April 12, 2014

CLICK Giveaway Winner

The winner of the Caramel CLICK giveaway is...
Jordan, email me at juiceboxesandcrayolasATgmailDOTcom by Monday to claim your prize!

Thanks for entering!

April 9, 2014

Swirlgear Ladies Night

Just a reminder that tomorrow is the last day to enter to win my Caramel CLICK protein powder giveaway!

Last Thursday evening I met Alyssa at the Barrington Running Company for a ladies night sponsored by Swirlgear, an awesome new-ish Chicago based company that makes women's running clothes.  I bought two tops from them when I joined their brand ambassador program last fall, and I love the both.  In fact, I wore both for my half marathon Sunday.  I have been dying to check out their new line in person since it can be so hard to get a sense of the fit of running clothes online.  
 Alyssa and had a great time catching up, comparing notes about tri training and bemoaning our boring bike trainers, and of course trying on the Swirlgear.  Guys, this stuff rocks.  Not only are the colors and prints fun, but the quality is amazing.
It was great to meet Marisa from Swirlgear too!  I was dying to check out the allover spray dyed capris--I'll admit, I have been stalking these babies on the Swirlgear website since they first previewed the new line a month or two ago.  These things are so amazing-looking.  Alyssa rocked them!
One item I tried that I originally hadn't been interested in based on the website pics was the new tank with back ruching, but after trying it on I LOVE IT.  It is everything I love in a running tank--long, loose, flowy.  The back ruching is adorable, and there is even a side pocket.   

Just a note--you probably don't want to pair the tie dyed capris and the tie dye tank...Ladies, that is just more tie dye than any one girl can handle...
Whoa. So much tie dye.

Not that I needed more running clothes, but you better believe I came home and ordered three pieces from the new line...I'm in denial that my running top drawer won't close and definitely won't hold another top!  (I have a separate drawer for bottoms...)  
I have a sickness...

To purge the running shirts drawer...or buy a third dresser...decisions, decisions.
What makes an item the perfect piece of running clothing for you?  For me, tops need to be long and loose.

April 7, 2014

Race Recap: Chi Town Half Marathon

Don't forget to enter my CLICK espresso protein powder giveaway!

I have recently liked reading Kelly's 6 word race recaps, so here's mine for Sunday's race, the Chi Town Half Marathon:
Trained through snowmageddon, rewarded with PR.
Don't worry, I've never been a person of only 6 words, so I of course have to write a full recap.  I had weird feelings going into this race.  In the past, half marathons have either been big goal races, destination races, or stepping stones during marathon training.  This was none of the above.  Sometime in January, I was SO SICK of running and training in the cold and was desparately seeking motivation.  Chicago was hit by one of the most brutal winters in years, and getting out there in the freezing cold, ice, snow, and wind week after week was a struggle.  To keep myself accountable, I found an early-spring half marathon and registered.  No time goals, no big training plan...just me and my YakTrax plugging away each Saturday and trying to survive winter.  (I did survive, but only barely...)

Anyways, back to the race.  The night before, I met friends for dinner and a movie.  We went to a German restaurant, and I stuffed my face with this cheesy-noodle-awesomeness...
Sunday morning I woke up bright and early and cabbed it to the lakefront from my friend's apartment.  (You know someone is a true friend when they let you crash at their place pre-race!  Thanks Katy!)  It was a little chilly pre-race, mid-30s, and I was freezing just standing around beforehand.  In fact, my feet were almost completely numb when we started running!  What a weird feeling.  It turned into a beautiful day, though!

I had no plans to shoot for a PR in this race--I haven't been focusing on speed or time AT ALL in my running.  Typically when I'm shooting for a PR, I'm super conscious about starting off slow and keeping my average pace for the first few miles much slower than it needs to be, but a I've wondered before if an over-conservative start has held me back in races in the past.  Negative splits and pacing are crucial, but have I been starting so slow and holding back too long to be able to reach the pace I'm capable of at the end of the race?  I decided to experiment today, and started off faster than I normally would.
Thanks Mom + Dad for coming out to the race and for being my race photographers!

