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More than Running: Embracing #LiveMoreNow

*Disclaimer: I received 3 Buff® products as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.comto review find and write race reviews!*

I’m taking a step back.  Running has been literally “running” my life for the past year, maybe longer.  I’ve accomplished some major goals this year alone.  But what happens when you need a break?  In the running community we almost look down on these down times from training.  When people ask, “what are you training for?” You feel obligated to have an answer.

I’m determined to not let this break from major running goals define me or depress me.  Instead, I’m opening up my options.  Buff® encouraged a few of us from BibRave to #LiveMoreNow and embrace all the opportunities around us. Here are some ways I have chosen to embrace some  non-running fun this summer!

Crosstraining – I’ve been swimming and biking primarily.  I’ve also thrown in some yoga and strength training.  It’s been nice to mix things up, especially with the hot weather. Love how easy the UV Multifunctional Buff® makes it to go from swim to bike and more.

Canoeing – this has been a great summer for canoeing.  The water has been high, which makes it easy to check out all the rivers and waterways in the area.

Gardening – I love growing my own food.  When my running mileage was high, I found it difficult to keep up with my garden. But now, it’s relaxing to dig my hands in the dirt. The UV Insect Shield Buff® keeps those pesky mosquitoes and UV rays away from my neck while I work out in the sun.

Hiking – One of the reasons I started trail running is because I love taking in the beautiful views around me. Hiking allows me to continue to recover from my ultra, but still do what I love.img_5633

Hangin’ with my pup – Mr. Cooper, my 8 year old yellow lab, has been a trooper throughout my training. Since he can only handle around 4-6 miles, I’ve had to leave the little man at home too many times. Now is the opportunity to make it up to him.  I love taking him to the beach and seeing him swim around in Lake Michigan.

Let me know how you embrace #LiveMoreNow this summer!

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Top 5 Reasons to Sign Up for BigFoot Tri & Trail

*Disclaimer: I’m promoting BigFoot Tri as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.comto review find and write race reviews!*

It’s almost time! BigFoot Tri & Trail races take place this weekend and you still have time to register. For those of you still on the fence.  Here are my Top 5 reasons to sign up for BigFoot Triathlon & Trail:

5. Free Photos! No need for your family to have their camera’s ready at the finish. Let Ram Racing cover the photos, and your family can cheer you into the finish.137878-055-032h.jpg

4.This race has something for everyone.  Shake out your trail shoes for the Trail races on Saturday.  Or sign up for the Sprint or Olympic Distance Triathlon on Sunday. No matter your experience level, this race weekend won’t disappoint.

3. The weather looks perfect for the weekend. How img_5576often does a forecast work out perfectly for a race…not often. Saturday has a high of 73 degrees and partly sunny.  Sunday is a high of 78 degrees and mostly sunny.  Sounds ideal for Wisconsin summer.

2. The Swag – This year all participants receive a BigFoot hydration backpack. You will also receive a sweet looking medal when you complete the Triathlon or Trail race.

and finally….

1. Make a weekend out of it! Stay at one of  the local hotels or B&B’s.  Try out the local restaurants, shops, and bars. And don’t forget to stop at Kilwins for some dessert! And definitely partake in the Post-Race Party!

So what are you waiting for? Register here!
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New Adventures: My First 100 Mile Ultra

*Disclaimer: I received 3 Buff® products as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.comto review find and write race reviews!*

The weeks of constant planning and anxiety came to an end. Kettle 100 race day was finally here. I couldn’t plan any more and whatever happens, happens. I tried to mentally prepare for every disaster and at the same time prepare myself to take whatever mother nature handed me.

Saturday morning was cool with img_5464-e1529352052692.jpga slight breeze and cloudy.  Pretty much ideal race conditions. I placed my drop bags on the designated tarps, hoping that I had everything I could possibly need. I had some goal times in mind, but at the same time, I just wanted to finish.  It was my first 100 miler after all.

