RECAP: Bank of America Chicago Marathon

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Bank of America Chicago Marathon through The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!


Last weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago in order to run in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. This was my second Abbott World Marathon Major and my first marathon in the state of Illinois.

Saturday – Expo

I flew to Chicago on Saturday (day before the race), which is my typical M.O. for race travel. Upon landing at Midway on Saturday morning, I linked up with a my friend Melissa who lives in the Chicagoland area and we rolled to the expo together. The short drive to the expo allowed us to catch up and for me to give her some tips for her first ever marathon. When we got to McCormick Place (site of the expo), the traffic and parking situation left a little to be desired, but it wasn’t the worst I’ve ever experienced. Props to Chicago PD for keeping things moving!

If you’ve never been to Chicago for a convention, McCormick Place really is the best place for the expo. It’s a little bit south of downtown, but incredibly accessible by all means of transportation – car, bus, cab/rideshare, L-train, etc. Additionally, the venue itself is HUGE and can handle the large influx of people. My favorite thing about the expo, from a logistics standpoint, would be how the organizers managed the packet pickup process. Each runner was issued a packet pickup ticket – essentially a QR code – in order to gain entry to pick up their packet. Once my code was verified, along with a photo ID, I was sent to one of the MANY packet pickup stations. When I say many, I mean MANY. End result? No massive lines to stand in, no hunting for your bib number, no hunting for the right spot to pick up a packet. The organizers nailed this and it made overall process the easiest I’ve ever experienced.

Aside from that, my favorite thing about the expo OVERALL was the opportunity to meet PAULA RADCLIFFE! For those who don’t know, she was the world record holder for the women’s marathon…well, until Sunday morning! I honestly did not even know she was going to be there. I was standing next to a particular vendor’s set-up and just happened to look up at the large monitor above, which stated she would be at that booth…in just a few minutes. I then did a quick scan of the vendor’s area and THERE SHE WAS! Ran over, got in line, and got to meet a running legend. Let’s not talk about the fact that I did not keep it together AT ALL. Paula – thanks for being okay with that!

Getting back to downtown from the expo was a piece of cake. I will post about my overall travel experience in a seperate post, but I will say this: getting around Chicago is EASY – so long as you 1) know where you’re going and 2) plan ahead.

Team in Training

What I haven’t talked about yet though is the WHY behind my trip to Chicago. The main reason I was even able to participate in this race was thanks to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. I was one of the many who did not earn a spot via the marathon lottery, so when the opportunity came about to possibly get in via another method, I jumped at it! From the minute I got to the expo, every person I interacted with from LLS/TNT was absolutely amazing. They made me feel as if I had been a part of the TEAM for years. I was fortunate to have raised $1775 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, but I could not have done so without the support of some amazing people, so another HUGE thank you to:

  • Beth & Mike Conn
  • Di Spiva
  • Debbie Morris
  • Marie Basler
  • Marie Burleigh
  • Nicole Piechuta
  • Paul Woidke & Lillian Elliott
  • Steph & Jeremy Cramm
  • Hailey & Dan Hadden
  • Mark, Rose, Jenna, & Jillian Bradbourne
  • Nicholas Fellers
  • Erin & Chris Damm
  • Chase Masters & Carrie Luke
  • Lisa Masters
  • Mary Gorell
  • Mike Lindsay
  • Team BibRave
  • Anonymous

What I will add here for review’s sake is this – don’t sleep on the charity bib as a way into a marathon. Yes, you’ll get to run the race you’ve always wanted to, but you also will do a LOT of good along the way. LLS/TNT is just one of MANY charities that partner with the Chicago Marathon, so I encourage you to find one that speaks to you and consider supporting it!

Race Day

On race morning, I walked over to the LLS/TNT hotel and walked to Grant Park with a group of my fellow teammates. It was great heading over with people who have done this race before. They knew exactly where to go and when to get moving to be there. Getting INTO the park was a little stressful because there were so many people and not as many security folk checking bags. PRO TIP: make sure you read up on race day policies BEFORE you get to the security checkpoints, no matter what race you run. Most races will NOT allow any bags aside from the clear plastic one runners can collect at the expo. Follow the guidelines and your race day will go smoothly!

