Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K Philadelphia: Race Recap

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K 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 few weeks ago I took a quick trip up to Philadelphia, PA for the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K. This race had been on my list for a whole year, so I was really excited when the time came for my quick trip!

Friday: I took the train to Philadelphia, a quick 60ish minute trip. I immediately headed towards the expo at the convention center, which is near City Hall. The expo was small, which also made it quick and easy. The dynamic bib assignment was quick and painless, the volunteers were great. I shopped around just a little bit. There weren’t many vendors but I was excited to stock up on Nuun while having some free chocolate!

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I was done at the expo around 2, and headed towards my Air BnB, which was about a mile from the race start/finish. When looking for a bar to get a snack/drink while I waited for check-in, I found a cute “cat cafe.” Seriously – Day. Made. My 30 minutes there were my favorite of the whole trip!

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I spent the evening having wings and beer at a bar on South Street before seeing James Bay at the TLA. It just so worked out that he’s one of my favorite artists and was playing Philly that night. How perfect! I had a wonderful time but by the time I got back to my pad I was beat!

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I ended up running with my BibRave hoodie as well, but shed it around mile 5. I’m glad I had it!

Saturday: Pre-race

I slept absolutely terribly and woke up around 4, not feeling so hot (totally had too much fun the night before). I was scheduled to run 4 miles before the race, but I canned that just to make it there. Around 6 I mustered up enough power to get dressed and start walking to the Art Museum. I was so motivated to run up the “Rocky Steps” to get my day going. Man, those were harder than I expected but the view was so worth it!

Race time!

Around 7:30, I hit the porta-johns (there were SO MANY! Thank you HC15K for getting it right!), stretched, and settled into Corral O. I was really mad at myself for forgetting to submit a proof of time so I could be further ahead, but it wasn’t the end of the world. My goal for the day was to run close to marathon goal pace (11:00/mi), and with how I was feeling, I thought that would be enough of a challenge. Just around 8:10, I was off!

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The first mile or so ran towards “downtown,” back towards the Art Museum, and across the Schulkill river. We’d be on the river until the turn-around somewhere around mile 5.5, and head back the way we came to finish. The course was flat aside from going over a bridge and a slight incline to the finish.

Despite being in an “open” corral, I didn’t feel like I was in too bad of a spot. I ran a little too fast for the first two miles, and ran around 11:00 for mile 3 when I stopped to tie my shoe. Around mile 5 I stopped again to de-layer and actually realized that I was feeling pretty good despite running a little faster than goal pace. While the river was cool, the scenery was pretty boring, and I didn’t feel very mentally engaged in the race. I told myself that I had to make it to the 10K mark then I could let myself run.

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Free photos FTW!

At 10K I “dropped the hammer” as much as I could for running 90:30 intervals on 4 hours of sleep. Miles 6-9.4 were 10:51, 10:02, 9:51, 9:46 and 3.47 for the .4 mi nubbin. I finished feeling slightly breathless and pleased with the paces I brought for the last few miles. I love how my Athlinks stats show that I passed almost 350 people in the last 5K!

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I knew I had to quickly move through the finish area, as I finished just before 10 and had to be out of my Air BnB by 11. I grabbed my wonderful mug and ate it while walking back to my pad. I wasn’t looking forward to it that much as I don’t love chocolate, but it was actually delightful! And the medal is fantastic as well. The chocolate bar is big and I like the Liberty Bell keychain that is city specific!

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Post-race: I had no where to go after I checked out of my place, so I took an uber back to the train station. I found a nearby pub that had the most amazing nachos and napped in the train station before heading back to Baltimore. I mustered up enough courage later in the day to finish up those last 4 miles! Through the day and on my run I was so cozy in the beautiful purple premium from the race.

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The ending of a long day.

