Race Recap: Hot Chocolate 5K/15K Columbus, Ohio (Virtual)

Disclaimer: I received entry into the virtual Columbus Ohio Hot Chocolate 5k/15k race 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!

This year, like many of races, the Hot Chocolate Series followed suit – but don’t let the virtual format fool you. The HC Series goes all out in ensuring their runners are taken care of, and still can enjoy the Hot Chocolate Experience!

Every year I look forward to the newest Hot Chocolate swag, and every year my expectations are exceeded.

The Jacket!

Let’s be honest, I’m in for the jacket every year. This year’s tech jacket is ultra plush and wicked comfortable! I find the sizing to run a little smaller than average, so this year I opted for an XL. I feel like I made the right call, as the overall jacket isn’t too tight, but not too bulky. I find myself gravitating to this jacket on short runs in cooler temperatures, the design allows for some breathability but not too much that’s it’s uncomfortable when you aren’t being active.

The Medal!

The medal every year for the HC Series is typically regional in design – all of my Philadelphia series runs have little Philly icons on the medal, which make it that more desirable. So I was slightly bummed when they opted for a more generic medal last year. It appears the generic medal design stuck for this year’s race too. I’m not complaining, because I understand the circumstances around running races this year and I’m sure mailing thousands of packets isn’t cheap! This year’s medal is unique in that it doubles as storage for chocolate! Even though the design is more generic, it still something I’d expect of the HC Series.

The Experience!

While I was unable to travel for the race, Columbus is a pretty awesome city full of bustling activity! My hope for future races is that they bring back the region-specific medals, that way I can grow my HC Series medals from all over!

Bonus: I had the pleasure of traveling to Columbus a little over a year ago (pre-pandemic) and thoroughly enjoyed the foodie scene. I’m a huge fan on tacos and CONDADO did not disappoint! We also hit up a few Indian Restaurants, and if you know me, I LOVE Indian food!

Indian Food from Aab India

So while I was unable to run the race in the streets of Columbus, I managed to run the race at home and reflect on my experiences of the past. I’m looking forward to returning and tasting it all again!

Conando Tacos – does NOT disappoint!
Brassica is more than a handful!

Check out my Bibrave Review!

Product Review: BUFF DryFlx+ Collection – Combat the Cold!

Disclaimer: I received the BUFF DryFlx+ Collection products 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!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Actually I lied, this time of the year is when I struggle the most with choosing to #optoutside. The days are short, the air is crisp and hurts my face (don’t let the beard fool ya), everything is cold, and all I want to do is sleep.

Needless to say, if there is ever a time where I need motivation to get out the door, this time of the year is prime for said motivation.

That’s where BibRave comes to the rescue and introduces us to awesome brands (like BUFF) that are focused on making our time outdoors more comfortable. And that’s exactly where the BUFF DryFlx+ Collection comes in clutch!

When I received my BUFF DryFlx+ gear that was all the motivation I needed to shake me from old man Winter’s grasp!

Breathable Fabric = No Overheating

When the temps dip into the 30°F (-1°C) range and below, protection from the cold becomes essential. However, I find that on a mild day, I warm up too quickly and my clothing choice (headgear specifically) becomes too much. Likewise on a bitterly cold day, protection for my ears and neck are crucial yet somehow I always end up overheating and becoming uncomfortable with sweaty gear.

If you visit Bibrave’s BUFF link, sign up for the newsletter and receive 15% off!

Cold and Sweat can spell disaster if not properly addressed. This is where the BUFF DryFlx+ Collection really shines!

Neckwarmer and Hat!

I received the DryFlx+ Neckwarmer and Hat, an awesome combo for the outdoor runner! According to BUFF, the DryFlx+ construction boasts:

  • 4-Way ULTRA STRETCH
  • Moisture-management
  • Thermal Insulation
  • 100% Seamless Woven Design
  • Reflective Elements

The fabric is breathable and light, yet provides warmth to the areas that need it the most. I have found overheating isn’t an issue when I layer up with the DryFlx+ products.

Combat the COLD!

The neckwarmer is made from a one-piece design, and has engineered holes that allows you to breathe through the mask.

