Race Recap: Vermont City Marathon 2018

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!

Just over a week ago I took on my fourth marathon, the People’s United Bank Vermont City Marathon. It took me a little while to get my thoughts together enough to put together a decent recap!

I’d been dreaming of doing this race for years – I almost signed up in high school but I got hurt running my first half marathon. Thank goodness I waited! I was going into this race with a big goal: a time beginning with a 4. This would be my 4th marathon, my 4th race in Burlington (I previously set an old half PR on a section of this course), 4 years after I started running again after 4 years off. It wasn’t just all the number 4’s lining up – I had trained hard and well. My training showed that I was very capable of a 4:59:59, if not closer to a 4:50. So what happened?

Friday – Travel Day 1: Being from Maryland, my trip to Vermont took a little while. I multitasked and also went home to visit family. I flew to Manchester, NH on Friday morning and went to my hometown in northern NH for the night.

Saturday – Travel + Expo Day: After a short (and soaking wet) shakeout run, I headed to Burlington with my mom and nephew, CJ, whom my mom was babysitting for the weekend. It’s just under a 3 hour ride, and was mostly relaxing. We got to the Expo at the Doubletree Hilton just before 2. The expo was small, but mighty. I can’t say I checked out everything, but I was still pleased. Bib and shirt pick-up was quick and easy, then came the fun – meeting Meb!! I waited in line for almost an hour (CJ slept the whole time!) but it was so worth it. I got my bib signed for good luck and he gave me some confidence in my experience. I finished off the expo by checking out the Untapped energy booth and visiting my old bosses at the Fleet Feet Sports Burlington/Plattsburgh booth.

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After the expo we checked into our hotel – we stayed at Trader Duke’s in South Burlington. It was nothing fancy, but it was clean and had race day shuttles. We went to Olive Garden for a post-race dinner, as I knew that their pasta and meat sauce would agree with my stomach. CJ’s cuteness helped distract me from what I had to do the next day! After my pre-marathon routine, I was asleep just after 10!

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Yes – I had newspapers in my shoes because I got caught in a downpour during my shakeout!

Sunday – pre-run: I woke up just before 5 and successfully got ready without waking anyone up. I forced down a leftover breadstick (I never got a bagel the day before) to make sure I wouldn’t be too hungry, forced down some water and was out the door to make the 5:30 shuttle. The shuttle was quick and easy – I was to the start in Battery Park just before 6. It was a breezy and cool morning, but it was definitely humid. The humidity made me nervous so I drank another 8ish ounces of water along with my Generation UCan and a banana. In-between porta-john stops (there were so many – thank you RunVermont!) I met up with the other BibRave Pro’s Jessica and Vanessa and also met some wonderful other runners. The vibe was so electric and it definitely helped keep my confidence high! Before I knew it, it was time to go!

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Miles 1-5 brought us up through some neighborhoods, down Church Street (a Burlington staple) and out on the Beltline. Our first pass down Church Street was one of my favorite moments of the day. There were so many people who were out having brunch and cheering everyone on. Going out onto the Beltline, I was aware that I was already running at/above my “perfect day” goal pace. I tried to slow down, but I had a hard time doing so. The Beltline was very slanted which made me nervous. However, you can only adjust for that so much during a race so I just kept moving. Around mile 3.5ish I got a high five from the one and only MEB while he passed me the other way. DAY. MADE. I also got so see my cousin Dani killing it while running the first half of the 2-person relay! Splits: 11:24, 10:52, 10:45, 10:52, 10:47

Miles 6-10 had us coming back on the Beltline, down Church Street for the second time, and down towards South Burlington. I made a quick porta-john stop (lost about 1 minute?) and kept on trucking. Mile 8-9 was a moderate uphill, but it didn’t bother me too much. Church Street was great the second time but not quite as energetic. I was familiar with miles 9-15 of the race, so I was feeling cool, calm, and collected. Around mile 10 Dani’s husband passed me going the other way, but he was going way too fast for me to get a word out! I refilled my water bottle for the first time somewhere in here – but I can’t remember when (this will be important later). Splits: 11:25, 10:50, 11:43, 11:22, 10:32