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The verdict: While the race course itself wasn’t anything spectacular I would recommend running a Hot Chocolate race to anyone. The weekend was very well organized, the chocolate before, during and after the race was fantastic, and the runners all had a great vibe! While I’m not sure I’ll head back to Philadelphia for it on my own again, I think it would be a fun girls’ trip! There are Allstate Hot Chocolate races all across the country, so maybe I’ll have to head to Vegas for another one!

Check out my more race-specific review of the Allstate Hot Chocolate 15K on BibRave.com and while you’re add it, review races that you’ve run!

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Rock N Roll DC 2018: Race Recap

On March 10th I ran my 19th half marathon, which was the Rock n Roll DC Half Marathon! I ran this race last year as a training run and had a fun time. This year, I went into this race hoping to see where my fitness was two months post-marathon. I also tend to have mixed results running “repeat” races, and was curious as to how I would do!

Expo day: The Rock N Roll races require you to go to the expo, so I headed in mid-day on Friday. Packet pick-up was a breeze. When I entered the expo floor, I was very underwhelmed. Last year, I had an amazing time and spent 2 hours there. I even fell in love with one of my favorite snacks, Krave Jerkey, there. This year I was very disappointed. I was in and out in about 20 minutes, pretty perturbed at the half-empty floor, no music, and overall lack of energy. The only money I spent was signing up for  next year because you can’t beat a $59 half marathon. After the expo, I went into race day very under-enthused.

Friday night: For dinner I went to one of my favorite restaurants – Nando’s! I had grilled chicken wings and mashed potatoes with tons of yummy sauce and a glass of red wine. I was thankful to spend the night at a friends’ house to cut down on some driving on Saturday morning. After a glass of wine and some game-playing, I was upstairs at about 10:00 to “lay out my flat Sam” and was asleep around 11. I ended up choosing to go with three layers on top (thermal Nike layer, Oiselle flyte long sleeve, and Oiselle Volee singlet) due to the projected start temperature of about 30 degrees with some wind.

Pre-race: I was “up an at’em” around 5:30, out the door at 6, and in the parking lot at the New Carrolton metro station for 6:30. Once on the train, I met two other runners who kept me occupied until just around race start! I almost ran with one of them, Marie, as it was her first half marathon and she asked if she could pace with me. Unfortunately, right before our corral was about to go, I really got the urge to use the restroom so I left the corral and sprinted the two blocks to the porta-john’s. I’m so glad I made the choice to do so, although it meant leaving Marie. The sprint to/from the porta-johns worked as a good warm-up, as it was cold and I didn’t stretch well!

Game plan: As I mentioned, my goal for this race to see where my fitness was at. Following the strategy of Elizabeth at Running for Robert I put tape on my watch so while I could hear each mile ding, I would be just running off of feel. I set my interval timer to 2:00 run/:30 walk intervals and hoped to keep that up for the entire race.

Miles 1-5: The first few miles brought runners past some of DC’s famed monuments over and under a bridge, and into Rock Creek Park. There were some slight ups and downs, but nothing too hard. The worst part was the crowding, especially between miles 2-5. From watching the clocks, I knew I was running around a 10:00 mile pace, and didn’t feel like I was taxing myself too hard. I wanted to make sure not to expend too much energy because I knew the dreaded hill was coming up at mile 6. Splits: 9:55, 10:00, 9:52, 10:01, 9:49.

Miles 6-10: These were some more interesting miles. First, mile six brings a giant hill with about 150 feet of gain in a quarter mile or so. YUCK. I did a little better on this hill than I did last year and wasn’t as dead at the top. While climbing up the hill I caught up with Marie! I was happy to see that she was doing well. I told her she could follow me but I lost her quickly as I was boogying. Once at the top I started to feel super over heated from my physical exertion as well as the sun. I ended up stopping on the side of the road to de-layer. After losing about two minutes, I got about a mile before there was a fire truck ripping down the street – as it was coming behind me I lost about 30 seconds stopping to the side to be cautious. After those two events, mixed with some rolling hills, it took me a while to get back into a groove. By the time I hit mile 10, I was feeling good again but also felt like I had to push harder to keep my speed where it was. Splits: 9:52, 12:23 (de-layer and fire truck), 10:03, 9:50, 9:43.

