my favorite things giveaway ~ nuun, accel and picky bars

I’ve talked before about all of the things I have implemented in my training and racing to become a better, smarter, stronger and faster runner.  It’s a work in progress — I am a work in progress — and a journey, without a doubt.  No one single thing is solely responsible for making us good at our sport. Rather, it is a combination of things and we are smart to constantly look at what we are doing (and not doing) in order to find ways to improve and enhance our performance and our experiences.  I feel that way about all areas of life – I never want to get so stuck in my ways and stop growing as a person.  That’s one reason I like running so much — it keeps me moving.  It keeps my heart open and my mind open.  It keeps me young in more ways than one.

I wrote a post not long ago about how I’ve improved as a runner (you can click here to read it).  I talked about how I added regular speed work, paced my runs properly and with purpose, built my mileage conservatively and consistently, became dedicated to Pilates and strength training, started foam rolling every single day, and more.  I also mentioned that I FINALLY figured out my hydration and nutrition plan – before, during and after my runs.  What works for one runner may not work for the next – it is different for everyone and we all have to experiment to figure out what combination works for us – but there is no question that we all have to drink and we all have to eat.  This may sound like common sense (and it is) but if I had money for all of the runners I have met who say they “can’t eat” before, during or after a run I would be a very rich lady.  I get it, too – because I honestly used to be just like them!  And I had miserable runs and races a LOT of the time as a result.  About a year ago I finally realized that if I wanted to improve my running I would HAVE to figure out the right hydration and nutrition plan for me.  I would have to get over the fact that I didn’t feel like eating breakfast right before I ran.  I would have to eat and drink on a run even when it was the last thing I felt like doing.  And I would have to put something in my body SOON after a run in order to recover the fastest so I could keep up with my training.  I committed myself to figuring this out and thankfully, through a lot of trial and error, I am at a place where I feel good about it and I believe it is working for me.  It’s not perfect – I am still open to trying new things and improving on it, but right now these are my favorite things…

In order to perform at our very best, we have to be properly hydrated.  I used to try drinks like Gatorade and Cytomax – they made me feel awful every single time.  I would get cramps.  I would feel nauseous.  It turns out that my body just did NOT need all that extra sugar (surprise, surprise!).  Then I tried drinking just water, which still works great for me when I’m running shorter distances and even for my longer runs (as long as I have my gels, which contain electrolytes, protein and sugar).  But I was still showing up for my runs not properly hydrated – and this is just not a good way to start a long run or a race – trust me!  Last year I discovered Nuun and this product has become a STAPLE for me and for my family.  Basically any time that I am not running – I am drinking Nuun.  I drink insane amounts of it for the day or two before my long run or race especially, to ensure that I am fully hydrated and that I have the proper balance of electrolytes going into my run.  I need not worry one single bit about dehydration when I lace up my shoes.  Nuun is awesome for a lot of reasons – it tastes great, it has no sugar, it is low calorie, it’s convenient, and it has the perfect balance of electrolytes for endurance athletes.  It is absolutely 100% something I can count on.  And what’s more exciting is that just last week Nuun introduced a brand new product called Nuun All Day – not only does it come in 4 new **amazing** flavors (I cannot wait to try the Blueberry Pomegranate), but it is all natural and is enhanced with vitamins and minerals.  I have a feeling this product will stay true to it’s name – it is something I will drink ALL DAY pretty much every day.  It will make my water taste delicious and refreshing.  Let’s face it – hydration is important even when we’re not running peak mileage or training for an endurance event, but we may not need the level of electrolytes that the regular Nuun provides.  Nuun All Day is the perfect solution for those times (and I think my kids are going to love it, too).

Accel Gels.
For runs and races of more than 10 miles, my body needs more fuel to sustain my effort and perform at my very best.  It doesn’t take too long for my muscles to get depleted of their glycogen stores, resulting in me feeling lousy and exhausted pretty quickly.  I think it is pretty safe to say I have tested every single gel on the market.  The one that works best for me actually came as bit of a surprise – Accel Gels.  The reason I was surprised by this is because it contains milk and my stomach is sensitive to dairy.  However, the milk provides protein which seems to be a magical thing for my muscles!  In addition to that, these gels are all natural and have a 4:1 carb to protein ratio, giving me the energy I need as quickly as possible.  They are not thick like most other gels I have tried – and they go down pretty easily thankfully.  I wouldn’t say any of them are “delicious” but I buy the chocolate and vanilla by the case and they get the job done.

Picky Bars.
For a long time I was in denial about the importance of eating soon after a long run, a hard track workout or a race.  My stomach is often “testy” after such an effort and the very last thing I feel like doing is eating.  I learned in my RRCA coaching class that it is crucial for endurance athletes to eat within the first hour or two (and ideally, within the first 15 minutes!) of completing a workout.  I also learned that foods with a 4:1 carb to protein ration would be ideal, and that a mocha latte or chocolate milk would be perfect.  But could I stomach that?  Or would it be enough?  Last summer I started treating myself to a soy white mocha after all of my long runs.  I love them and I think they are a sweet reward and a smart choice right after my runs.  But, truth be told, they aren’t *really* enough and when I am done with a race I usually don’t find a barista at the finish line to serve me up my special recovery drink.  I need to EAT something.  As someone who eats a (mostly) vegan diet, it can be tricky for me to find foods that are high enough in protein.  Picky Bars changed that for me.  These bars are made from the finest all natural and organic ingredients, they don’t contain any dairy or gluten, they taste great and they are made by athletes (Lauren Fleshmen and Steph Rothstein!) for athletes.   I keep them in my bag and in my car so that I always have one handy when I need it and can start recovering as soon as I finish my run.  They are awesome.

Thanks to these three products, my hydration and nutrition needs are completely taken care of.  I don’t stress out about it because I know that I can count on them if I stick to my plan.

I love them so much that I want to give you the chance to win a sampling of some of my favorite things for hydrating and fueling.  Fall marathon training cycles are about to start – and it’s a perfect time to figure out what works best for you!

The Prize:
One winner will win a package with the following ~
* 4 tubes of Nuun (including one tube of Nuun All Day!)
* An awesome blue Nuun 21 oz. water bottle
* 4 Picky Bars (one of each flavor – including the newest flavor – Smooth Caffeinator!)
* 2 Accel Gels (one chocolate, one vanilla)

(almost) the whole package – add one more picky bar and 2 accel gels to this!!

To enter please leave a comment telling me how you hydrate and fuel – before, during and after your runs.

And if you are feeling extra excited and eager to win, you can do one or all of the following (doing so will gain you one extra entry!):

* follow Pace of Me on Facebook and/or Twitter
* follow Nuun on Facebook and/or Twitter
* follow Pacific Health Lab (makers of Accel Gels) on Twitter
* follow Picky Bars on Facebook and/or Twitter

Disclaimer: I was not paid by Nuun, Pacific Health Labs or Picky Bars for this post.  I use their products and really like them!  Sweepstakes is open to US residents only.  One winner will be chosen at random.  Sweepstakes starts on Wednesday May 30, 2012 and ends on Tuesday June 5, 2012 at midnight EST.  The winner will be notified via blog post shortly after and will have one week to claim the prize.