My friend Sarah was also running the race, which was nice to have a running partner for the start. I told her right away that I was going to take the first 64 miles excruciatingly slow. The last thing I wanted was to show up at mile 64, dreading the final 36 miles. Another worry of mine was the bugs.  Trail reports throughout the week warned us that the mosquitoes and ticks were the worst they’ve ever been. So keeping a steady pace was necessary to keep the bugs off, but not too fast that I wear myself out. Good thing I packed my UV Insect Shield Buff®.

The race began at 6 a.m. sharp. Sarah and I started out nice and slow, chatting with some other runners around us. We got to the first drop bag in no time and that’s where things became a bit more challenging.  I was waiting for Sarah, all the while, she thought I had already left and she was trying to catch up to meIMG_5466. Eventually I headed out to continue the race, hoping I’d catch up to her at some point. After the first drop bag, the runners started to disperse considerably.  There would be long stretches of time before I’d see another runner. For the most part I kept to myself, and that’s pretty much how things went for the next 49 miles. I would have quick chats with runners here and there, but nothing substantial.  This was probably the longest I’ve ever run by myself – around 12 hours of running alone. At first when I was 4 hours in to this lonely stretch, I got nervous on what mental state I’d be in once I arrived at Nordic (where my pacers were waiting). But after a while, I kind of enjoyed taking in the trails, going my own pace, and really absorbing everything.

By the time I got to Nordic, mile 64, I was ready for some company.  There was no more IF at this point, it was WHEN will I finish.  I didn’t have a difficult time leaving the transition area like I thought I might.  Probably because I just spent the last 12 hours running alone and couldn’t wait to talk to my friends. It also started to thunderstorm soon after leaving Nordic, which allowed me to focus on something besides the soreness that was setting in my legs and feet.

Miles 70-75 threw a whole other curve ball at me. The rain basically made this section into a major mud pit of technical trails. The leaves from the surrounding trees were sunken down, blocking the light from my headlamp. It was slow, and long, and made me very sleepy. But the last thing I needed was to trip and fall 30 miles from the finish. When the trail opened up just before HWY 12, I felt refreshed and so glad to experience the beautiful sight of the moon and stars shining overhead with my friends.

HWY 12 was the area I was most intimidated by. I knew this section would be difficult to maneuver through at night, especially after already running for 20 hours. I kept my head down and just kept moving. After the mud-apocalypse section, this 4 mile out and back section wasn’t so bad. I was back at HWY 12 in no time.

The Final Stretch

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I had 14 miles left – That’s it! I felt great. The sun was coming out and I felt a burst of energy. Things were going well, and I was keeping a strong pace north of HWY 12, until I started to feel the blisters expanding on the balls of my feet.  They were getting worse by the minute and there wasn’t anything I could do till the next aid station which was over 4 miles away at this point. I had to keep moving because the clouds of mosquitoes were ready to bite if I were to stop.  Because of stupid blisters, I had to change my running form completely, which is never a good idea. The 4 miles felt forever until I finally stumbled to the final crew allowed 34308696_10211835446510308_7385648302189969408_n.jpgaid station – Bluff Road.

There, my awesome crew put mole skin on my blisters.  They wanted to pop them, but even the thought of it made me want to puke. But the moleskin at least gave it a buffer from my socks. Thankfully the final 7 miles I was allowed up to 5 pacers, and without even a second thought, 5 of my best running friends were there to see me finish up this final stretch.

34500183_1743058969093994_5805364065433812992_n.jpgThe last 7 miles didn’t seem real.  It was like I was there on the trails, but not there at the same time. It felt amazing and sad all wrapped together. This event that I’ve trained so hard for would be done in just a few short miles. The last 7 miles, my friends made me laugh – and made me feel slightly embarrassed for reasons that will stay on the trail. It was the perfect ending to this great journey of training for my first 100 mile trail race. I couldn’t have asked for a better crew and pacers. #LiveMoreNow

 

 

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Training for Kettle100 #LiveMoreNow

*Disclaimer: I received 3 Buff® products 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!*

 

New adventures are what I live for. All the emotions of excitement, nervousness, and fear wrapped up into one event. I love this and hate this feeling all at the same time. It seems like every year I pick a new adventure or goal to tackle. I don’t always accomplish this goal, but I always try.