(Image: BUFF)

I’ve been using the combo hat and neckwarmer for well over a month and these two items have been added as permanent fixtures in my cold running arsenal.

The hat design is similar to the neck warmer (without engineered holes) and fits my head well. Typically when I overheat the hat is the first thing to go, however I find that this hat is breathable and eliminates the need for removal. This is awesome news if you’re like me and don’t like having to carry things on the run- especially gear that you should be wearing.

Eliminate your fears of being cold, grab the BUFF DryFlx+ collection of products and build your cold running kit today! But, don’t just take my word for it, here’s a few other Pro’s take on the product line:

RunCanvas | TheLateRunner | FitXBrit | Throwing Star | Running on Pixie Dust | Fun Size Athlete | Seventh Trail Sister | Running with Attitude

Race Recap: A Christmas Story 10k Virtual Race

Disclaimer: I received entry into A Christmas Story Virtual Race 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!”

A COVID Christmas!

Ah, Christmas. The one day of the year where the kids wake us up before the sun rises. We stumble down the steps, sleep still in our eyes. We open gifts and play “A Christmas Story” in the background. Then, when the living room is covered in discarded wrapping paper and empty boxes we feast on an amazing breakfast. After filling up on Christmas pancakes, we pack up the AWD sleigh and drive 2 hours East to be with family.

It was right in the middle of opening presents when reality slapped us in the face. “Mom has a fever” Dad’s text read. It was like the Bumpus hounds came crashing into our living room destroying our dreams of having a huge family Christmas gathering.

For the second time in 37 years, I wasn’t going “home” for Christmas. We all were a little bummed, but then again the pandemic has pretty much turned the entire landscape on its head, so we weren’t surprised that this year would be any different.

Surprisingly, it was refreshing having no where to go. And even more refreshing going for a 10k run to celebrate the “A Christmas Story Virtual Race”!

I decided to take advantage of being home and took off to catch some sights and enjoy some time with my thoughts. I reflected on Christmas’ of the past and how much I value my family. It then dawned on me that we’ve been watching “A Christmas Story” since as long as I can remember! Such memorable moments from the movie, and my favorite part still being Flick putting his tongue on the flagpole!

Anyway, no records were broken, just me out on Christmas Day enjoying time alone and thinking about my family and friends.

The Swag!

Just prior to Christmas Day I received my race swag, and I was pretty impressed with the overall haul.

The jacket is lightweight and breathable (it’ll make a perfect jacket for running in the fall and beginning part of winter when the temperatures are still fairly mild). I typically opt for a size larger since it’s hard to tell how well (or not) these things fit.

I typically wear a size L, so the XL jacket fits a little on the loose side, but it pretty comfortable and I’ll enjoy it running or lounging!

The knit hat is thick and plush, make no mistake it’s definitely made for winter use and keeping those ears warm!

The medal is heavy! I was shocked at the heft of the medal since it’s not that big. My only suggestion would be having the medal reflect more of something from the “A Christmas Story” movie… I mean, a leg lamp would have been hilarious, it’s a major award afterall!

See my BibRave Review HERE

Overall Experience

Since we planned on NOT being home for Christmas, we had no food set aside for a Christmas dinner. So in “A Christmas Story” fashion we had our own Parker style Christmas dinner (Indian food was the closest we could get).

Despite not seeing family, it was fun to get out and run a 10k and having our own mini-celebration of Indian food afterward.

How’d you celebrate Christmas?

Top Nine! A Year in Review.

Celebrating my Top Nine photos from 2020! It looks like I need to wear more variety in my running shirts… and ironically, most of these photos are from the same timeframe. Guess I had an amazing August-September!

I was catching up on the BibRave podcast over the past couple of days and wanted to share my rose, bud, and thorn as well. For those unfamiliar with this concept: the Rose is something from the past year you are proud of (some event or thing that really bloomed for you). The Bud is something that you are cultivating that is growing and you’re excited about. The thorn is something that did not bring you joy, or something that genuinely disagreed with you.

