Friday, February 21, 2014

Get poppin' - popchips review and giveaway!

I'm not a junk food junkie. Let's get that straight. In fact, I mostly follow a Paleo diet, which eschews junk food as a primary principle.

However, I'm not against snacks. And my kids? Well, yeah. They are snackers. Full-on snackers.

Snackers, yes. But junk food? I have to say no to that. I try -- really, really hard -- to keep the kids away from junky junk food. 

Of course, I'm not perfect but, as I said, I try. So, when I was invited to try out the new popchips flavors, I was happy to do so! 

popchips are pretty awesome. We tried out the original, bbq, sweet potato, salt & vinegar and the sour cream & onion. My boys loved them all, especially the sour cream & onion and the original. I loved that they are gluten-free; don't contain soy (not even soy lecithin! woo hoo!), MSG, or artificial colors or flavors; and use non-GMO ingredients.  (Check out their nutrition information on their web site.)

Sure, they aren't Paleo but when I want to sneak a non-Paleo treat, I like to sneak one that is gluten-free and soy-free. Thank you, popchips!

Just hanging out, snacking and reading about the Olympics.

Now, you all are lucky because I have a great giveaway for you!

The Giveaway

One reader will win a 3-months supply of popchips. That's three 24-count cases of chips. In other words, lots of snacking!!

Who wants to win?!?!?!

You? Good. Here's how to enter:

Pop over to the popchips website and check out their flavors. Then come back here and leave me a comment letting me know which flavor you'd most like to try. 

Additional entries:

As always, you can gain extra entries. Remember, though, you must complete the required entry first!  (Leave one comment per entry for the additional ones to count.) So, here's what to do:

  • Follow me on Pinterest, or let me know that you already do (leave a comment)
  • Pin the image from this post to share the giveaway on Pinterest (leave a comment)
  • Follow me on Twitter, or let me know that you already do (leave a comment
  • Tweet about this giveaway  (leave a comment)
  • Follow me on Instagram, or let me know that you already do (leave a comment)
  • Link to this giveaway from your blog (leave a comment
This giveaway will run through Thursday, February 27th at 11:59pm EST and the winner -- chosen at random from all eligible entries -- will be announced on Friday. The winner will have 48 hours to contact me or I'll choose another winner.

Good luck!
Review disclaimer: I was sent product for review from popchips. I was not otherwise compensated and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Strong Running Mama: Sheila Couch

Today I have a new Strong Running Mama for you to meet. Give it up for Sheila Couch!
She's Miami Famous!
Sheila is 42 years young and married to Matthew Couch. She has two daughters: Gabriella is 7 and Brooke is 5. She's been a police officer for over 15 years and is currently a bike cop for the Albany Police Department.
Sheila on the job.
In other words, Sheila is one busy mama! But, that doesn't stop her from training for some big races:
"I just completed my first marathon (Miami Marathon) of 2014.  I have four more on the schedule for this year. Presently, I am training for the Boston Marathon. Most times I love the run. Lately, I've been battling a tight left gluteus muscle so sometimes I ask myself why am I doing this to myself. I could easily stay in shape doing CrossFit or some other type of exercise."
Sheila at the start of the Miami Marathon with fellow Strong Running Mamas, Gail and Elisa.

Sheila says she loves CrossFit and tries to fit it in whenever she can. She doesn't just do CrossFit, though. Sheila is taking it to the next level: In March she'll be going for her Level 1 CrossFit Certification so she can instruct CrossFit classes. She'll be an awesome instructor, I'm sure!

But, being able to fit in all of her workouts takes a good bit of planning and juggling:
"When the girls were little, I would go out with them in the jogging stroller. Now that they are big girls, on the weekdays I run on the Y's indoor track or treadmill. On the weekends, usually Sundays, it's up bright and early for a long run. I like to go while the family is asleep so that by the time I get back they are just getting up and I still get to make them breakfast."

Strong Running Mama!!

Some of Sheila's favorites:

Gear: "I usually run and race in a running skirt. They are very comfortable and girlie. I'm also loving my Altra sneakers right now. I love the wide toe box."