This year I’ve decided to embrace the #LiveMoreNow campaign from Buff ®. My crazy adventure is to tackle my first 100 mile trail race. To this point the furthest I’ve gone is 64 miles at the Frozen Otter Ultra in January. This was a whole other adventure of its own (feel free to read my blog post about it).

Throughout the last 4 months of training, my schedule has predominately looked like this:

Monday: Strength Train (focus on legs/hips/glutes)

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Strength Training using my UV Multifunctional Headband from Buff®

Tuesday: Hill Repeats + run = 6 miles, followed by Strength Training (focus on glutes/core)

Wednesday: Mid-week long run of 8-12 miles, plus some additional Strength Training (core/arm focus)

Thursday: Speed Work =7-9 miles

Friday: Either easy 4-6 mile run or rest day

Saturday: Long trail run (anywhere from 18-50 miles depending on the week)

Sunday: Long run (usually on the road and less than the Saturday run)

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Relaxing after Ice Age 50 miler (wearing Dorn Hat from Buff®)

With this schedule, I typically put between 50-85 miles in each week. I hope I’m ready to take on the challenge of Kettle 100 in 6 short days. All I can do is give it my all, and pray for good weather. Wish me luck!

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Sharing some watermelon with my pup after my last long run before Kettle 100

 

Review of FlipBelt Crops

Disclaimer: I received the FlipBelt Crops to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check outBibRave.com to review find and write race reviews

Once I find running gear I like, it stays in my running gear forever. I don’t play fast and loose with my gear and I like what I like. That being said, I can be a bit skeptical when I am introduced to new running gear. BibRave offered me the opportunity to test out the FlipBelt Crops.  I’ve heard of FlipBelt before, but was satisfied with my running belt so I never purchased one for myself.

I’ve had some issues with running belts in the past – either they don’t fit what I need, they break easily, or they tend to ride up while running. It’s never a fun run when you’re constantly messing with your running belt. I’ve also had some bad luck with running capris as well. But I wanted to try the FlipBelt Crops despite my issues trying something new in the past.

My first time trying on the FlipBelt Crops, I still wasn’t sold. To be honest, I didn’t run in them, I only tried them on and walked around a little. They were comfortable, but I was skeptical about the waist area. It didn’t fit very snugly, it felt slightly loose.  My running belt and capris are always super tight on my hips in order to keep my cell phone and keys in place and prevent them from flopping up and down. But they were comfortable, so that was a definite plus.

The second time I put them on was for an easy run after work. I put my keys on the key hook in the front as well as my cell phone in the front. I have an iPhone SE with a wallet case, so it’s not the lightest phone in the world. When I started running, I was very surprised to not feel my phone or keys bouncing around my waist. This was completely different from all the other running belts I’ve encountered. I didn’t have to adjust anything and I didn’t have to wear it super tight on my waist.  This will be especially nice when I go on long runs since I won’t have to worry about chaffing or rubbing.

Another plus with the FlipBelt Crops is, it doesn’t look like I’m wearing a running belt.  Running belts always looks like I’m wearing a fanny pack. With the FlipBelt Crops, the belt melds right into the capris, so it just looks like a part of the pants.  This makes it very easy to go from running or workout straight to running errands or having brunch with my running partners. Everything I need stays on me and you can’t even tell.

Try the FlipBelt Crops for yourself and find a discount code on my Discount page!