Rose: this might be an unpopular opinion, but the pandemic was my rose this year. It taught me how to cut out toxic relationships and provided me with a true understanding of what it means to take care of oneself and family. Our calendar was wiped clean, I found myself unemployed, yet I wouldn’t have traded that situation for the world. My family and I feel so much closer ever since.

Bud: this year I’ve had the pleasure to work with some amazing brands, and it looks like it’s only going to get better in 2021! I’m so excited for the future and looking forward to cultivating new friendships and experiences along the way. A large part of my 2021 mantra is to “run happy” through life. I’m so pumped to kick things off I’ve already started putting my mantra into practice!

Thorn: here’s a heavy dose of irony. Social media (since I shared this on Social Media). I kinda agree with Tim Murphy (BibRave) and have to say I’m not sure I like where some of these platforms are headed. I try to keep a positive mental attitude and follow accounts of likeminded people- and most recently I’ve been keeping an eye on how much time I spend in various platforms, making sure I disconnect and let my brain reset.

That was my year in review, how about you?

I’ve got back problems…

Maybe not.

Over the past month I’ve been nursing some tenderness in my lower back. Some days it’s manageable without any pain medication, and other days it takes all I can just to walk without looking like I’ve been hit by a truck.

Last week I felt like my hips were locked, and no matter how much stretching I did, I couldn’t seem to get a good satisfying “crack”.

And here’s what happen next:

Since the initial pop, I’ve been trying to not crack my back everyday, but rather stretch out my back in various ways to help alleviate the tightness.

And as curiosity has a way to get the better of me, I went ahead and decided to see what the fuss is all about over these “Chirp” wheels.

When they arrive, expect a full review.

Holiday Gift Guide!

Do you have a runner (or active individual) in your life and really looking to ROCK their holidays? OR are you active individual and looking to treat yourself with a little holiday cheer?

You’ve come to the right place!

I’ve put together a list of all my favorite goodies that should fit all your holiday shopping criteria!

Just a quick note: due to FTC guidelines, I should mention I’m an ambassador for a few of these brands, and as such have received products for free for me to review. I also have special affiliate links and discount codes for said products, so keep an eye out! These brands are marked with an asterisk (*)!

Products for those feet!

I’m not affiliated with any of these sock brands, but find myself using them often. Socks are an important tool in your runner’s arsenal. Equip them (or yourself) with the very best!

1. Feetures Socks! Feetures are my go-to sock brand! I have several pairs and can attest for their quality and durability! These make a great affordable stock stuffer!

2. Smartwool Socks! A close contender to my go-to’s, are these awesome widely available socks. Smartwool socks are durable, comfortable, and make great stocking stuffers!

Tech for those on the move!

1. Aftershokz Bone-Conducting Headphones*! These are the last pair of headphones you will ever buy. You read that right. Hands down, my life changed after I made the jump to Aftershokz! Right now there is a “Soundz of Joy” sale being promoted just in time for the holidays. Check them out, you won’t be disappointed! I have first hand experience with all the models, each are designed to fit every budget and will make a GREAT gift.

Products to Recover!

1. GoodFor CBD Products*! My go-to pain-relief cream is the GoodFor brand cream, it’s the most effective topical treatment that helps relief aches and pains from intense workouts and activities. This makes a great stocking stuffer for the runner in your life, and is even more affordable when you use my discount code: KEN15

2. Science in Sport Recovery*! After a workout recovery goes a long way into building your performance. I have been using SiS Recovery for the last month with no complaints. SiS formulas are vegetarian friendly and don’t contain any harsh or foul tasting chemicals. The chocolate flavor is my favorite! Right now SiS has a 50% off Black Friday sale going on!

Cold Weather Gear!

1. BUFF Dry Flx+ Collection*! Just in time for the cold weather! This gear has your head and face covered to help keep you moving no matter what the weather throws at you! Make sure you use visit: https://buffusa.com/bibrave and sign up for the newsletter to receive 15% off!

2. TurtleGloves*! Keep your hands toasty warm while on the move! TurtleGloves provide superior protection against the elements and come in a variety of colors and sizes perfect for nearly every runner! Use discount code: TURTLEBIBRAVE to save 15%

Gear to say visible!