About six miles in, I realized my average pace was fairly close to what I ran for my half-marathon PR, so I decided to see what I could do!  I tried to shave a little off my average pace with each mile, and then later, with each run interval (I'm a Galloway-method run/walker, and was running 3/1 intervals).  This was definitely not an easy task!  At no point did this race feel effortless, but I gave myself the same pep-talk I did during the Space Coast half a year and a half ago when I set my last half PR--"Setting a PR is supposed to hurt.  I am not afraid of pain"--and I dug deep.

Sub-2:20 has been on my bucket list since I crossed off sub-2:30 half awhile back, and before the race, no part of me had expected to reach it today.  With about three miles left, though, I realized that it was within my reach.  No matter how much my legs and feet were hurting, no matter how winded I was feeling, I pushed through it and reminded myself that the pain was temporary.  I almost couldn't believe the time I was looking at on my watch as I sprinted towards the finish line.  I was going to do it!  In case you're wondering, setting a PR is in no way cute.  This is what I looked like during that finish line push:
So much pain!  So tired!
"Just get across that line and then you can collapse!
 I sprinted across that finish line and couldn't be prouder when I saw my watch read 2:17:47, almost 4 minutes faster than my previous PR of 2:21:21.  And I worked my butt off for that 2:21 PR--I am still in shock that I went out there this morning with no race plan and crushed it.  I guess those awful training runs through the tundra of this Chicago winter paid off!  I stumbled over to my parents after the race, grinning, gasping, and repeating, "I can't believe I ran that fast!  I can't believe it!" :)
I did it!
And now the post race scene--Jimmy John's + catching up on Switched at Birth + bed = perfect post race recovery!
How do you push through the pain during a tough race?
What's your favorite post-race meal?

April 5, 2014

CLICK Protein Powder Review + Giveaway!

I had an opportunity awhile back to try out CLICK, an espresso protein powder that comes in flavors like Mocha and Vanilla Latte.  As a vegetarian and an athlete, I'm always trying to make sure I'm getting enough protein--especially after tough workouts.  However, I haven't been a fan of several powders I've tried in the past.  So many were chalky or clumpy.  Yuck.  But when I tried CLICK, I LOVED IT!   The flavor of CLICK rocks, I love that it blends easily, and there is zero chalk factor.  Drinking it is just like drinking an iced latte or mocha.  
I was psyched when CLICK emailed to say they were debuting a new caramel flavor.  Umm caramel coffee?  Yes please!   
Teaching = Always Multitasking!
CLICK'in during my plan time at school!
I have used protein powder in the past as a recovery drink, but recently I've been drinking CLICK other times during the day.  Every time I bump up my training, I find myself impossibly hungry.  I'm sure I'm not alone!  Lately, I've eaten big breakfasts at home in the morning, but mid-morning am DYING for a snack.  I have been mixing a CLICK shake to drink during my morning plan time, and I love it.  It's the perfect time of day for some protein to tide me over until lunch and an espresso boost.
CLICKing on the go!
Besides the taste and the protein, the nutrition facts for this stuff are great too--I love that the protein is high but the sugar and calories are low.  Exactly what I'm looking for in a protein drink. (If you're curious, CLICK Caramel has 110 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 6 grams of sugar per 2 scoop serving.)
Okay, now it's time for the best part--the giveaway!  CLICK has generously offered to let me give a canister of CLICK Caramel and a Click shaker to one of my fabulous readers.  

Here's how to win--Be sure to leave a separate comment below for each entry!
  • Follow Juice Boxes + Crayolas via Bloglovin', Google Friend Connect, via email (see sidebar), or via any other blog reading platform.  Leave a comment below letting me know how you follow! (1 entry)
  • "Like" Juice Boxes + Crayolas on Facebook (1 entry)
  • Visit the CLICK website and tell me which flavor you are dying to try and why you need some CLICK in your life (1 entry)
  • "Like" CLICK on Facebook and leave a comment letting them know that Juice Boxes + Crayolas sent you (1 entry)
  • Share this giveaway on your blog, facebook, or twitter (1 entry for each)
  • Check out CLICK on Twitter and send them a Tweet (1 entry)
^(Okay, I'll admit, I don't tweet or use twitter at all, so I don't know if I even worded that one correctly...!)

That's 8 possible entries!  This giveaway will end at midnight on Friday, April 11th.  Get CLICKing!