Gear check was what you’d expect – find your bib number and give’em your stuff. Pretty straightforward. Best part about gear check was the amazing views of Buckingham fountain (which was on!) at sunrise. The corrals themselves seemed organized about the same as any other race I’ve run. Make sure you leave yourself enough time to get from gear check BACK to your corral though, as there is a little bit of a walk between the two.

The start was a little crowded, but it began to spread out fairly quick. The course itself is absolutely great – AND FLAT! The only exception to this would be the bridges, which are small rolling hills at best. Best advice I received and that I will repeat to you: go for the carpet on the bridges! You’ll have better traction and lessen the chance of slipping/twisting an ankle in the grating on the bridge. Aside from that, the only real difficult spot on the entire course is inside the last half mile when you make your last right turn and have to climb over the only real hill on the course – “Mount Roosevelt”. Favorite part of the course was running through Chinatown! I did not expect it to be as cool as it was and the spectator turnout in that area was amazing.

There was no lack of aid stations and toilets along the course. Plenty of Gatorade, Water, and gels to get through the race. The toilet were set up on side-streets along the course near the aid stations, almost like pit stops in an car race. For as many people as there were in the event, the toilets never seemed to be overwhelmed or gross – definitely a plus.

Final Thoughts

You should ABSOLUTELY make it a priority to run the Chicago Marathon. I don’t care how you get there – lottery, charity, etc – just go and experience it. The event is fantastic, the organization of the race is second to none, and just being in Chicago will make it that much more fun.

I would definitely consider returning to Chicago in the future. Thank you BibRave and Team in Training for an amazing weekend!

REVIEW: Knockaround Fast Lanes SPORT

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

Get your own pair of Knockarounds and use code BIBRAVEKNOCKS3 save 20% your ENTIRE order – one use per customer.


The fall racing season is almost over – for me at least – but the need for a decent pair of shades never ends. When the chance to link up with Knockaround again to test their new Fast Lanes Sport series sunglasses, I wasn’t going to pass that up.

What do you mean – AGAIN? Well, back in April, I had the opportunity to test out the Knockaround’s Fast Lanes series. You can read THAT review here, but long story short: I quickly added a new favorite to my sunglasses collection. The same can be said about the new Fast Lanes Sport.

What is Knockaround?

Simply put, Knockaround sunglasses (regardless of series) are simple, stylish, and durable. They are able to fit seamlessly into daily life, no matter what you’re into.

The Fast Lanes & Fast Lanes Sport aren’t the only shades they make, though. However, all Knockaround sunglasses have impact-resistant lenses and UV400 protection. For those who want a little something extra, almost all of their offerings are available in a polarized version.

Fast Lanes vs Fast Lanes Sport

Right out of the gate, the most noticeable difference are the rubber nose pads built into the frame of the sunglasses. This is a game-changer for Knockaround as it allows fans of the Fast Lanes (who may happen to be runners like me) to now have an option that will absolutely stay put and not slide around.

One of the key features of BOTH editions of the Fast Lanes is that that they will look good on most any face shape, especially those with medium and larger shaped faces. That means no more stretched out sunglasses and/or imprint marks on the side of your head from the arms of the shades!

My Takeaways

For this review, I went back to a simpler look, opting for the Matte Black / Smoke Fast Lanes Sport. Truth be told, I actually LOST my shades about halfway into this test! So this was the first time I was testing a product AND had the opportunity to purchase that same product. The experience could not have been easier and I even snagged a custom pair of the original Fast Lanes in my new favorite colorway – orange with amber (brown) lenses.

But I digress, here are few things I really have enjoyed about the new Fast Lanes Sport:

  1. The Nose Pads. A lot of brands attach nose pads to their frames and, unfortunately, they often break off. I’ve been using these Fast Lanes Sport shades for almost 6 weeks, running consistently in that time frame, and I’ve had absolutely no issues. The nose pads win the day.
  2. Simple. One thing that stands out is that the branding on the glasses isn’t obnoxious. Still not a huge fan of the additional branding in the upper corner of the right side lens, but it’s a detail I can get past.
  3. Durable. Any shades I own must be able to stand up to LIFE (running, getting tossed pretty much anywhere, getting snagged by my daughter, etc) and, let me tell you – they definitely fit the bill.

Final Thoughts

Simply put – yes, there are LOTS of options out there when it comes to sunglasses. My advice as you shop for your next pair? Live life in the fast lane and get a pair of Knockarounds!


