Ridge Trail Race (trail)

August 23- VA Super Spartan (OCR)

September 13th– Knoxville Marine Corps Mud Run (OCR)

September 20th– 5 Alarm Challenge (OCR)

September 20th– Spartan Ultra Beast (Ultra marathon OCR)

September 27th– Nashville Women’s Half Marathon (Road)

October 4th– Rock Creek Stump Jump Trail race (50k or 11 mi)

October 25th– Carolinas Spartan Beast (OCR)

November 7th– Seal Xtreme Challenge Night Ops (OCR)

November 30th– Secret City ½ Marathon (Road)

December 6th– St. Jude’s Memphis Marathon (road)

December 20th– Lookout Mountain 50 Mile and 10K (trail)