Friday, May 16, 2014

The Joys of Beet Juice! Product Review: Biotta Juices

Let me start this post by saying that never in a billion gazillion years did I ever think I would be writing about beet juice.  Never ever ever.

First off - as a child - I hated beets.  Hell, as an ADULT - I HATED beets.  Couldn't stand them and generally just avoided them.  Nothing ruined a salad (or anything else) like a random beet.

However, as a triathlete - I'm consistently looking for any (legal) edge I can find - and when I came across Biotta Juices (who is a sponsor for the Big Sexy Racing Triathlon Team that I'm a part of) - I was incredibly intrigued at some of the claims being made in regards to the benefit of beet juice.  So I figured I'd give it a try.

Consider me a beet convert.

Now - I preface anything I'm about to say with the following:  I'm no rocket surgeon.  A lot of the stuff on the internet goes into an incredible amount of detail of how beets and beet juices can benefit you and such.  So I'll break it down in the simplest way possible based on my understanding:  Beets have a very high concentration of dietary nitrates in them which result in a lower energy burn during endurance events.  This basically means that you can go longer on the same amount of energy.  That means more endurance.  It gets much more involved than that - but that's the basic gist of it.

On top of that - beets are just generally healthy for you anyway.  Lots of benefits outside of endurance related stuff include tons of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that's just generally good for your day to day health.

So how have I been using it?  Well, I've been drinking about 1/2 a bottle of Biotta Beet juice daily and have noticed significant improvements in my mood and feelings post training.  I'm dead in the middle of training for one of my "A Races" - so I'm putting in quite a bit of training.  I've found that I generally feel less tired and exhausted day in and day out - which is a gigantic plus for my family as I've become less irritable.  The change was enough that my wife has noticed it and commented on it - and now I have a beet juice requirement each morning.

I've also made steady gains in performance at a quicker rate (which is due to more training with is partially due to the beet juice) this season.  That's the main kicker.  Performance increases are what the game of triathlon is all about, and Biotta has certainly helped me with that.

So the natural question is:  Why use Biotta?

It's for more than the immune system!

Nutritional mumbo jumbo.

Simple:  It's easy and convenient.  It can be found at your local Whole Foods, and it's convenient and easy to drink without taking up a ton of space in the refrigerator.   You don't have to actually do anything except for pop the top of the bottle, pour it, and drink up.

Originally, my wife wanted to try using our juicer to make "our own" beet juice.  The problem with that is that it's messy (the beets WILL stain your juicer) and (somewhat) time consuming.  With my schedule packed the way it currently is - I simply don't have the time to "juice" beets.  What would inevitably happen is that I would just avoid it altogether and stop doing it.

That's where Biotta shines, it's easy, relatively inexpensive, and accessible.

Pop the top, pour, and go.


Now - the cons of beet juice?  Well, the taste is something that has to be acquired.  Unless you love beets (and while I realize that a lot of people do - I certainly wasn't one of them) - it'll take some getting used to.  Personally, I went straight to it and just downed it until I was used to it - but I've heard from friends that they mix it with other fruit juices (which doesn't effect the concentration of the juice or the benefits you get from it).

The other downside is that it will turn your urine and your poop red (or even purple).  It's completely harmless, but it does happen.  I'll save you the gruesome details, but I woke my wife up in the middle of the night when I thought something seriously went wrong in the bathroom.
This video does a great job of summing it up:

Other than that - it's a great juice and you should really head to your local Whole Foods and pick up a bottle or check them out at Biotta Juices.  To top it off, they have lots of other juices which are pretty good as well  I'm partial to their Breuss Vegetable juice - (which has beets, by the way) and their mango juice is absolutely delicious.

Ignore the stuffed monkey and concentrate on the juice.  Mmmmmmmm delicious!

My dog wanting to get in on the Biotta action.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Race Report: Los Angeles River Fun Run 5k, A Runner's Circle Ambassadorship, AND A SHOE GIVEAWAY!!!!!!

During my lunch breaks, I often will hammer out 6 to 10 miles on the Los Angeles River Bike/Run Path - which is right by my work.  It's a lot easier than running the streets (mainly due to lunch time traffic) and is more scenic and enjoyable as well.  It's become my daily route, more or less.  Some days - I'll even bring my bike and ride up and down the path to get my workout in.

When I got connected with A Runner's Circle (more on that later) - they mentioned a 5k race that they do that was put on in the exact area of my daily route.  To me, this seemed like a no brainer to enter - so I did.