Preparing for BigFoot: Training Tips for BigFoot Triathlon

*Disclaimer: I’m promoting BigFoot Tri 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!*

Last year I ran the BigFoot Triathlon in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for the first time.  This wasn’t my first triathlon, but it almost felt like it. For those of you considering the BigFoot Triathlon, it’s a beautiful and scenic race through the rolling hills and trails of Lake Geneva.  The swim is located on BigFoot Beach, on the east side of Lake Geneva. Followed by a hilly bike through county roads. It finishes with a run through the trails of BigFoot Park. This course is definitely different from the fast and flat courses you typically find in Southeastern Wisconsin.  Keeping this in mind, here are some tips for preparing for BigFoot Triathlon:

  1. Train for Hills – Though there aren’t any huge climbs like you’ll find in Madison, the hills can take their toll on the bike and run portion.  Half way through the bike portion you’ll hit a road of rolling hills.  If you are not prepared, then you could be losing some time on the ride. The 10k run also has about 300 feet of elevation change (according to my Suunto watch). None of the hills are steep, but the constant up and down takes it toll.IMG_0010
  2. Prepare for all sorts of weatherIMG_2628Some years the race is delayed due to fog or storms. Other years the heat will sore.  Last year the wind picked up in the morning, causing some decent sized waves on the lake.  Another thing to consider is how this will affect the trail conditions on the run.  If there was a good amount of rain anytime within the last few days before the race, you might consider packing the trail shoes, or a pair of shoes you don’t care to mess up.
  3. Prepare your feet – there are two sections of running I’ll bring up here: the first transition and the trail run. The first transition, going from the lake to the bike, has a good distance run on pavement.  Make sure you prepare for this long section and how your feet will feel running barefoot on this surface. Another thing that makes this race special is the trail.  Most races involve a road run for the 10k. This race goes through a nicely groomed trail section of the park.  The trail is primarily made up of packed down dirt, gravel, wood chips, and grass.  You will also have some areas of pavement running.  Personally I do not believe trail shoes are necessary, since this is not a technical trail.  However, like I mentioned earlier, if it has rained in the last few days, it might not be a bad idea to wear the trail shoes since the course will be on the squishy side.IMG_2652

These are some quick tips to help you prepare for a unique and beautiful race.  Feel free to message if you have any questions.  I’m happy to help!

Rivals for life: Fun Perks of Using Athlinks

Disclaimer: I reviewed 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!

It’s been a while since I looked into my past running records. In fact, my sister had to inform me last year that I PR’ed my 10k time. I’m not good at keeping track of that sort of thing, nor did I think I was even close to PRing that day. This year BibRave partnered up with Athlinks, and asked all the BibRave Pros to check out their profiles. I was surprised with how many races of mine were listed and ready for me to claim.

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After accepting my results, I looked at the results tab. Without having to do any work, it tallied my PR results for 5k, triathlons, all the way to my ultra trail races. Now I no longer have to rely on my sis to tell me when I get a new personal record.

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Another fun feature I was messing around with is the Rivals tab. You can follow friends on Athlinks. Then Athlinks automatically will compare the races that you both have run. It’s like a game to see who has won the most races. I even found that some friends from BibRave ran in the same Chicago marathon several years ago as me, before we were even BibRave Pros. I especially like that Athlinks shows that I’m beating my sister overall in races. We may be a bit competitive.IMG_4738

Another feature I like is how easy the app is to use. Because let’s be honest, I’m usually on my phone and never on my desktop. Now I have all my PR’s and race results in the palm of my hand!

Now the question is, will you sign up and be my rival?

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One of the Frozen Few

This was my second attempt at the Frozen Otter Ultra. MountaineeringOtter_200_0 For those of you not familiar with this race, it is 64 miles on the North Kettle trails. The only support along the way is water provided every 7-9 miles and a drop bag at mile 46.  Everything you might need you have to carry, along with required gear that you must carry for emergencies.

My first attempt at Frozen Otter ended at mile 46.  I couldn’t stop shivering, couldn’t eat or drink anything, and couldn’t feel my hands.  I’m pretty sure I had an early stage of hypothermia.  When I decided to sign up for Frozen Otter again, I knew I had to find a way to beat the cold.

