Bars bars bars. When you're in your 20's, they're all you can think about.
I'll be honest: I'm not much of a bar fly. Energy bars, I mean. Protein bars. Cereal bars. Honestly, I don't even like sports bars. Or hotel bars. But that's not what I'm reviewing today.
Back to food: I have a tendency to try a bar, like it, and then read about how terrible it is for you on the internet and then never put it in my mouth again. But if there's one thing we all know about the internet, its this: Everything on earth is bad for you, and there's an article on the internet that proves it.
It's nice to find food that comes in a package but isn't bad for you, because let's face it: We can't all wear an apron all day and bake delicious, healthy food with whole ingredients. SOMETIMES, we have to reach for a bar, a package of something or a bottle of mixed up stuff. What I discovered this winter was a new bar, none other than the TrueBar made by a little company called Bakery on Main.
When I first heard of TrueBar, I was with my fitness-savvy friend Lauren at the A1A Marathon Expo on Fort Lauderdale. I was running the marathon the next morning, and I was grabbing all the freebies I could get. This tiny baking company, Bakery on Main, which sounds adorably like something from the movie Up, was there with a booth. There were cute boys handing out free TrueBars, so naturally Lauren and I ventured over. I said “TrueBar, what's that?” at the same time that my friend Lauren said “TrueBar, oh I love those.” We scooped up a handful. "Take more," they said. It was likely the best bar experience I've had all year.
Little did I know that less than 24 hours later, after running a full marathon in the heat of Fort Lauderdale February, that the Coconut Truebar would be the most delicious thing that ever happened to me. It was a close second to the orange slice handed to me under a bridge during the Miami Marathon, at mile 14. (I'm ashamed to admit that even if the sign had read, “Fred Phelps is awesome,” I would have still taken the orange slice and popped it in my mouth.
After the marathon, TrueBar offered to send me more free bars to review on this here blog. So here's my review:
TrueBars are Gluten Free, Non-GMO, Kosher, Vegan, Dairy Free. But they are not Taste-free.
TrueBars come in a nice variety of flavors, none of them boring or ordinary. By far, Coconut Cashew, Apricot Almond Chai, and Walnut Cappuccino are my favorite flavors. I also tried Hazelnut Chocolate Cherry, Raspberry Chocolate Almond, and Fruit & Nut. I have to disclaim that ALL the flavors were good, tasted healthy without compromising flavor, and they ALL had a really nice soft texture that suggested freshness and real fruit. However, the bars with chocolate were my least favorite, as the sweetness of the cherry and raspberry somehow overpowered the chocolate. This is sort of a personal preference. I think I'm more of a chocolate fan when fruit doesn't get involved. Nonetheless, the flavors are exciting an creative.
Other cool things I noticed about TrueBar:
1. They're FLAT, and fit easily in the pouch of a race belt or a pocket. I took a few on my ski trip in March and ended up sneaking bites on the lift in between runs.
2. They have minimal ingredients. For example, here's a look at the label on the Walnut Cappuccino bar:
You gotta love how these bars personify themselves. "I'm a walnut cappucino bar with nothing to hide." The bars actually do talk, and when you pull them out of your purse or jacket or race belt, they sort of make this squealing sound that fills your heart with joy. (Yours don't squeal? Really? Maybe you got a FAULTY BOX.) (Legal disclaimer: Just kidding, these bars do not squeal. They do not speak.)
3. They're lighter than the average natural bar packed with healthy fats and protein. Compared to a Clif Bar which averages 240-270 calories per bar, these clock in at 160-190 per bar and still manage to pack in fiber, healthy fats, protein and slow carbs like rice bran and brown rice flour. They also are made with 5% chia seeds, which give you wings. They're sweetened with Agave Nectar, Brown Rice Syrup, and Evaporated Cane Juice, which equates to me not getting a sugar rush and subsequent crash, which sometimes happens when I eat processed food.
Straight from the maker's mouth: "These bars are made to give a boost of energy without a crash and are all under 200 calories."
As I said in the beginning, I'm not a huge fan of bars. If I can eat unpackaged, whole foods, I will choose those first. But for times when a bar is called for, TrueBar makes the top of the list, bar none. No crash, all burn, all happy Megatron with coconut and chia seeds.
In fact, they're so great I'm going to host a GIVE-A-WAY so you can try TrueBars too. Here's the deal: Register in the raffle below to win. If you win, you get a free box of whatever flavor you choose. GO FOR IT!!!
I am about to change your life, new runner. What if I told you about a magical product that could make the pain, soreness, and tension disappear in your legs after a long run or a marathon or a 13.1? A 5k even. What if I told you that this thing is small and light, will fit in any suitcase, can be tucked under the seat of your car, and will literally last forever?