Miles 11-finish: This is where I made myself proud. My legs felt so tired, I had no clue what time I was running, but mentally I fought through the pain and the doubt to keep going. I had never truly tapped in to my mental power like this in a race before. I kept telling myself that I was strong and I could do it. Passing the Volee’s cowbell corner around mile 11.5/12 or so, someone yelled “You look so strong!” I’m glad they said that because I was afraid I looked like I was riding the pain train – which I totally “thought” I was.

Mile 11.5ish of RNR DC! Thanks Holly (The Thrifty Runner) for the picture!

Around mile 12.5 I found someone from NP DC that I talked to before the race. That was a nice distraction for a bit as I was curious how she’d picked up a whole box of girl scout cookies! (LOL). I tried to kick it in to keep up with another Bib Rave Pro who I started with, but in the last .25 mile she had a better kick and came in before me (nice job, Vanessa!). While I was bummed I didn’t have the kick I wanted, I was happy with a 2:14:45 finish, my 3rd fastest half marathon ever! (Splits: 9:55, 10:07, 9:49, 3:29 for .36 nubbin).

My finish experience was so much better than last year because I wasn’t stressing about finding someone else who had my warm clothes. I sat for a few minutes with some water and chips before grabbing my bag. I was so impressed with the presence of changing tents – being able to completely change from my wet shirt was a game-changer! While it was a bit chilly, I stayed long enough to enjoy (most of my) post-race beer. I was pretty sore after, but a mile walk to the post-race brunch with the Oiselle Volee helped me loosen up a bit! I loved meeting other Birds (some I’d talked to/followed online for years), the food was delicious, and the mimosa(s?) were wonderful. Another mile walk back to the subway was needed for the legs, and I spent the night relaxing! (Actually, I went on a date? But alas, he “disappeared” shortly after that night).

Vermont City Marathon Training: Weeks 5+6

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Vermont City Marathon 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 last two weeks of training for marathon #4 have gone by so quickly. It’s hard to believe it’s less than two weeks away! The runs in these two weeks were fantastic. I’ll share more about my love with my Peloton soon, but I can really tell the difference the cross training is making in my running, as well as with my confidence. As you’ll see, I’m posting my paces. This isn’t because they’re fast, because they’re not. But they’re getting faster, with lower heart rates. These paces take significantly less energy than ever before and I’m proud of that!

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Week 5 (3/26-4/1): 

Monday: 5 miles with 2 at marathon goal pace (11:00/mi) was the goal. It ended up being 1 right below (slower than) pace and 2 above (faster than) pace! Ran 90:30 intervals at an 11:10/mi avg. + 30 minute spin with a PR + Myrtl routine + foam rolling

Tuesday:  45 minute spin + foam rolling

Wednesday: Rest day – didn’t feel great and my day was just a little to crazy to fit my run (or a ride) in.

Thursday: 6 miles easy of 90:30 intervals at an 11:17/mi avg.

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Friday: 5 miles at home in NH! Ran 90:30 intervals with an average of 10:25. It was a bit harder than an “easy” pace, but it felt natural. This was nice because my runs in NH often are far from great.

Saturday: 12 miles up and down two giant hills (nearly 1,000 feet of gain in 5 miles). I’d been wanting to do this run for years and I finally did it. In all honesty, going up wasn’t as hard as I expected, it was just more mental than anything. However, coming down 2 miles of downhill around 6% grade was pretty painful. Ran 60:30 intervals at an 11:28/mi avg pace.

