Training Update, and a Belt Review!

Training for my second marathon has been even more all over the place than training for my first. Between a busy summer and some nagging achilles tendinitis, there hasn't been as much running lately as I'd like. 

But, some of the running has been fun and productive! 

My first race after running the Pittsburgh Marathon was the Brentwood 5k - it's become an annual tradition to run with friends and then stick around for beer and prizes. They did the prizes a little differently this year and it was sort of lame, but the beer and company were still awesome!

Brentwood Firecracker 5k!

I ran the 2nd annual Hot-To-Trot 5k as part of Zelienople's Horse Trading Days last weekend. They adjusted the course this year and I really liked the changes (though there's a pretty tough hill in the middle!). Following the race, we got to ride in a hot air balloon! It was tethered, and "only" went 40 feet up, which makes me pretty confident that an un-tethered ride would be terrifying. 

A photo posted by Lauren Hopkins (@pghlauren) on Jul 18, 2016 at 12:57pm PDT

As a Level Up Virtual Runs Ambassador, they asked if I wanted to try out one of their new LED light-up running belts! I've tried several different belts/armbands, so I was anxious to see how this one measured up to the

SLS3 belt

I've been using for shorter runs (I use my hydration vest for longer runs). 

The pocket easily holds an iPhone 6 in an Otterbox,

with plenty of room left for car keys, cash, gels, etc.

The fit of the belt is similar to the SLS3 belt, but the elastic seems slightly less stretchy (this may change over time). The pocket is much deeper, which makes it much easier to get my phone in and out without having to manipulate the pockets. I kind of wish there was a separate pocket I could keep my car key in so it doesn't fall out if I take my phone out mid-run, but this really hasn't been an issue. Even when the zipper is open, stuff doesn't really move around or fall out. 

Easy on/off and adjusts for a perfect fit!

The LED lights are pretty cool! This would be an excellent addition to any night-time runner's reflective gear. The battery casing doesn't take up much room at all in the belt, and the lights have different patterns (or steady on, if you prefer). 

Great fit and it stays in place!

Want to try out the belt for yourself? Level Up Runs is offering my readers a chance to purchase it for 50% off - what a steal! You can purchase your own LED belt


. Use code RCE5FGY8 to get it for HALF OFF! 

You can also join Level Up Virtual Runs and I for the

Dog Days Virtual Race

next month! Use code SAVE10 to save 10% off your race registration - register



Comment below if you have any questions about the belt, the race, or about becoming a Level Up Ambassador! 

#GameOnPGH: That time I ran 26.2 miles and lived to tell the tale - Part Two

Read Part One here. 

May 1 had finally arrived. There were no more training runs, no more carb-loading meals, no more injuries to stretch out. Just a mere 26.2 miles to run.

Best Sister ever!

My sister drove me downtown that morning and served as an amazing Race Crew for the day! She walked me down to the Westin where I did my VIP bag check-in and met up with my on-course support team, Chelsea and Jeff. We made our way to the corrals, which were a giant cluster, and the fact that Penn Avenue was still open to vehicle traffic was mind-blowing. 

I'm not going to recap every mile of the race because I can't put it into words. What an incredible experience. Pittsburgh is a special place, and the Pittsburgh Marathon is an amazing race. I could not have asked for a better first marathon experience. Sure, my hip got REAL cranky about 15 miles in, and I came out of it with a black toenail and a huge blister, but that's all trivial compared to the feeling of crossing that finish line, especially knowing that I was able to run a race that reflected my training and that I came in under my goal time! 

I do, however, want to talk about two very special people. Without them, I would not be a marathoner. I might not even be a runner. And my world would be little less bright. They say that you have to be crazy to run a marathon. Well, if that's the case, you have to be a special kind of crazy to run a marathon for the sole purpose of helping another person. Jeff and Chelsea are that special kind of crazy. I literally could not have run this marathon without them. 

The Pittsburgh Marathon Bloggers all received the VIP package for race weekend, which included indoor restrooms, special gear check, and post-race massages, among other things. But if you ask me, I got the real VIP treatment having Chelsea and Jeff there to help encourage me, keep my pace steady, grab drinks and fuel for me, and remind me that the pain was only temporary. Jeff, ever the Run Butler, carried a sign the entire race - one side telling everyone this was my first marathon and the other celebrating Chelsea's back-to-back marathons (Hall of Fame Marathon and Pittsburgh Marathon in consecutive weekends). 

The crowds were amazing. I knew they would be, but they surpassed my expectations. The wonderful people of Homewood lived up to their reputation of being the best neighborhood on the course. We got to run with a greyhound (who graciously slowed down to our mere human pace). Joanna's family cheered us on with a sign and rejuvenated us with freeze pops. For real, why don't more people give out freeze pops? They helped SO much! Perfect strangers told me they believed in me, that I could finish the race, and that they admired what I was out there doing. I saw Katie from CCFA at around mile 22 (I think?) - my hip was hurting pretty badly at that point so it was a nice surprise to see her face and get a hug and some words of encouragement. 

The Best Run Butler in the history of Run Butlers.

Probably planning our next trip to Alaska.

Chelsea and Lindsey had been texting throughout the race, with Chelsea letting her know where we were and how it was going and Lindsey letting her know where we could see her out on the course. As we approached the 26 mile marker, Chelsea told me Lindsey was up ahead and there she was with my dad! Right after we saw them we saw the Run Ohana who screamed their faces off and then we turned the corner onto Boulevard of the Allies and there it was. The finish line. I bolted towards it. Chelsea later asked me where the hell that final sprint came from and I still have no idea. I couldn't feel my feet and hoped I wouldn't trip that close to the finish and I ran out of air with about 100 feet to go but there wasn't anything that could stop me. 