Like ’em? Go snag a pair (or more) for yourself! Order your Knockarounds and use code BIBRAVEKNOCKS3 to save 20% your ENTIRE order (one use per customer).

CHICAGO!!!

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Bank of America Chicago Marathon through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Team In Training as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!

Consider helping me reach my goal for Team in Training and support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. CLICK HERE to show your support and give what you are able. Thank you!


It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses. -Elwood

Hit it. -Jake

I may not be one of the Blues Brothers, but I’m finally making my own pilgrimage to Chicago. With that said, I am so excited to share that I will be participating in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 13, 2019, representing Team BibRave as a member of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s  Team in Training (TNT). This effort is the epitome of the idea that it takes more than one person to make up a team and reach a goal. This is why I’m asking for your support to hit my fundraising goal.

Cancer, in one form or another, has had an impact on my family on a number of occasions. While these experiences have not been the result of blood-specific cancers, the emotional and psychological effects are just as powerful. In honor of those my family has lost – and to help keep others from experiencing similar loss, I am proud to support the efforts of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. LLS provides care and hope while continuing to search for cures to the various types of cancers that affect so many.  Your donation will help fund treatments that save lives every day; like immunotherapies that use a person’s own immune system to kill cancer. You may not know it, but every single donation helps save a life with breakthrough therapies such as these. Patients need these cures and they need your support.

Please consider showing your support for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers. Give what you are able to give and keep in mind that EVERY GIFT MATTERS. Show your support at http://bit.ly/presrunschicago19.

Stay tuned for updates as we get closer to race day. Thank you in advance for your support!

REVIEW: GoSili Reusable Silicone Straws

Disclaimer: I received a pack of reusable silicone straws from GoSili as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!


My car collects trash.

Receipts. Toll tickets. Coke bottles. Just a lot of random trash.

Something that shows up quite a bit though – and probably more than it should – is the ubiquitous fast food soda cup with a plastic straw. That straw often pokes my arm as it sits in the cup holder long after the beverage is gone. Once I do get around to throwing it out, the straw is no longer in it’s vertical home – it’s probably been ripped from the cup, tossed throughout the car, and ends up who knows where. Unfortunately, THAT is the problem with plastic straws – we know where so many of them end up. In rivers, lakes, streams, and – most notably – the oceans.

If only there was a reusable straw…oh wait, there is! Enter GoSili.

What is it?

GoSili straws are made silicone which provides a reusable, non-toxic, and sustainable alternative to the traditional drinking straw. They are dishwasher safe and can also be sanitized with a two-minute boiling water bath. In addition to being reusable, they are free of so many of the chemicals that we now fear in our consumer products – BPA, BPS, PVC, lead, and so on.

My thoughts

I was fortunate to get a wide variety of straws to review. My favorite, by far, is the X-Long straw. It’s absolutely perfect for those larger beverage cups at Starbucks as well as for some of my larger thermal mugs. They’re also great for my one-year-old daughter, Shalane, especially when we forget her sippy cup at home when we go out.

Added bonus is that she loves them too as another thing to play with! Because they are so easy to clean and chemically safe, I have no problem letting her have a blast and – dare I say? – get a little “sili”!

The travel cases for the different sizes is great because it keeps the straw sanitary before use keeps it out of the way. As a consumer, my personal preference is for a travel case that attaches to something via a clip or a keyring. My thought here is that digging around in a bag to find the travel case hasn’t been my favorite thing in the world, but it certainly hasn’t hindered my use of the straws! The straws themselves are colorful, safe, and easy-to-carry — with OR without the case. I maybe don’t use them as much as I should, but I’m definitely making strides to eliminate plastic straws from my daily experience. Hopefully, this also means finding less of them in my car!

Where it counts

Plastic consumption is at an all-time high. As a result, the amount of that plastic that ends up in places where it shouldn’t is through the roof. Think about your own plastic usage and then GoSili.  It could be any number of reasons, but they all point in the same direction – silicone straws are here and GoSili has a fantastic product that can help make a difference while also helping you reach the bottom of that large soda from Jimmy Johns.


Want to snag GoSili for yourself and save a buck?

Head over to Target.com and use code GOSILI1OFF for $1 off at checkout.

REVIEW: Ultima Replenisher

Disclaimer: I received a two canisters of Ultima Replenisher (1 lemonade, 1 raspberry) as well as 15 individual sticks (multiple flavors) 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!