Sunday: Rest day

Weekly miles: 28 miles running + 21.7 miles on the Peloton

Week 6 (4/2-4/8):

Monday: 5 miles super easy – 60:30 intervals for an 11:48/mi avg pace. My legs were a bit wonky after my super hilly long run. After a morning of traveling and a day of just sitting at work (more than normal), I opted for a more “recovery paced” run on the treadmilll.

Tuesday: 45 minute spin (PR!) + 5 min cool-down ride + Myrtl routine + rolling

Wednesday: 4.5 miles. 4 miles with 5 strides at the end. Ran 90:30 intervals with an 11:40/mi avg pace. I ran this on a treadmill again, which helped me keep it truly “easy.” + core workout

Thursday:  20 minute tabata spin + strength workout + 10 minute arm workout on the Peloton app

Friday: 45 minute spin

Saturday: 9.4 miles at the Hot Chocolate 15K. Ran 90:30 intervals with a 10:17/mi avg pace + 4 miles at a recovery effort with 12:41 mi/avg (45:30 intervals).

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Sunday: Foam rolling + lots of random toe pain – I think it was a mixture of bad day-time shoes and how I sit at work!

Weekly miles: 22.8 run miles + 32.8 miles on the Peloton.

 

Now I’m one run into week 7, staring down my first 18 miler of the cycle. 18 miles is the distance in training that scares me the most. I know once I pass it, I can finish the marathon. But for now that 18 mile distance is grimly staring me in the face. We’ll see if I’m ready!

Athlinks – a favorite way to track races

Disclaimer: I am promoting Athlinks 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!

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I have been an avid Athlinks user since I started participating in races in 2014. I won’t lie, when I meet new people who run I totally look up their results (e.g. recent Bumble match – lol!). When I learned that BibRave was partnering with Athlinks this year and learned about the improvements that Athlinks recently made, I was stoked.

What is AthlinksAthlinks is a race “library” of sorts, where you san search your name, or a race, and find your results. You can claim your results as your own, so they will be on your profile.

Once on your profile, not only can you see your race results, but at the top of your page your PR’s will be listed, as well as the number of races you’ve claimed and the amount of miles run in those races and your Athlinks percentile ranking. While not all of my results are on Athlinks, I love knowing that I’ve run at least 464 miles in races!

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Okay, so you probably knew all of this, so what’s NEW and IMPROVED on Athlinks?

Friends: You can now add friends on Athlinks! This is a great way to keep track with your running buddies locally or from your broader social life (Bib Rave Pro’s, ambassador squads, Oiselle Volee, etc.).

Rivals: These may be friends, or other runners that participate in the same races as you. Who tends to win? I wish I could tell you, but I have no rivals yet!

Race Results: I started noticing this last year or so – Athlinks has great data regarding your placement at races in which they partner with. For example, last year’s New Jersey Marathon. When I view this race on Athlinks not only can I see my race splits, but my rankings per split. LOVE IT!

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Upcoming Races and Goals: More and more races are being added to Athlinks and it is easier than ever to line up your race schedule in advance. This lets you see who else is racing and what goal other people are shooting for. As you can see, I’ve added my goals for the Frederick Half Marathon and the Vermont City Marathon.

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You can find Athlinks at www.Athlinks.com or via an iOS or Android app. Will you be my friend and/or rival? Add me here.

Are you an Athlinks user? What is your favorite part of the website?

Vermont City Marathon Training Update #1 – Weeks 1-4

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Vermont City Marathon 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 already been a month since I signed up for the Vermont City Marathon (VCM) and it’s just two months away! This weekend I ran my longest long run so far, 16 miles. Before we get there, let’s get into how I’m training for the VCM and what some early goals are!

How I’m training: I had spent the last two months really setting my sights on lots of fun spring races and a half-PR. When I added this marathon to my schedule, I was flustered as to how I was going to fit everything in! I quickly reached out to Lisa at Mile by Mile to coach me on my way to my first sub-5:00 marathon. Working with Lisa has been great so far! I’m running 4 days per week and integrating more strength and mobility than ever before (which wasn’t much). I’m still using my run-walk intervals, using mostly 90(run):30(walk) aside from recovery days and/or fartlek days. I plan to focus on 90:30 and 120:30 intervals for long runs to get that run time up for marathoning!