One reason Frozen Otter is so difficult, despite the obvious, is that you never know what conditions will be on race day. There have been years with 3 feet of snow on the course, or other years with -30 degree wind chill.  This year, we were fortunate not to have snow, but we had temps as low as -6 degrees, and the ground was icy and frozen solid including many mud potholes from people’s footprints and deforestation.  We were fortunate to not have to carry the extreme weather gear, but we still had the severe cold to contend with along the way.

There are 2 types of runners at the Frozen Otter. 1) People who pack the bare minimum, go out fast, and hope that their water doesn’t freeze and nothing causes them to slow down.  2) People who want to be a little more prepared because things always go wrong at these temps, so they start at a slower pace and carry a lot more emergency gear.  I chose the #2 path.  I had experience with frozen hoses and bladders before, as well as my sweaty clothes causing hypothermia when I slowed down.  In my pack I had 2 Liters of Nuun water with an insulated hose, a change of clothes, extra down mittens, my food for 46 miles, hand warmers, vacuum sealed Yeti container, and the required gear (emergency bivy, emergency blanket, whistle, headlamp with extra batteries, cell phone, fire starter, medical kit). In all I would guess my pack weighed 10-15lbs.

26805515_10159799807410394_2446310567768996792_nThe race started at 10 am.  Because I packed extra clothes, I started out at a faster clip knowing I would change at the first turn around spot at mile 23, right when the sun was going down. Right away my nozzle on my hydration pack was freezing, even after blowing the liquid back into the bladder each time I used it.  I was forced to detach the nozzle every time I needed a drink. I eventually was able to keep the nozzle from freezing by keeping the nozzle stuffed between my layers of clothing and closer to my body.  I kept to a strict schedule with food and hydration.  Every mile I took a good drink, every 3 miles I ate 200-300 calories, and every 2 hours I took a salt tab.  I originally planned on eating more at the aid stations, but extended stops were causing my hands to freeze so I stuck to minimal stops along the race.  26733703_10159799807455394_8956338696081112329_nI wished I could have spent more time at the aid stations, since my friends and sis were there to cheer me on.

I was feeling awesome until around 25 when I tripped on one of the many frozen potholes in the mud.  At that point my right knee and ankle started to go downhill.  I was relying more and more on my trekking poles.  This took a toll on my hands and wrists since the ground was frozen.

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect since my first pacer, David, was joining me at mile 30. He pushed me hard and helped me stay optimistic all the way to mile 38.  My buddy Jeff joined me from mile 38 to 46. He helped me focus on the beauty of the race.  The ice on the ground and trees sparkled like glitter from our headlamps.  And the stars were brighter than I’ve ever seen them before.  This was a great distraction from some tough miles. Mile 46 was the aid station for my only drop bag, and the place I stopped last year.  I knew that this would cause a major mental hurdle for me.  But Jeff and my friends helped me focus on changing out of my wet gear, grabbing more fuel, and setting out for the last 18 miles.

The last 18 miles were the most challenging physically and mentally.  I started mile 46 at around 1 am, 15 hours into the race.  Chris was joining me for this leg. He was great with keeping me distracted from the severe pain in my leg and the fatigue setting in.  The ground seemed to sparkle even more bright as the night went on. And it was uplifting seeing a dozen or more people heading back from the last check point, ready to become one of the frozen few. At the last check point, Faith was ready to help me chase the sunrise.  We left just before 5 am, giving me 5 hours to finish the last 9 miles. I knew I just had to keep moving, which was becoming more and more of a challenge. But Faith kept me focused and excited about the beauty of the trails and the finish line. I couldn’t have picked a better pacer to watch the sunrise with on the last leg of the Frozen Otter.  This leg was definitely the coldest, dipping down to -6 degrees. My hands were frozen and I had no interest in my food anymore. But once the sun started peaking over the hills, my spirits were lifted and my pace picked up  (probably not much, but it was all I had left).

IMG_0109One of my best memories of the race was going around the last turn of the race and seeing Steve and Jeff waiting for Faith and I with big smiles on their faces.  I made my way to the finisher area, dropped my trekking poles, and announced my number for the

last time. A group was huddled together and they all welcomed me to the Frozen Few! The race director came over with the coveted Frozen Otter dog tags, and congratulated me on my finish.  It took me just over 22 hours, leaving about 2 hours to spare before the cut off.