No, it's not crack. It's The Stick. The Stick is a device that contains a strong band on the inside and rollers on the outside. This allows you the roll the stick along your leg muscles to basically give yourself a deep massage without the deep cost of a massage, and without a stranger's hands on your precious quads. You may have seen these suckers before in running stores, and if so, you probably saw the Marathon Stick, the stick most commonly sold by stores. I tried the Marathon Stick a few months ago, because a friend had one, and it definitely felt great after a long run.
It was NOTHING in comparison to the Sprinter Stick which I purchased at The Miami Marathon Expo, and which TheStick.com kindly sent me in the mail for the blog. The Sprinter Stick is like a swift kick in the lactic ass for your muscles. This thing goes deep. The company recommends that you find your trigger points and then roll them slowly and firmly, several times per day. For example, using the stick, you can find the area just above and to the outside of the knee where a “dip” occurs at the beginning of your large quad muscle. From this point, you press firmly on the stick using both hands, at both ends, and roll slowly up the quad toward your hip. You can also roll your calves, and I recommend it. Keeping your calf muscles massaged helps avoid both calf cramps during your next run and achilles tendon injuries!
The stick uses myofascial release and rigger point therapy: that means that it wars your muscles, increases bloodflow, and encourages better circulation. The company recommends about 20 deep passes over each major muscle group, daily, concentrating on the knots and bumps where you find your "trigger points."
Definitely be sitting down for this. You will feel the pain. You will note that your quads will scream. Your calves will foam at the mouth. That's the lactic acid breaking up. That's the knots working out of your muscles. In the morning, after you've rolled, you'll spring out of bed like a baby bunny ready for your next run. At least, I did, after I started using The Sprinter Stick religiously in the morning and at night. Tip: Keeping it by the bed helps! Don't tuck it in a closet somewhere, or you'll forget about the thing, and you'll never know the difference between lovely, freshly rolled muscles and tight, cranky legs. This thing is waterproof, can go anywhere with you, and will help you remain uninjured by working the tightness out of your stiff muscle groups before and after your run.
There have been days when I've rolled my muscles, and days that I haven't. I can tell you with 100% certainty that the mornings I have have produced better runs that day, looser, more responsive muscles the day after, and a world less full of hurt. It's worth owning one of these lifesavers, and it's worth posting something on your bathroom mirror or your smartphone reminding you to roll thyself.
You can purchase The Stick directly from www.thestick.com, and they offer free shipping anywhere in the contiguous U.S. They've got short sticks, long sticks, sticks for runners, sticks for other athletes, and they've got full body rollers too!
NOW for the fun: I have an extra The Sprinter roller, just sitting here looking forlorn in its package, desperate to get rolling on somebody's lovely legs. Who will it be? I'm'a give it to you! Enter the raffle below and maybe the Sprinter Stick will be yours!!! You have 3 days! Just 3! Good luck sprinters!!!
Last May, on a work trip, I sat at a conference table in Washington D.C. with a man named James. During our meeting, he told me he ran the Boston marathon and finished roughly 40 minutes before the bombs went off. At this point, I put down my pen and sat back to listen as he told his tale of Boston 2013 -- the ambulance sirens, the lock-downs in hotels and restaurants. He described a feeling of complete bewilderment and confusion. He described the quiet ride home.
I asked him if he would go back.
"We have to," he said. "If we don't go back, we're letting them win."
I now realize that of all the moments in this past year that made me want to start running, this was the big one. I knew I wanted to be a runner when I left that building.
Moments before I left that conference room, he said to me, "You should do it. Even if you only run one marathon and never do it again. It's something you should do at least once."
When I saw that Hal Higdon's book, 4:09:43: Boston 2013 Through the Eyes of the Runners, had hit the shelf, I immediately got my hands on a copy. With Boston 2014 approaching, I wanted to understand more fully how that day felt, especially after running a few marathons myself, now knowing what a corral is, what "gun time" means, and what the finish line of a race should look like.
4:09:43 was not an easy book to read. The news media did a thorough job of covering the Boston facts, the profiles of the two alleged bombers, and the powerful stories of those wounded. Those stories were gripping, many of them sealed in my memory forever, but they left me at a distance from the race, detached and analytical. 4:09:43 placed me right there on the course, in the drumming of footsteps and the ticking of the watch, my heart beating and my eyes darting, page to page, hoping for something to stop this inevitable ending. It was exhausting and exhilarating. It gave me an experience, the way a good book should.
I asked author Hal Higdon if he would discuss the book a little further with me. He kindly agreed. Here's what we discussed:
M: What was it like gathering stories from runners? Did you reach out to find them, or did the runners come to you?