Miles 11-15 finally brought us to the halfway point! We climbed the hill I dreaded during my two Burlington half marathons just before the halfway point and it didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore! I crossed halfway at 2:25:26 – right on pace for a 4:50! I was feeling really good at this point and was running really steady (the splits don’t totally show it due to my intervals). Splits: 10:56, 11:10, 10:55, 11:09, 11:30

Miles 16-20 – I knew right after mile 15 was the “Assault on Battery.” I always avoided this hill when I used to run in town, and when we drove it the night before I almost freaked. Man – this hill is HUGE. I was thrilled to see my mom and nephew at the bottom, screamed a few expletives, and climbed. When I made it to the top I filled my bottle again, and kept going on just like before! But, I didn’t feel so good for very long…Around mile 18 I started to get a headache and my right hip started to tighten up. I had slightly altered from my typical fueling strategy so I played around with things – took a freezer pop or two, drank some extra water, ate some chews. But nothing helped. By mile 20, I started to feel super nauseaus. In all honesty I think I would have felt better if I puked, but I was too afraid to be seen and get pulled from the course. I felt so bad that I didn’t think I’d finish going at the same speed, so I shortened my intervals and kept moving, albeit, very slowly. Splits: 12:14 (hill + water stop), 11:22, 11:21, 12:21, 12:16

Part of the “Assault on Battery,” but it doesn’t do it justice!

Miles 21-26.2 were terrible, just so terrible. Once I slowed down, my feet cramped up, as well as my left hip. I was barely keeping at a shuffle. There’s not really much else to say. I stopped drinking so much water which helped my stomach, but I couldn’t get myself moving any faster. Every time I started running again after a walk segment, I would grown in pain from my right hip. It literally felt like I had an impinged nerve and if I could have moved it, it would have been better. I also had terrible arch pain, which I’ve never felt in a marathon! It was really hard watching everyone I’d passed pass me. It was even harder when I saw 4:48 pass. Then 4:50. Then 4:55 and lastly 4:59:59 pass on my watch and I was just past mile 25. That sucked. But it wasn’t stopping me. I originally wanted to finish the race with the word “victor” flashing above my head, but instead if was “fighter.” I spent much of the last mile running/walking backwards and slogging with my head down.

Coming into the finisher’s chute – looking pretty rough.

But goodness gracious. Coming through that finish line – seeing my mom and (sleeping) nephew and THEN the crowd. The crowd was 5-6 deep on both sides and was just screaming. With my name being on my bib, I heard so many random people screaming my name. I very well could have been choking up from disappointment. However, I got choked up because of how loud these people were screaming for me (and other finishers), no matter how slow I was or how beat up I looked. I’ve experienced some really amazing moments, but that race finish is among the top 3. (Splits: 12:40, 14:22, 14:07, 13:46, 14:01, 13:34, 5:01 for .41 nubbin).

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When you try to smile for the free race photos…

Final time: 5:13:15. Not my sub-5. Not even a PR. 10 minutes above my PR.

I went to Burlington to get that sub-5. Naturally, I thought I would be crushed with how I did. While I’m not pleased with my performance, I’m not totally crushed. I ran an awesome first half, first 18-20 miles really. I made the mistake of drinking too much water, which was, I think, the main reason why I felt the way I did the last 10K. I also don’t think the slant of the road on the Beltway did any favor for my hips. But, it is what it is.

 

Each marathon is a unique experience. While May 27, 2018 was not my day, it will come. It could have come on this course – aside from the major hill at mile 15, the course was nice and flat-rolling in terrain. The crowd support was incredible, the volunteers were amazing, and the race organization and communication was impeccable. There were many unique, Vermont-like touches to the race like the Untapped maple syrup as fuel and Ben & Jerry’s at the finish line.

Post race was a nightmare (and not due to RunVermont). My mom freaking forgot where she parked her car and I ended up walking 2 miles with her to find it because I was familiar with the area and she was clueless. We ended up cancelling dinner with my cousins because I felt so crappy and we didn’t get to somewhere for lunch until 2:00. Ugh. (BTW, the car was parked only 5 BLOCKS away. Near a major landmark. Oh Momma – you’re lucky I love you). I was really hurting that night (obviously), the next day wasn’t horrible, and my Tuesday I was feeling about 85%.