The La River Fun Run 5k is a really great event that A Runner's Circle puts on.  It's basically an out and back on the LA River bike path - but crosses over to the other side right before the finish.  This makes it a fairly unique race and pretty fun and easy to run for any level of runner.  To top that off - the mini-expo that A Runner's Circle sets up right next to their store is outstanding.  There's a pretty good selection of vendors, lots of stuff for kids to do, and a 1k kid's fun run that they do an outstanding job of putting on.  For a race of this size - it's easily one of the classiest 5ks I've ever been a part of.

I decided to do this race with my son for a variety of reasons - chief among them that my wife was working that day and that he actually seems to enjoy going on runs with me in the stroller.  It makes it a hair difficult (having to pack up and do 10x the logistical work in order to bring him to a race), but it's worth it in the end.  Plus it would be a chance for him to get out and have some fun doing something new.

My son in the stroller with an old bib from a previous race that I hadn't removed until the last minute.

Fellow A Runner's Circle ambassador Deo and I before the race start.

On to the race specifics:

Setting up at the start line.

I managed to get (somewhat) towards the front of the line - which I was hoping to do just to avoid other problems with other runners.  One of the many woes of running with a stroller is that, if you're one of the faster runners, you will inevitably be bumping into people, running them over, etc.  There are only two ways around that - run ahead of those people so that you're never in each other's way - or slow down so that you're running behind them.  I was really hoping to get out ahead of everyone from the get go - which would allow me to be "clear" of other runners and if anyone was faster than me, I'd be able to move to the side for them to easily pass rather than have to weave between contestants on a stroller.

You can see I managed to get right to the front of the start....

...but when the horn sounded, I was instantly surrounded by people who scooted in front of me and I fell back.

Alas, it was not to be.  I managed to get to the start line in the front group (which was grouped as "People finishing in under 20 minutes") - but was just behind the first row of people, and was surrounded by the next row.

Wasn't a big deal, except I found myself jogging and weaving between people on the first 1/4 mile or so of the race.  This put me at a 9:30 or so pace (just guesstimating - but a lot of the people starting out at that time were NOT going at a sub 20 minute 5k pace).  I managed to clear the pack and get "open" without any issues (except someone who ran into my stroller by accident, but everyone was ok thankfully).  Once out in the open, I was able to close the distance pretty well by running at my normal 5k pace.

Pulling ahead once I broke free from the pack.

I managed to pull solidly in third place - with both the second and first place runners well in my sights - but, once again, the woes of pushing a stroller in a race struck again.  This time it was in the form of the bridge you had to cross - which had bollards on each end of it that created an opening that was too narrow for me to get through.  This required me (with a bit of help from the volunteers) to hoist my stroller up and over the bollards onto the bridge, and then do the same on the other side (without any help).  Unfortunately, while I was doing the heavy lifting, my competition was passing me by.
Coming back on the return leg right before the bridge.  Notice how there's no one behind me - that lead disappeared when I had to stop to get the stroller up and over the posts onto the bridge.

Once across the bridge, I was unable to catch all of the people that passed me (I managed to catch one) and had no hopes of catching the people in front.  I finished in 4th place with a 18:38 time - which isn't bad considering everything.  We got our medal at the finish line (which is actually a really cool little medal) and headed over to the mini-expo.

Crossing the finish line.

Time aside, the best thing about the race was that my son was incredibly well behaved in the stroller and seemed to have a blast.  I've taken him on training runs (up and above 15 miles) and he usually just sleeps through those.  On this run (albeit it was a lot shorter and faster), he was talking and "ga-gaing" the whole way.  Which, for me, was pretty awesome.

More awesome for Bruce, however, was all of the fun stuff they had available for kids to do.  From air balloons, to different balls to throw and kick, to a soccer net, to fun little obstacles - there was a lot for little ones to enjoy after the race.  Bruce, of course, decided that while all of that was fine and dandy - he wanted to play with two random sticks he found on the ground and pet a puppy that another contestant brought to the race.

Of course, his favorite toy/activity is two dirty sticks he found on the ground.
He played with the soccer ball too!
Crawling through an obstacle tunnel.
The puppy that Bruce was petting.  He did NOT want to let the puppy go.

With Derek - one of the founders/owners of A Runner's Circle after the finish.  Bruce obviously wasn't in the mood to be held by a stranger - but it made for a good picture anyway!
All in all, a great race put on by a fantastic running store and filled with an outstanding community.  Couldn't ask for more than this.
A pretty sweet medal and a nice T Shirt for a well run 5k.

On another related note, I was recently selected to be an Ambassador for A Runner's Circle (the aforementioned store who put on the great race).  This is a huge honor for me, as it took a lot of work to put together but also was a great avenue to meet a lot of people in the Los Angeles (and beyond) running community.