For the first time ever, I’m also super in to cross-training. Yes, me! That’s because back in February I got a PELOTONThis spin bike is changing the game for me. I absolutely love getting on the bike, whether it’s for a 20-, 30-, or 40- minute class. I feel so fit and faster paces are feeling easier and easier. I try to get on my bike at least 3 times a week for a variety of different classes. I also love the stretching and strength classes that they offer!

Goals: When I started working with Lisa, my goal was a sub-5:00, meaning that I’d be happy with 4:59:59. After my performance/experience in Disney, I know I am very capable of meeting that goal. Then the Rock ‘n Roll DC half marathon happened (recap coming, I swear). I finished with an average pace that was just over 10:00/mi. It was the first time that I mentally fought the entire race and it really boosted my confidence. That, combined with great long runs, has led Coach Lisa and I to aim higher, towards the 4:48-4:50 range (4:48 = 11:00/mi)!

Here’s how it’s going so far!

Week (before the official training plan started): 21.5 miles running, 5 peloton classes, 8 mile hilly long run at 11:36 avg. pace.

Fartlek run during week 1 of training!

Week 2: 21 miles running, 2 peloton classes, 13.3 mile long run (RNR DC) at 10:06 avg. pace.

Mile 11.5ish of RNR DC! Thanks Holly (The Thrifty Runner) for the picture!

Week 3: 25 miles running, 3 peloton classes, 15 mile long run (almost a perfect progression) at 11:41 avg. pace.

Week 4: 27 miles running, 3 peloton classes, 16 mile hilly long run at 11:04 avg. pace.

YASS treat yo-self (marathon nutrition starts this week??)

And with that, I’m one run (and one peloton class) into week 5 and exactly 2 months out from my 4th marathon! I have high hopes for the next two months of running and racing (or not racing at races?) and hope that this training cycle as a whole will put me in an amazing place for what I have coming up in the fall!

What are some of your spring races and goals? Are you a spinning fan?

 

Vermont City Marathon – a Welcome Change in Plans

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Vermont City Marathon 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!

Following the Walt Disney World Marathon I had quite the post-marathon blues. This wasn’t because my dream race weekend was over. It was because I knew I had unfinished business with the marathon. While I wasn’t upset that I didn’t break the 5:00 mark, the idea that I know that I can do it overtook my mind.

I looked around and around for the right marathon – one that fit my race and work schedule, one that wasn’t going to be too hot or to cold, and one that had a favorable course. I knew that my next marathon was going to be the one where I finish with a time starting in 4. The only one that fit 2/3 of my needs was the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, Vermont. However, because I was planning to travel to NH the weekend before when my office is closed, I didn’t think it was in the cards. I settled on training for a PR half-marathon attempt. I liked the plan I had chosen to follow, but I couldn’t truly get into training because I really just wanted to train for a marathon.

Fast forward to late-February. I’d just gone through a tough breakup and was looking for something to keep me going. I was with some friends one night and my phone dinged with a Bib Rave update – they needed someone to run the Vermont City Marathon. YES! – ME! PICK ME, PICK ME! I suddenly had a new pep in my step and a renewed reason to run.

If you haven’t guessed it yet – I’m running the Vermont City Marathon on May 27th!

I’m so thrilled to get to run this race and to go full force for my sub-5:00 in Burlington. Guys, this is going to be my sub-5:00. I just know it.  The course is mostly flat, aside from a moderate hill around mile 9 (I’ve run it in two races – not fun, but do-able) and one big hill at mile 15 (it’s a doozie). I also love that it’s almost clover-shaped, which enables your cheer squad to easily see you multiple times (while grabbing some good grub in the Church St. area). While past years have been hot, I can vouch that late-May in New England can also be pretty chilly.