The verdict: The Vermont City Marathon was an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone! I think I even enjoyed it more than Marine Corps Marathon, and that is an amazing race too! Check out more of my thoughts on the race itself on my Bibrave review.

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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 – 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!

 

Be Open with Aftershokz + Running Playlists

Disclaimer: I received Aftershokz headphones 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!

During my last few races, I found myself wanting some music, but not wanting to deal with the headphones. I had never gotten on the bluetooth headphone train, but I was getting so frustrated with my headphone cords, or with the ear buds getting sweaty and falling out! I was so excited when BibRave presented me with the opportunity to try out some sick new headphones – the Aftershokz Trekz Titanium. What made me really excited was what makes these headphones different than other wireless headphones – they transmit sound through bone conduction!

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Now, what is bone conduction, you say? Well, it’s great that you asked (and that the audiology classes from college are coming in handy)…

We have three little bones in each ear (the smallest in our bodies) that together are colled the ossicular chain that transmit mechanical energy that through a process is “heard” by our brain. Normally, sound waves vibrate our ear drums, therefore vibrating the ossicular chain. What you may not know is that  these bones can also be set into motion by transmitting vibrations from your zygomatic (cheek) bone. Using this process for people with “normal” hearing lets you receive two inputs of sound at once!

All nerdiness aside, the #1 reason I love these headphones is because they allow my ear canals to be open. I used to avoid wearing headphones when running in my neighborhood or in Downtown Baltimore because I felt unsafe when I couldn’t hear my surroundings. Now, with my Aftershokz, I can! They are great for work when I want to zone out, but still want to make sure I can hear if someone is calling for me, or has a question I can answer.

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In terms of sound quality, the Trekz Titanium are amazing! I think the sound quality is great, and if anything, it is improved because any ear wax build up (gross) or issues with the ear drum won’t affect the sound of whatever you’re listening to. The range is great, as I can be downstairs cleaning and my phone can be upstairs – with no connectivity or sound issues!

But, do they stay on? Fo sho! I’ve run 10-12 miles in them multiple times and haven’t had to adjust them at all. Even with my nuclear sweat, they stay in place and don’t bother me. There are also buttons on the side where you can change the volume so you don’t have to get out your phone.

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There are very few negatives I could ever say about these. One is just simply that I have to wear my hair braided when I use them, or else I have a rat’s nest at the end at the run. I also wish I had gotten the smaller size – they stay on but the back does bounce a bit on me. The other downside is the price $130 is steep, for me. BUT now that I’ve tried them, they are worth every penny and I hope they last a long time!

Now, since I’ve been using headphones more often, what have I been listening to? During the first (easier paced) half of my long run, I listen to audiobooks. Other than that, I have a Spotify playlist that I’ve been changing for months. Here are a few of my favorites right now!

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Also on my playlist are Disney songs! Seeing as how I used this training cycle to build a strong base for half marathon + marathon training for the Goofy Challenge in January. I can’t not share my favorite Disney running songs!

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So, if you’re in the market for a new pair of headphones, I highly recommend a pair of Aftershokz Trekz Titanium ($129.99). They come in two sizes and four colors. If the price point is a little steep, they also have other models, that I bet are wonderful as well! If/when you order, use the code FREECASE for a free carrying case.

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What are some of your favorite running tunes right now? 

Do you use wired/wireless headphones when you run?

NJ Marathon – See you at the Shore!

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the New Jersey 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!”

Okay…so maybe I’m not yet actually “ready”, but I have spent the better part of the last week truly getting excited for this race. When I first announced this race, I was happy for the experience to run the New Jersey Marathon, but I didn’t have any emotions connected to it. Now that I’m almost done the bulk of my training, my heart is completely in for these 26.2 miles that will go down in 26 days and here are some reasons why!