The voting process was pretty straight forward - and if you're reading this blog, you likely have already spoken to me when it was going on.  Aside from some light drama (apparently there was some cheating going on in the voting process and some confusion with votes), it was really fun campaigning for this ambassador spot.  I swear, sometimes I felt like the freakin' President with the way I was talking to people.

Ambassador group shot with Joe and Derek (owners) and the other ambassadors.
Regardless, all the hard work paid off and I'm proud to be a 2014 Ambassador for the A Runner's Circle store.  Aside from all of the goodies that they have for ambassadors (some of which I'm able to take advantage of, some that I'm not able to take advantage of), the real reward in being an ambassador is being able to help represent such a great running community and store.

A bit of information on A Runner's Circle:  They started in 2006 and have blossomed to truly become a one stop shop for anything that involves running (be it your run of the mill casual 5k, an ultra-marathon in the hilliest of mountains, or a marathon on the tail end of an Ironman).  They have a friendly and supportive staff of knowledgeable people who actually care about running and can help you advance your running in whatever direction you're looking to advance it in.

More than just a store with a healthy selection in any form of running gear you might need, A Runner's Circle is also a backbone of the Los Angeles, Ca running community.  They have several programs - from their run club, to their running school, to their tri team, to their community fun runs, to their pacing programs, etc - that really bring the running community together in a way that no other store is able to.  Their ambassador program is a part of that, and I'm extremely proud to take on the responsibility of helping A Runner's Circle succeed in that goal.

At the Ambassador Meet and Greet Dinner with Nadia and Myrna - two very awesome and accomplished runners.
For the Ambassadors (myself and 5 other people selected from different regions throughout Los Angeles), they held a fun run / dinner in honor of the 2014 Ambassadors.  The dinner was awesome and really fun.  It was great to meet everyone and hopefully we can all compete in races in the future representing the Red Army!

Now for the fun stuff.  I owe it all to you guys for helping vote me in - so I'm going to give something back.  I'm going to put on a contest to give away a free pair of shoes from any shoe that A Runner's Circle carries.  Easy as that - if they carry the make and model of shoe you want - you get it.  Here's how it will work:  This giveaway will be open to anyone out there who is reading this.  I'll randomly pick a person who follows the criteria below as the winner.  If you win and you're local - meet me at the store (we'll snap some pictures for the blog) and you'll get whatever pair of running shoes you want.  If you're not local - I'll ship the shoes to you on my dime (free to you - assuming continental US - if you're international let me know and we'll work something out).  Since I'm a Skora ambassador and A Runner's Circle does not carry Skora (YET!) - I will offer up the option of providing the winner with a pair of Skora Fits in place of the shoes from A Runner's Circle.

Sound good?  Great!  Now, what do I want from you in return?  Nothing (except something, but they're all minor!) - since you've already given me tons of support.

My son watches a cartoon show called Special Agent Oso - and that's how we will be doing this contest.  IN THREE SPECIAL STEPS! (Anyone with a child under the age of 5 is singing this song in their heads right now)

Unfortunately Oso, you don't qualify to get the shoes for running on your treadmill.

STEP 1:  Follow me on Facebook (or add me, if you want to be friendly) and Twitter (I'm not bothersome - I promise).

STEP 2:  "Like" A Runner's Circle and Skora Running on Facebook.

STEP 3: Comment below saying you've done the above and leave a couple of words about what you would do with the shoes (doesn't have to be a heartfelt address - just something more than "I WANT SHOES").

That's it!  Easy peezy!  If I get enough entries, I may give away both a pair of Skoras and a pair of shoes from A Runner's Circle - but we'll see how many entries we get.  I will be checking to make sure everyone who comments followed the instructions, so be sure to follow steps 1 through 3.

I'll give it until the end of the month (until the Special Olympics World Games Half Marathon on June 1st) and select a winner then.  Anyone is eligible to enter except those related to me (since -  you know - I don't want any foul play).  So enter it and win!

With that said - May looks to be a (somewhat) busy month for me as (outside of this 5k) I'll be tacking two Triathlons (the XTerra Off Road Triathlon and the Special Olympics World Games Endurance Weekend Triathlon - both put on by Renegade Race Series) and two Half Marathons ( the Laguna Hills Memorial Day Half Marathon and the Special Olympics World Games Endurance Weekend Half Marathon - also put on by Renegade).  So it's a pretty busy month for me racing wise - especially considering that the Special Olympics Triathlon and Half Marathon are back to back!