1. Foxelli Head Lamp! This USB rechargeable head lamp has served me well over the years! Affordable (less than $20) and durable, this head lamp makes for a great stocking stuffer!

2. SlapLit LED Slap Lite! Looking to stay visible to others when running at night? Just slap this bracelet onto your wrist or ankle, press the button and let the flashing LED do the rest! For around $10 you can’t go wrong with the cheap insurance!

Energy for the Run!

1. MickFit Energy Drinks*! My go to drink for a bump of energy and refreshment! MickFit comes in various flavors that will satisfy any taste! I’m a HUGE fan of Guava Pear, and always make sure I’m stocked up! Use discount code: KEN10 to save 10%

2. MetCON Pre-Training Formula! I try to avoid any pre-workout supplements, but made the exception for MetCON. This energy supplement blends easily with water or combined with MetCON’s various hydration products and goes down smooth! This pre-training formula provides nice and sustained energy throughout most of my workouts and is at the top of my supplement list!

3. Honey Stinger Products! As a Honey Stinger ambassador I feel like it goes without saying, but I love their energy chews! And they make for great stocking stuffers! I carry the energy chews with me on all my long runs and have never been let down! If chews aren’t your game, give the waffles a try, honestly, you can’t go wrong! Honey Stinger products ROCK and the runner in your life will love them too!

4. Tailwind Nutrition! I use Tailwind products on all my long distance runs over 10 miles. Tailwind doesn’t hurt my stomach or give me trouble when I consume it on the move. Try out their starter pack to find what flavor works for the runner in your life (or you)!

You can never have enough Tech hats!

1. BOCO Gear! If you or your runner has a tech hat obsession like me, checkout BOCO Gear for all the latest and most awesome designs! And not to mention, BOCO gear has more than just hats, so check them out!

Rock the Holidays!

Anyway, I hope a few of these items will find their way into your home for the holidays! Make your runner’s (or your) holiday a hit and ROCK the season of gift giving!

Race Registration: A Christmas Story Virtual Run

Disclaimer: I received entry in the Christmas Story Virtual Run 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!

It’s that time of the year again! Last year I missed out on the opportunity to participate in the Christmas Story Run in real life, so when I saw the event went virtual I jumped on the chance!

This Christmas classic is a MUST in our house, and there isn’t a year that goes by where we don’t watch it at least 5 or 6 times!

Join me and the BibRave team as we tackle the optional 5K or 10K distance (you’re preference at checkout)!

Check out the registration details here: https://www.achristmasstoryvirtualrun.com/ as well as the awesome swag!

I’m excited to get running, join me and let’s #runwithralphie

Brand Ambassador Programs: Tips and Tricks

So you’ve been on social media for a hot minute and steadily gaining followers. You’ve most likely developed a taste for specific brands and products. At some point sooner or later you’ve caught on that tagging brands on your posts attracts the attention of others.

For me, my classic WSS (wrist, shoes, story) format (or is it the other way around?) started gaining traction (and likes) whenever I tagged specific brands of the products featured. And as the likes rolled in, I started to realize my profile was free advertising of products and services and I wanted to find a way to “cash in” on the opportunity.

Brand Ambassador Programs

Most brands open up applications to influencers, looking for people to represent their brand on social media. They typically offer up a nice discount on products and sometimes include you on upcoming sales, deals, and possibly new products. Being a brand ambassador does have it’s perks, especially for brands you use on a constant basis. You’ll know when it’s that time of the year because these brands go all out in recruiting ambassadors.

Rejection, It’s Complicated

A few years ago, I was finding my feet on social media and saw these opportunities to apply for ambassador programs. I eagerly filled out application after application and one by one, received rejection after rejection. It sort of tainted my feelings for specific brands, and I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Ironically, the brands I so desperately wanted to be associated with, I don’t even use or follow anymore.

Rejection can either make you want something more or turn you away completely. For some brands, it turned me away, but for some, it made that connection so much more desirable. It became a goal of mine to become a brand ambassador for a few key brands and I found myself focusing more on my content to build an audience.

After focusing on building my own “brand” the following year when those same applications opened up, I eagerly applied. Takeaway, focus you your brand first.