Race: "My race of choice right now is the marathon. There is something about running 26.2 miles. It changes me every single time I run it."

Training runs: "Sometimes I run solo, which is good for building mental toughness. Other times I run with a group of women known as the Strong Running Mamas, a.k.a. SRM."

Running achievement: "My most memorable running achievement would have to be running Boston in 2013. Although I did not finish, I put so much into getting to that race: I raised over $10,000 for basic cancer research, I ran in memory of a special Angel, I trained for 16 weeks, and I sat out for a week because of tendinitis. So much went into this race and then I was shorted by .1 miles. Tears still fill my eyes when I think or talk about Boston . . . I'll never forget that day. This year will be extremely emotional but I must go back and I will run and I will finish."

Along the Boston Marathon 2013 course.
I think there will be a ton of Strong Running Mamas who will be rooting for Sheila come April. Going back takes guts and that's just what Sheila has. No doubt about it. 

Sheila's PRs:

5k- 23:10 (Literacy Race)
4-miler- 32:20 (Firecracker 4)
5-miler- 38:45 (Delmar Dash)
10k- 51:55 (Turkey Trot)
15k- 1:15:20 (Stockade-athon)
Half-marathon - 1:45:49 (Boston's Run to Remember)
Marathon - 3:45:45 (Mohawk Hudson)

She's speedy! Unfortunately, she's also human and -- like the rest of us -- Sheila has had her share of injuries:

"I've been injured several times. Six weeks out from my first marathon I sprained my ankle in a car accident at work. I spent a couple of weeks water jogging. I missed one or two long runs but managed to start and finish my first marathon.

I've also battled tendinitis in my right ankle. It kept me from training on several occasions but finally last summer I changed my diet to a Paleo lifestyle and no more tendinitis.

My last injury was IT band syndrome. I was about eight weeks out from the Philadelphia Marathon. I took two weeks off from running and did the exercises my chiropractor gave me. Religiously, I stretched and wore a compression strap. I started and finished Philly with just 12 miles for my longest run. Presently, I am dealing with a tight left gluteus muscle that has slowed me down but hasn't stopped me from marathoning. It's very slowly getting better.

The biggest advice I can give about being injured is to take the time off that you need to heal. If you allow yourself the time to heal, you will make it to the start and finish of your race."
Sheila at the Philly Marathon expo.
Good advice that we should all remember to follow!

What STRONG RUNNING MAMA means to Sheila: 
"Strong Running Mama it means bad ass. I'm a mother, a wife, and a protector and I'm out there running, staying in shape and setting an example for my girls and for other women. I embody those three words. I am STRONG, I'm always RUNNING, and I'm a MAMA."
Sheila with her family -- including her little runners, Gabriella and Brooke!
Yeah! I love finding out what Strong Running Mama means to my fellow SRM!! 

You can follow along with Sheila's running at her blog: Thanks for taking the time to share your story, Sheila!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Strong Running Mama: Jen M.

Welcome to a new feature of this ol' blog! I've wanted to include runner profiles for a while and now I'm doing it. As you may remember, I'm part of the Strong Running Mamas, a running group that started back in 2010 when I helped a few non-runners train for their first 5K. It was awesome and I still look back at that time with fondness. Even better, though, is the fact that many of those mamas are still running! And, Strong Running Mamas has grown and grown and is just a super supportive group.

So, I want to highlight some of the rocking runners that make up the group. Each week (I hope!) I'll have a new runner profile up for you.

This week, we kick-off the series with our first profile -- a runner who happens to be a good friend, Jen M.

Strong Running Mama!

Jen is a 38 year old mother of four kids (ages 9, 6, 4 and 1-1/2). She lives in upstate New York (near me!) and writes YA book reviews for VOYA, the Voice of Youth Advocates, a professional library journal. She also writes reviews for her book blog,, and she writes about her life -- including running -- at and on twitter: @jedimama.