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Course map from vermontcitymarathon.org

Burlington, VT is just amazing. It’s a place full of amazing food, some of the best beer, beautiful lake views, and wonderful people. When I was stuck in upstate NY for grad school, Burlington was an escape for me. I can’t wait to go back and head to Vermont Pub and Brewery, get bagels on Pine St., have some Ben & Jerry’s right where it originated, and have Heady Topper at Manhattan Pizza after I cross the finish line. I’ve run two races put on by RunVermont, who puts on this race – so I know to expect a very well organized event centered on the runners. I also can’t wait to visit my former employer at the expo – Fleet Feet Burlington/Plattsburgh!

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Most of my VT pictures from grad school are lost – but I ran a (former) PR on part of the marathon course!

Need another more information than me vouching for how much I love Burlington? Meb will be present at the expo and will be running the 5-person marathon relay. I also love that the on-course fueling is provided by Untapped – maple syrup used in/as energy gel. Maple syrup is a very natural sugar, and it is simply, quintessential Vermont. While I’ve never tried it myself, it sold like hotcakes when I worked in the running store in NY (I’m going to order some to try!). Oh, and they have food from Moe’s at the finish! I love these touches to the race!

Doesn’t this race sound awesome? Join me! Use the code “BibRave10” for $10 off registration for the Vermont City Marathon. For all of you 50 State-ers, this is a great race to check Vermont off of the list!

Be Seen with Brilliant Reflective – Product Review

Disclaimer: I received a Brilliant Reflective multi-pack 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!

We all know that with winter and early spring running comes increased time running in the dark. With the amount that I run on my neighborhood streets as well as in Baltimore, I’m always looking for ways to be more visible to cars as well as other people. Unfortunately, some of my favorite gear is minimally reflective…

That’s where Brilliant Reflective comes in!

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Brilliant Reflective makes highly reflective strips that you can add to all of your favorite gear: from jackets to hats, shorts to hydration packs. You name it, you can stick your reflective strips on them! They make two kinds of strips in a multitude of colors: iron-on (non-repositionable) and stick-on (repositionable) and both are made with high-quality 3M Tape!

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Look at these GLOW!

I was sent a multi-pack from Brilliant Reflective: two packs of iron-on strips and two packs of stick-on strips, each in a different color to use. I was immediately drawn to the stick- on sheets for two reasons – I wanted to put strips on some of my cherished jackets and I’ve used an iron maybe three times in my life. I was really nervous to damage my MCM Jacket (with the iron, not the strips). I also had a stick-on Bib Rave graphic that I was stoked to put on a coat!

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Right now my needs were more reflective outerwear, because I hate messing with a reflective vest and it’s been cold in Maryland! I very easily applied the strips and the BibRave graphic to the back of two of my jackets. Running in both jackets feels great and I don’t notice the strips at all. Another use I would have to for the stick-on strips would be for my bike and helmet! More reflectivity on a bike is never a bad idea.

While I haven’t used the iron-on Brilliant Reflective strips yet, I opened up the packaging to share with you how great it is! The instructions are very concise, yet detailed. So if you’re anything like me and don’t ever use an iron, you shouldn’t burn holes in anything. I love that they added in graphics to show where on different garments you will benefit from adding the reflective strips!

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As I get dig deeper into marathon training (a spring marathon?! more on that soon), I will be running the dark of the morning more and more. I can see myself adding Brilliant Reflective strips to my running skirts, which have zero reflectivity, as well as my hydration pack and water bottle. Heck – I could even put them on some of my headbands! The possibility are endless.

Check out Brilliant Reflective for yourself – Use the link bit.ly/BRP25 to save 25% off of all Multi/Assortment Packs! Another added bonus is always free shipping! If you try them – let me know what you think! I’ve love to hear what you put them on and how you chose to apply them!