Timing is Everything

I managed to get accepted into most of the brands that I applied to. It was overwhelming, to say the least, but it felt awesome to update my social handles with the brand’s hashtags and my new affiliations. I wanted to fit in so bad, and I got what I wanted, and then some.

So How about you?

Taken from a post I made a while back, here are my key takeaways for becoming a Brand Ambassador. First and foremost, before you apply to be an ambassador for a brand… the number one thing I cannot stress enough:

KEY TAKEAWAY 1: MAKE SURE YOU USE THE PRODUCT!

It’s hard to be selected as an ambassador if you don’t use the product yourself. From the company’s perspective, it comes across that you are just looking to be picked up based on your social media following. Listen, we all like free stuff, so becoming an ambassador can be really fun and enticing, but companies aren’t looking for freeloaders. Trust me, I’ve done this and failed horribly.

Lesson learned: Companies want to see active users of their products who are engaged and already singing the praises of those products.

Bottom line: Practice what you preach and only apply to specific brands of products you use. If you see a new product or a new company and want to be an ambassador, buy their products, use them, promote them, engage with them, don’t freeload.

The second piece of advice when it comes to being an ambassador, think about the product and how you’re going to feature it in your profile.

Let me say that again for the people in the back row:

KEY TAKEAWAY 2: HOW ARE YOU GOING TO FEATURE THE PRODUCT?

Is it something that can be easily tagged in a photo, is it a product you can wear or something you need to consume? Consider how easy (or difficult) it is to “show” your affiliation with that particular brand or service on your social media platform of choice.

For example I love BOCO Gear products, they make hats, gloves, backpacks, you name it. It’s all the gear that I wear and use every day that I honestly don’t have to think about. Before going for a run, I grab my trusty go-to BOCO Gear hat, and I’m out the door. It’s quick, it’s easy, and when I’m snapping photos for social media there’s very little thought in making sure I include their brand. It is a part of my lifestyle.

Lesson learned: Think about the amount of effort you’re going to need to exercise or put out to feature a product or service. If you must put a lot of work into showcasing something, chances are, after a while you’re just going to stop putting out the effort.

A prime example would be sports or energy drinks, or other consumables like gels, snacks, etc. If it’s something you don’t have access to everyday or something that is not a part of your routine or lifestyle, chances are you’re going to struggle to make it work and after a while it will become too much of a hassle to share on social media. I try my best to make sure I market any consumable product that I’m using and enjoying – yes, the photos looked staged so try your best to put a spin on presenting different products.

Side note: Professionals who are endorsed by consumables are given crazy amounts of stock and don’t have to worry about always buying more to have on hand. Even if you get an insane discount on consumables, don’t go broke just for a few likes.

The third and final piece of advice, it’s kind of like bringing the first two items altogether, consider how much commitment you can offer this company or brand, and what’s really in it for you. After all, you are offering free advertising on your social media platform, you’re investing your time and energy, how will you be compensated?

Again, this may come across as being completely selfish, but:

KEY TAKEAWAY 3: WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU?

Remember, it’s okay to say “no”. I love new opportunities and I’m always enticed by new things, but I tend to overcommit and that never ends well. If you are looking to foster a good relationship with a brand partner, consider the bottom line. How much commitment is required, and what’s in it for you?

Do you feel good about and identify with their brand, and most importantly can you give 100%.

I’ve cut ties with brands that I love, not because I don’t like them, but as an ambassador, I didn’t feel like I was being of service to them.

Lesson learned: Some ambassador programs aren’t going to meet your expectations.

For me personally, I wasn’t interested in just sharing upcoming sales on social media. As an ambassador I’m looking to be engaged and I want to know what’s in it for me?

So before you fill out that application: Are you interested in becoming an ambassador for the title, maybe the sweet discount, maybe it’s the free stuff, or are you just another social media user posting the same promotional imagery that everyone else is sharing?

The best piece of advice I have to offer: Consider what it really means to you and pursue only the things you are passionate about.

Race Registration: AllState Hot Chocolate 15k, Columbus!