Right now, Jen is training to become a better runner with a 2014 goal to shave two minutes off her current 5K time (which is one minute slower than her overall PR). She's concentrating on building her mileage and getting faster, using tempo runs and intervals and an interesting running partner:

"I'm doing a lot of my running with Jimmy Fallon right now. During the week I am stuck on the treadmill and Jimmy Fallon on my iPad often gets me through it. The weather this winter has been really snowy and wicked cold and my long outside run on the weekend is frequently impossible. I can't do a really long run on the treadmill, but Jimmy Fallon gets me through 5 miles.

As a mom of four kids, Jen does a lot of balancing to fit in her runs. In essence, she makes it a priority because running is important to her:

"I rearrange my entire day around my run and I run the same days each week so it has become ingrained in my routine. My runs have to happen during my toddler's nap time. So I plan everything around that. I just switched my running days to days that I can get him down earlier for a nap so I can have more time before the big kids have to get off the bus. This is important because I am now practicing the "hard days hard" philosophy. Immediately after my run I do a 20-40 minute high intensity strength training workout. It's tough to squeeze in a run, workout, stretch and shower in one nap time and make it before the bus. If I have to be somewhere during my normal run time I get pretty annoyed, but I just switch things around and do what I have to do." 
A few of Jen's favorites:
Running gear:  "Injinji toe socks are a must, zensah calf sleeves for long runs. I currently have a garmin but I am in line to get the new BIA watch when it's shipped (soon). When it's cold, as it's been forever now, I use a neck gaiter so I'm not breathing in bitter cold air. This makes my sunglasses fog up, so I just bought anti-fog swimming goggles to try out. At the very least it should deter any strangers."
Place to run: "As long as I'm outside I'm happy."
Race: "5K. Nice and short. I love the Clove Run 5K. It starts and ends at our elementary school and it's nice to run in my comunity."
Running achievement: "Finishing my first half marathon in exactly the time I wanted to was pretty memorable."  
Go, smiley Jen!
Jen's PRs:
5K: 27:35
10 mile: 1:54:36
half marathon: 2:15:02
What STRONG RUNNING MAMA means to Jen: "Strong Running Mama means having the ability to balance running and parenting. Running makes me a better Mama. And being a Mama makes me a better runner--if I'm going to take my time away from my kids I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to be the best runner I can be. Also, if I can birth 4 babies I can run anything."
Amen to that! 
Huge thanks to Jen for sharing a little of her running story with us! If you'd like to read a little more, definitely check out her blog, especially this post that Jen considers the most meaningful to her:

Running with her son -- awesome!
Thanks for stopping by -- and check back each week to read about another of my fellow Strong Running Mamas!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

January wrap-up and some fun in Philly!

We had a fun January here in Happy Runner-ville. I kicked off the month with a New Year's Day race and ended with a trip to Philadelphia to visit family. In between, I ran a little and bumped up my crossfit workouts. I also spent a full week tending to my 6-year-old when he was down-and-out with strep throat. It was a tough time for sure, but he bounced back and is full of health now. Phew!

My mileage for the month was still low, as planned:

January stats:

Running (miles): 64.6
Racing: 1 (Winter Series)
Cross-training (sessions): 15

Lots and lots of cross training for me! February will mean an increase in mileage as I start training for my spring races, including the Runnin' of the Green in March and the Run to Remember half marathon in May. I'm ready!

In fact, I started the month with a run in Philly. We went down to visit my brother-in-law and his family and had a great time. And, of course, being that runner, I packed my running gear and, indeed, got out for a run on Saturday.

Seen on the run along the river in Philadelphia.
What a different run for me. I'm used to running in my suburban area and this run was definitely urban. Also, it was warm so I ran my quick 4+ miles in a long sleeve t-shirt and capris. It felt so good -- warmer weather can't come fast enough for this happy runner!

Like I said, we had a great time in Philadelphia. Here's a peek at our fun:

Dancing on the piano at the Please Touch Museum.

Riding the carousel.


Penguins at Adventure Aquarium.

What a good way to end one month and start another. Now, I'm looking forward to more family fun in February and lots more running.

And, yeah, some warm, spring-like weather wouldn't hurt either!

Thanks for stopping by ---

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