H: The 75 runners featured in 4:09:43 came to me, although they may not have realized it at the time. It began with posts to Facebook, links to blogs about Boston 2013. Once I committed myself to writing a book, I then reached out to runners, asking them on Facebook and Twitter to send me their stories. Others who returned home after the bombings talked to members of the media. Those stories fell into my grasp. Within a few weeks, I had collected approximately 75 riveting stories of what it was like on the course before and after the bombs.
M: Did you conduct each interview on Facebook chat, or were some stories posted publicly?
H: After identifying the 75, I worked mainly by email. My role became collector and organizer. The better you research, the better you organize, the better you write. Writer’s Block does not exist for me. Using email, I checked facts and added to descriptions. Some runners provided a single quote; others lengthy stories. I can say that 4:09:43 is more than 75 separate stories. It is a single narrative as though told by a single person with 75 pairs of eyes.
M: Hearing about your writing process reminds me a bit of running training: There's so much work that goes on outside of the actual running -- and writing -- that brings a book to its shelf or a runner to the finish. How has running informed your writing process? And, has your writing discipline informed your running?
H: Running always has provided both a break from work and an opportunity to open my mind, to let my thoughts spring from my body and circle unencumbered overhead. I got the idea for one book 17 miles into a 20-mile workout. Nothing about running: Pro Football USA, interviews with players describing how they played. It sold 300,000 copies.
Although Boston is reserved for a certain caliber of runners, the book really delivers a wide range of athletes, from fast-finishers to easy-pacers coming back from injury. Did you aim to gather a variety of stories, or did it just naturally happen that these stories were as varied as they were similar?
H: It pretty much happened. I did not chase the elite runners as much as mid-pack runners. Only a few elites have an odds-on chance of winning Boston, whereas thousands behind achieve individual victories. The elites were long gone when the bombs exploded
M: As a reader, I felt so connected to the Boston Marathon after I followed the course and experienced so much detail -- sound, sight, color. Did you get a similar sense while you were writing these stories?
H: I cried a lot while writing 4:09:43. It was an emotional experience for me, and I suspect reading 4:09:43 will provided an emotional experience not only for those who ran Boston 2013, but for those who witnessed the explosions on TV. We were all there. We all felt the impact of the bombs on Boylston Street.
M: It does seem like the bombers on Boylston Street momentarily redefined the Boston Marathon. But just as quickly, millions went to work to redefine Boston again, either by registering in record numbers, sharing their stories, or raising funds. Will Boston 2014 be yet another reinvention of the race?
H: Boston reinvents itself each year. After the 2010 computer meltdown, the BAA changed registration procedures. Now you can’t bring bags to either the starting or finish lines. Some runners complained this is inconvenient. Well, it’s inconvenient to have your legs blown off. All the major marathons have needed to look in the mirror.
M: We've all heard the argument that social media disconnects us as much as it connects us. What's your take on this? Specifically, how does social media affect the running community?
H: When was the last time a runner submitted a paper entry blank to a major marathon like Boston or New York or Chicago? The Internet has changed our lives as runners as much as changed our lives as people. When I first ran Boston in 1959, there was no Runner’s World telling me how to train. It took me five years before I figured it out after a series of DNF’s. Runners today don’t need to wait five years. They can download my 18-week program off the Internet. Social media brings us together.
M: I think it's interesting that Boston is nobody's first marathon, due to the qualification requirements. In all of your research, did you come across runners who walked away from running after Boston 2013, decidedly finished with marathon running? What was your general sense of those runners you interviewed? Were they hesitant to ever go back, or ready to rally again?
H: I wrote 4:09:43 immediately after the bombings. The people I interviewed were still looking backwards. Boston 2014 had not yet entered their minds. But I recently interviewed runners for this year’s program. One revealed that when friends asked would she return, she said, “Never!” But she slowly changed her mind and will run Boston again. “I need a Do-Over,” she said.
M: Has this process changed the way you'll approach future books? What's in the plans ahead, writing-wise?
H: Future books? I’m so wrapped up with 4:09:43, first writing, now promoting, I can’t look past Boston 2014. But I never expected to write this book until it happened. The bombs changed the lives of many. Is this my final chapter? I don’t know yet.
Thank you, Hal Higdon, for discussing the book! If you'd like to order a copy, you can get one directly from Hal's website, from Amazon.com, or from Barnes & Noble. If you're in the Jacksonville area, your local bookstore may carry it, and it's great to support local bookstores!
To all runners running Boston this year: Good luck, and thank you for reinventing one of the most sacred running events in the United States. May you all have an amazing race, every step!
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