Disclaimer: I received free entry into the AllState Hot Chocolate 15k 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!

The AllState Hot Chocolate Series has a very special place in my heart. The 15k was my first official race I registered for when I started running. I had no clue how long a 15k was, but it sounded like a nice number at the time. Little did I know how awesome this series was going to be, and how much it would mean to me!

My mom and I both registered for the 15k distance not knowing what we were in for, but it didn’t matter because the swag was so cool! I just remember being overly excited for hot chocolate and being able to collect my first medal honoring my achievement.

On the day of the race the weather was uncertain and gray, and as we made our way to our corral it started to lightly rain. I remember questioning what we had gotten ourselves into! What followed was a race that produced memories that will last a lifetime. Mom and I shared in a memorable and somewhat miserable first race experience.

However, that distance forever changed how I viewed running- it showed me what I was capable of achieving and more so how I can overcome any obstacle as long as I believe in myself and just focusing on keeping moving forward.

Mom and I having a blast!

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of running in numerous races and being able to travel to awesome cities. No matter what, I always make sure I register for the AllState Hot Chocolate series races! They remain to this day my favorite all around race experience.

Running through the years!

Also, traveling for work I’ve had the opportunity to run in new areas outside of my normal everyday comfort zone. Three years ago I traveled to Ohio and on a whim decided to pack running gear and hit the streets. It turned out that my favorite place to run in my travels was Columbus Ohio!

Columbus has so much to offer and during my travels was one of the most friendliest cities to run in. The amount of sidewalks and walkways provides endless opportunities to explore all the city has to offer. I would run every morning before sunrise and every evening after sunset just to soak it all in!

Just look at that sunrise!

And what destination is complete without a recommended food guide! Stay tuned for more to come later, but I just had to share that I’m registered to run in the virtual AllState Hot Chocolate 15k for Columbus!

Condado Tacos! A must place to eat!

Race Registration: Race to Wrigley 5K!

Disclaimer: I received free entry into the Race to Wrigley 5K 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!

Funny story, I’m a huge National Lampoon movie fan, mostly Summer Vacation, European Vacation, as well as the crown jewel Christmas Vacation. I’m such a fan of those movies in general that since I was young I have had an affinity to Chicago sports teams. I should preface this also by saying I’m a horrible sports fan. I couldn’t tell how well (or bad) the teams are doing, I just like them due to their connection to my favorite childhood movies.

Every year for Christmas I don my vintage Chicago Bears hat (to match Chevy Chase’s from Christmas Vacation) along with my custom “Griswold” Blackhawks Jersey. I wear the Clark Griswold uniform with honor.

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) wearing Chicago Bears Hat, Image Source: Web

However, I often forget people don’t make the same connection. Over the years when I’m out in public rocking my Chicago Bears hat, I’ll have actual fans of the team give me a thumbs up, or make some comment about the team. To which I nod and agree with what their saying, haven’t having the slightest clue what their talking about.

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) wearing Chicago Blackhawks Jersey, Image Source: Web

But. I do love baseball, and every baseball fan knows Wrigley. So how awesome was it for me to find out about the Race to Wrigley 5K? Not only are we talking about the iconic Wrigley Field, but also my connection to my favorite movies based around the misadventures of Clark W. Griswold Jr.!

Sorry to interrupt the story, but did you know that your race registration helps benefit Cubs Charities, which aims to provide health, fitness, and education to those at risk! Make your donations HERE!

What was I saying? Oh yeah! Ever since I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to drive across the country with my parents on a wild adventure to an animal themed theme park. I was especially looking forward to Dad ramping the car off an incomplete exit ramp, crashing our station wagon, and then sharing a beer in my quest to manhood all while wearing a Cubs t-shirt.

I mean c’mon, it’s every boys dream.

Okay, so maybe it’s not the same, and maybe it’s really hard for me to put to words why I like Chicago’s sports teams, but the bottom line is that if you’re a Chicago Sports fan, what’s not to love about the Race to Wrigley?

Sign up: https://www.race-cubs.com/events/register/2020-race-to-wrigley

Check out this year’s awesome swag! Sign up, get your swag and start your next family adventure off!