#ForTheLoveOfMisery

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Review of the BOCO Gear Run Hat

*Disclaimer: I received a BOCO Gear Run Hat 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!*

Headgear can be tricky.  I’ve been in the middle of a race or a long run when all of a sudden the hat I’ve been wearing the entire time starts to itch or feel uncomfortable. Whether it’s over heating, sweating, lack of coverage or not fitting properly, these are all things likely every runner has experienced with their headgear at some point.

img_38401.jpgI received the BOCO Gear Run Hat several weeks ago to review. The BOCO hat is different than my other running hats.  It is super flexible.  So flexible you can bend and fold it and don’t need to worry about any permanent damage to it. The bill can be snapped up or molded in the more traditional curve. This came in handy when I stuffed my hat into the bottom of my running pack.

I used the BOCO Gear Run Hat during my last two 50 milers.  I appreciated it’s wicking capabilities, especially during the 90 degree race, and that it stayed light weight. The hat kept my head nice and cool, and was breathable the entire race. My second 50 miler I used it over my Buff ®. The BOCO hat has an adjustable back snap feature which made the hat fit comfortably over the extra material.  It also kept the rain out of my eyes the entire race.

And probably my favorite feature of the BOCO Gear Run Hat is that it is machine washable! I’ve been using my BibRave orange BOCO hat a lot lately since it’s hunting season in Wisconsin.  It’s nice that I can throw it in the wash along with my running clothes and it will be ready without any hassle.

Now the next question is, what color BOCO Gear Run Hat should I buy next?

All I want for Christmas is a Garmin Forerunner 935

*Disclaimer: I received a Garmin Forerunner 935 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!*

One way to get the BibRave Pro’s talking is to offer a lucky few of us the opportunity to test the new Garmin Forerunner 935 running watch. My watch needs have definitely changed over the years.  A few years ago, I was strictly focused on triathlons. Now I’ve made a significant switch to ultra running. I still “dabble” in triathlons each summer as more of a means to take a break from the long miles. This range in sports and extreme running is difficult when looking for a running watch that can cover it all.

I put the Garmin Forerunner 935 right away to the test. This was was easy to use. I’m one of those people that likes to plug it in and hope I won’t have to read the directions. I took the watch out right away for a run with zero issues.  It was easy to figure out, pressed Run and went!

I had two weeks before my 50 miler to test everything out and make any adjustments.  Funny enough I didn’t have to make any adjustments to the watch.  The default setting allowed my watch to last the entire 11 hour race in the rain with still plenty of battery life left over. In fact, I think the watch could have probably made it through an entire 100 mile race…but I’m not testing that any time soon. The settings were easy to scroll throughout the race, allowing me to see my pace, distance, elapsed time, current time, and heart rate. The watch also has a “trail run” setting so that when you are doing a good sized climb, it switches to feet of accent instead of current pace.IMG_3887 (1)

After the race the Garmin Forerunner 935 connected to my iPhone with ease.  I could immediately see my mile splits, total elevation gain, total elapsed time and my heart rate throughout the race.  The Garmin app also shows other new stats like anaerobic and aerobic performance, cadence, and zone heart rate.  I appreciated the accuracy of the stats.  With past watches, I would have to alter the accuracy of the data collection so the watch would last the entire race.  This is not the case for the Garmin Forerunner 935.

img_3981.pngSince getting the Garmin Forerunner 935, I’ve been paying closer attention to my heart rate especially when considering if a run should be easy, tempo, or hard.  There is more stats available if I were to wear the heart rate strap, however, I like the simplicity of relying on the watch heart rate monitor.

There are many other aspects to this watch that I anticipate testing out in the near future, especially once I get back into swimming more consistently and biking. But for now, I’m loving all the great and easy to use features of the Garmin Forerunner 935.  It’s every ultra runner’s dream!