The taste of sweet victory.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you to Jeff and Chelsea for helping me achieve this goal. You two are amazing. 

The Marathoners of the family!

The future marathoner. Look out, Kara Goucher! 

Those things were NOT sturdy and I almost fell over multiple times.

<3 <3

This photo from the finish line sums it up the best:

#GameOnPGH: That time I ran 26.2 miles and lived to tell the tale - Part One

Leading up to registration and throughout my training, there were many times where I questioned whether or not I would actually be able to pull this off and run a marathon. Do you know how many miles that is? A LOT (well, 26.2 to be exact). SO MUCH RUNNING. 

Do I even like running that much? I still don't know the answer to that but I know that I love the feeling of crossing that finish line knowing I've accomplished something that half of one percent of the US population has accomplished.

Look, I'm flying!

It wasn't until I completed my 18 mile training run solo (due to scheduling and whatnot during Easter weekend) that I could finally see how people actually do this. The run went really well and I finished it feeling tired and a bit sore, but thinking, "Ok, I could do 20 miles. And then I could survive a 10k after that."

Two weeks later I joined the wonderful women of the 11:30 pace group from Elite Runners and Walkers (or should I say Pro Bike + Run now?). When I first started marathon training, I had intended to join this group for more Saturday runs but my schedule just didn't work out that way.

If you had told me in January that my longest training run - 20 miles - scheduled for April - would be one of the snowiest runs, I would have laughed. But it was. We slugged it out for 20 miles with the snow pelting us in the face and the wind blowing us into one another on the sidewalks. But again, I finished feeling pretty good and thinking, "Ok. I can do this. I can run a marathon. A WHOLE marathon." Special thanks to Joanna for helping me through those 20 miles and for laughing (and complaining and judging at times, haha) with me - I couldn't have done it without you, especially in that craptastic weather. 

About halfway done with the 20-miler! Notice the snowflakes stuck to our clothes.

Runners talk a lot about tapering. After your longest training run, you cut your mileage back in the weeks leading up to the race to allow your body time to heal and recover. Taper talk often comes with discussion of frustration and mood swings and anger. I didn't experience any of this. Yes, I noticed I had so more "free time" because I was running less, but I was so busy with work and life and other things that I didn't actually have any more "free time". There was never a time where I was sitting around doing nothing.  

The Pittsburgh Marathon hosted an event for all of the bloggers at Wigle Whiskey on the Thursday before Marathon weekend. There was great food and drinks, and it was so fun to finally meet our liaison, Ashley, in person! I also got to meet the Race Director, Patrice - she promised that the weather would not ruin race day and she was right! The evening ended with Kristy, Chelsea, and I introducing Kathleen and Mar to tacos and margaritas at my new favorite, Bakersfield

In 2015, The Pittsburgh Marathon introduced The Steel Challenge. You earn an extra medal if you complete both the 5k on Saturday and either the half or the full marathon on Sunday. I completed the 5k and the half last year and knew I would do The Steel Challenge again this year. 

Because I was running a marathon the next day, I knew the 5k would be at a slow and steady pace. This actually turned out to be a lot of fun because I got to run with Chelsea, Kathleen, and Lynne! We had a great time together and I finished feeling good and still ready for the Big Day.

Of course the weather was great on 5k day.

We were actually on a walk break, so I faked running :-P

Final preparations for race day included finally deciding on an outfit and a spaghetti dinner at Chelsea's (ok, and a beer too). 

The weather forecast made it really hard to choose a shirt! 

The Big Day finally arrived. There was nothing left to do but run 26.2 miles. Stay tuned for part two tomorrow!

Exciting News! #GameOnPGH

I am THRILLED to announce that I've been selected as an official blogger for the Pittsburgh Marathon! I was selected among an amazing group of runners (shoutout to my friends Chelsea, Brandi, and Lynne in particular!). I'm excited blog about my experience as I train for and run my first marathon! By the way, do you know much running is involved with that?! A lot. What did I sign myself up for?! 

You can use code 'HOPKINS2016' to take $10 off race registration and 15% off at the P3R Store

I also announced this on social media, but I wanted to share here that I've been selected as an ambassador for two companies that I really love! 

Nuun Hydration is the maker of a line of hydration products for athletes as well as everyday life. The drink tabs dissolve in water, taste great, and add electrolytes and a little effervescence to an otherwise plain glass/bottle of water! They have tabs made from all-natural flavorings, tabs that contain caffeine for an extra boost of energy, and tabs that give you energy through easy to digest carbohydrates. I've been using Nuun tabs for about a year now and love them!  My favorite flavor is Cherry Limeade - check them out! 

I've also been selected as an Ambassador for Honey Stinger, maker of a line of different fueling products for athletes. I am proud to represent a brand that I use all the time! 

The pink lemonade chews are my favorite!

 I've tried several different fueling options for my long runs, including gels and beans. Some I found to be ineffective, others were difficult to open and eat while running, and some upset my stomach. Someone suggested Honey Stinger chews and I am so glad they did! My favorite are the pink lemonade chews, and I've had their waffles before, but I'm excited to try out their gels and other products as well! As you would hope and expect, Honey Stinger even sells honey! 

I'm working on a year end wrap up post that will hopefully be published soon!