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Image: NJ Marathon instagram
  1. I love how the NJ Marathon has such a great online presence to hype us runners up for the race. Their Instagram and Facebook  pages are fantastic! It kicks me back in gear on those days where I don’t feel like training.
  2. It’s on the Jersey Shore! I’ve never been to the Jersey Shore and I can’t wait to run in a new place. I’m hoping the water views will keep me entertained during the last 10 miles!
  3. This race is a flat one! While I don’t totally mind hills in a race, I’m hoping this will make for a PR course (not that I haven’t put in the work for a PR!).
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    Some bumps, but really not much gain/loss in terms of feet.

    4. Aid stations every 1.5 miles! I bring my own hydration, but it will be nice to be more comfortable running with a bottle instead of my hydration pack – I think that played a part to overheating during my last marathon.

    5. The Bagel Nook! Have you SEEN the videos of the Flaming Hot Cheetos Bagels on Facebook? The bakery is only 20 minutes from where I’m staying and one of those is totally MINE the morning after the race.

Doesn’t this sound absolutely wonderful? You can run too! There is a marathon, half marathon, and a relay! There is also a 5k the day before. Sign up and save with my code!

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Product Review: Luvo Meals

Disclaimer: I received Luvo Meals 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 few weeks ago, I came home to a welcome sight in the mail – COUPONS! Not just any coupons, Luvo Meals coupons. I’ve seen these frozen meals in the grocery store(s) I frequent, and I’ve wanted to see if they are the real deal. I’m lucky to live in a suburban area where there are at least 5 grocery stores in a 2 mile radius, so I had some exploring to do.

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If you know anything about me, I’m 1) a pretty picky eater, 2) horribly indecisive. I took myself to the Luvo website to browse their food selection. Between their 4 kind of products, there was plenty to choose from. I was a little worried I wouldn’t find much to fit my picky tastes, but they had many staples, just with a healthy twist on them.

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Through my adventures I found that each store carried a different variety. My favorite meals I tried, the Luvo Bowls, were only available at my local Wegmans. Each store I went to also had at least one meal that I could see myself trying!

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I must admit, all the meals I’ve tried were pasta based (#sorrynotsorry). I first tried the Turkey and Kale Lasagna, which I wasn’t a huge fan of. I felt the noodles were a bit rubbery and the sauce over powered the other flavors. I then tried the Kale Ricotta Ravioli, and I was in love! I’m not a big kale eater, but this meal made me change my mind a bit. I also liked that unlike other frozen meals, this one actually kept me full!

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Another thing I loved about these meals was the presentation and how they were cooked. The “steam in pouch” meals were, well, steamed in a pouch instead of a typical plastic tray. From there it was an easy “slide” onto your plate. The bowls came in a nice paper bowl, which was very convenient for a school lunch!

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Cauliflower Mac & Cheese bowl – my favorite!

I seriously loved the combination in the meals that I tried. There were enough “simple” ingredients that made the others more easy for a picky eater like me to try. And in terms of the ingredients themselves, they were whole, less processed foods. I gasped when I compared the ingredient list from a Luvo meal to my roommate’s Lean Cuisine in the freezer! I could actually pronounce all of the ingredients.

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I’m in the point of marathon training that I’m really trying to clean up my diet for peak weeks and taper. Knowing I was going to eat a healthy lunch gave me motivation to eat better throughout the day. I “cleaned up” the snacks around my office with Krave Jerky (my new addiction), kale chips (I bought some, next time I’ll just make my own), and Moon Cheese – instead of cheez-its and cookies. They also made for a great dinner with a salad on the side (and HALO TOP after, duh).

I’m so glad that Luvo Meals are now in my life! While they’re a little more than I tend to spend on lunch, but they’ll be great to keep in the freezer. When the rest of my team orders out, I can bring one of these for a “special” lunch and not feel so guilty afterwards! With loads of protein, veggies, and whole grains, these meals are guilt-free.

Where can you find Luvo? Check out the store locator on their website. I was able to find them at Giant, Safeway, Shop Rite, and Wegmans.

Have you tried Luvo meals before? What’s your favorite?

Do you eat freezer meals? Do you splurge on good ones or go simple? I used to get Lean Cuisines, those days are over!