Two reviews in one day?! Why not!

Back at it with another product review and this time I’m looking at Ultima Replenisher. Before I jump into the review, let me put a few things out there:

  1. This is only the second time I’ve ever reviewed a consumable, so please bear with me.
  2. I did not realize until the product arrived that I actually already had a container of a different Ultima flavor in my home – my wife enjoys the Cherry Pomegranate flavor.
  3. While I did receive some of the individual stickpacks to test, I am focusing my review on the larger canisters of Lemonade and Raspberry flavors and Ultima in general.

And away we go!

Ultima Replenisher – WHAT IS IT?

Simply put, Ultima Replenisher is a powder-based hydration drink. It goes beyond that simplification though as it boasts no unnecessary ingredients – such as high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. The flavors themselves – tasty, tasty flavors I might add – are derived from ACTUAL fruits and vegetables.

Ultima Replenisher is a replenishment drink. It’s in the name, y’all! Replenishment takes place by ensuring that the body has enough electrolytes. Speaking of electrolytes…

ELECTROLYTES – NOT JUST WHAT PLANTS CRAVE!

Bonus points for anyone who caught the movie reference above…but I digress.

It’s a long held thought that sodium is the only electrolyte that matters. Ultima calls phooey on that. Electrolytes (plural) play a huge role in how muscles function. As a runner, that’s kind of a big deal! Ultima is balanced with all 6 electrolytes – Potassium, Magnesium, Chloride, Calcium, Phosphorus, and Zinc – to ensure that athletes are ready to reach optimal performance.

OVERALL REVIEW

Coming into this test, I was skeptical of a powder-based drink. I’ve tried some (other brands) in the past and had mixed results. Some drinks lacked flavor, some drinks were syrupy, some were just blah. Ultima weren’t in any of those categories. In fact, I found myself not just adding one scoop of the Lemonade flavor to the requisite 16oz of water, but adding a second scoop of Raspberry as well for an awesome raspberry lemonade! Thanks to my wife, Tammi, for that tip!

Additionally, each canister I received is supposed to provide 30 servings. I’ve stayed within the recommended scoop size every time and it seems like this little hockey puck sized canister will never end – but I know it eventually will!

I will note though that I did find it somewhat frustrating to taste residual powder long after I added it to the water and mixed/shook the contents together. Totally willing to accept that it may be a result of how I mix it all together. Regardless, this slight inconvenience is not nearly enough for me to be disappointed by Ultima. They make a darn good product and I enjoyed getting to try it – as I drink some now!


If you’re looking for something different in the drink mix department, I’d recommend giving Ultima a try. On a 5 point scale, I’d give them a solid 4.75 and that’s pretty darn good – especially since I was hesitant at first! So, head on over to the Ultima Storefront on Amazon and use the code ULBRAVE19 to save 10% on your purchase of any Ultima product.

REVIEW: ShadyRays X Series Shades

Disclaimer: I received a pair of ShadyRays X Series 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!


Hello again everyone! Time for another review and this time around I’m taking a look at the X Series sunglasses from ShadyRays.

Sunglasses are an absolute necessity for me as I have a stronger sensitivity to light in one eye due to an issue a few years back, so trying these out as the summer running season begins was a no-brainer! I chose to go with the BLACKOUT POLARIZED INCOGNITO colorway for this one and as with most products I purchase (and/or test), I look at three primary criteria when I review: 1) function, 2) style, & 3) price. This one will be no different, so let’s dive in!

SHADYRAYS X SERIES BLACKOUT POLARIZED INCOGNITO

FUNCTION

Let’s get the obvious point out of the way, first and foremost – they’re sunglasses. Obviously, they are designed to help reduce glare and provide 100% protection against harmful UV rays.

However, they are SO much more than JUST sunglasses. The X Series shades are built to experience LIFE. Almost every run over the last few weeks has included these shades and let me tell you – they pass the test with flying colors. They stay put and don’t slip around. I’ve never once had to readjust them or had them start to slide down my nose. The arms on the shades wrap the side of my head almost as if they were meant to be there.

As far as running and other activities go, I’m enjoying these sunglasses. It should also be noted (and should go without saying) that they also make for a great pair of general sunglasses for an evening walk with the family or driving across town. Doesn’t hurt that they can also withstand salt-water as there is a family vacation to the beach on the horizon!

 

STYLE

There is always something to be said about a good looking pair of shades. I’ve definitely had some that didn’t function well nor did they look all that great. The X series shades do what they are designed to do AND they look amazing. Looking at them head on, I feel like I’m about to take on the world. Looking at them on me in a mirror, they look like they are meant for this face. They fit well and they look great. Plenty of colorway options to choose from, but I was drawn to the black-on-black-on-black look of the Blackout Incognito option. When done correctly, this concept works very well. Guess what, folks? IT WORKS. 

PRICE

So, they are great for running, great for everyday, great for the beach. They look good and, call me vain, but I really believe they look good ON me as well. What about the price? 
$45.
X Series shades start at $45. Not the lowest price point I’ve seen, but for the quality of product you receive AND how the company backs up their work, you can’t really beat it. Each pair comes with a lifetime craftsmanship warranty AND they provide FREE replacements if you lose or break them (simply pay S&H). On top of that, every order of ShadyRays provides 10 meals to fight hunger in the United States through Feeding America. Looking good and doing good – well done!

OVERALL

So let’s review:

  • Premium Polarized black lenses with 100% UV protection
  • Shatter-resistant
  • Salt water proof
  • Includes Microfiber Cleansing Pouch
  • Lifetime Craftsmanship Warranty
  • Free Replacements if Lost or Broken – just pay S+H fee for lost/broken replacements.
  • Every order provides 10 meals to fight hunger in the U.S. through Feeding America

What’s not to like?! I’m definitely a fan and am definitely considering a second pair in the future. Head over to ShadyRays and grab your own pair of X Series sunglasses. Save 50% off your order of two or more pairs when you use the code RAVE50 at checkout.

REVIEW: Indy Mini Marathon

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon (and Delta Dental 500 Festival 5k) as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!


Rather than bury the lead, here it is:

GO RUN THE INDY MINI.

This entire experience was absolutely phenomenal. From the registration process all the way to the post-race party, the people involved with organizing the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon (aka the Indy Mini) know what they heck they’re doing. This shouldn’t come as a surprise though. In 2018,  the Indy Mini was voted #1 half marathon in The BibRave 100!

BibRave Pro meet-up the night before the race!

I decided to step it up for this particular race and participated in the Mega Mini Challenge – running the Delta Dental 5k and then running the OneAmerica Mini Marathon (half). My PLAN was to somewhat sandbag the 5k and go for a really amazing time in the half. That plan went out the window quite quickly as I decided “why not?!” and pushed fairly hard in the 5k. Finished in the top 50, roughly a minute and a half slower than my current 5k PR.

Start line prior to the 5k

After crossing the finish, challenge participants were to stay to the left and follow signage to return to the start area. It seemed as if the volunteers knew this, but there was a little confusion in the finish area. To stay on point, I turned my music back up, put my head down, and do what the race instructions told me. I got back to the start line pretty quick, found Bill – a fellow BibRave Pro! – and we lined up for our second race of the day

Me and Bill (& 6500 new friends) in Wave 2 before the half

I knew before I crossed the start line for the half that it was not going to be a PR. Not after the performance I just threw down in the 5k! I was fine with that. If I could come within 10-15 minutes, I’d still be happy. Honestly though, I wasn’t really focused on that. I was focused on what everyone else was focused on – getting out to the speedway and taking a lap on that iconic track! Although I was posting a pretty good pace through the first half, I slowed up once I got to turn 4 at the track and turned into a tourist for a little bit.

The second half of my half marathon was definitely slower and I could tell that the 5k was catching up to me. My legs weren’t having this run as much any longer. There was definitely some run/walk happening in those last 4-5 miles, but thankfully more running than walking!

Ultimately, I came in around 1:49 for the half marathon – only 8 minutes off of my personal record. Not too shabby at all. Rolled into the post-race party, met up with Bill again as we collected our medals for the 5k as well as for the Mega Mini Challenge.

***

All and all, this race is well worth the trip and definitely lives up to the hype that surrounds it. The history, the tradition, and a very unique 2.5 mile section. Beyond that, this event is incredibly well organized, there is pretty decent crowd support, and it is very evident that the City of Indianapolis (and even the State of Indiana) truly get behind this race.

In conclusion, you should absolutely consider running the Indy Mini in 2020. Registration is open NOW. Seriously. Go to Indianapolis next year and find out for yourself – as I did – why this race is one of the top half marathons in the country!