Disclaimer: I was provided with a canister of Caramel CLICK and a shaker in exchange for writing this review.  Some of the links above are affiliate links, but I received no other compensation.  All thoughts are my own--CLICK rocks. :) 

April 1, 2014

Training Tuesday: Half Marathons Then and Now

Ouch.  I just finished reacquainting myself with my foam roller, and it was not pretty.  I definitely have a love/hate relationship with this thing...
In fact, based on the amount of pain I was in during that session, I think I foresee a lot of time with these guys in my immediate future:
I guess that's what a car ride from Chicago to Florida and back again will do to a runner!!  (So worth it though...)

Anyways, the reason for the necessary foam rolling is that I have a race coming up!  I'm running the Chi Town Half Marathon on Sunday, and I have to say it feels like this race snuck up on me.  It's not that I haven't been training, but with school being crazy, my recent vacation, and my mental focus on triathlon lately, while my body might be ready for a 13.1, I feel like it's safe to see I feel less mentally prepared for this race than any of my other halves!

As I was making pre-race plans with a friend, I got to thinking about how my preparation for and anticipation of this half marathon feels SO different from some of my past half marathons.

During my training for my first half, I was a ball of nerves.  I obsessed about EVERYTHING in the weeks leading up to the race!  My legs, my race outfit, the weather, you name it.  I had had an injury-filled training cycle and was basically a wreck, unsure whether I'd even complete the distance.  I swear, it was all I talked about for weeks.  (Sorry, friends and family!)
Half #1, circa 2011--Could barely believe I finished :)
For my second half, I felt a *little* better, but only marginally.  After surviving the first half, I went on to incur injury after injury during the next year.  It. was. rough.  I knew I was capable of completing the distance the second time around, but I was still a an emotional basket case as I lined up at the start.  I worried that my recent injuries were going to resurface mid-race, or worse, that I'd get a new injury along the way.
Half #2, circa 2012--So pumped to finish, and with a huge PR too!

For half marathons 3 & 4, I felt more confident, and by half marathon 5, I remember thinking for the first time as I lined up at the start that I was strong, ready, and capable.  I approached that race with the confidence of a veteran, ready to just have fun and enjoy every mile.  That was the race that made 13.1 my favorite distance.

Half #5, 2013--Finally feeling at home with this distance
Now, as I look forward to half marathon #6 and race #5 billion (or really more like 35ish...), I feel something completely different--neutral.  Routine.  Old hat. It's not that I'm not looking forward to it--I love racing, and I totally am ready to race again.  It just that this distance really doesn't scare me anymore.  It feels like just another weekend long run, something I NEVER expected to feel about 13.1 miles.  I was talking to my non-runner brother this week about my training, and I realized that ever since running the Chicago Marathon this fall (my first), my perspective on distance has seriously changed.  I used to look at half marathons with the question of, "Will I make it?  Can I do this?  Will I finish?"  And even after I was confident in the answers to those questions, I worried, "What mysterious muscle will be killing me along the way?"
Chicago Marathon, 2013: If I can survive this race, I can survive anything! :)

It's not that 13.1 miles is easy--ugh I don't think running itself will ever be easy for me!  But mentally, it is SO. DIFFERENT.  I guess it's all about perspective!  Really, that's one of my favorite things about running.  I've talked before on the blog about how in my classroom, kids are always setting goals, tracking progress, and talking about their growth.  Sure, we set goals in the grown up world, but how many opportunities are there for us to sit down and reflect on our growth?  We're not taking multiplication time tests every Friday and graphing our growth targets like my 3rd and 4th graders!  But that's the beautiful thing about running--every race is a chance to reflect on how far you've come and what a beautiful journey it's been.  At least that's how it feels for me, and I hope to God it never changes.

Anyways, I have no expectations for this race and am running it for a few very simple reasons: it has been too long since I've toed a starting line, and I need a runner's high and a medal around my neck.  Because what better feeling is there than that? :)

How has your perspective on running or racing changed since you first started out?

March 31, 2014

Spring Break in Pictures

Another spring break come and gone...I was blessed with the opportunity to spend a beautiful week in Florida visiting my brother, sister in law, and sweet little niece.  My parents let me freeload along with them for the week--youngest child perks. ;)  At the end of vacation I always have mixed feelings--part of me is always so ready to get back into my routine, but it is always so hard to leave.  Especially when I have to say goodbye to this little sweetie:
Anyways, the week was filled with beach runs, good food, tea parties with my niece, trips to the zoo, long periods of uninterrupted reading, and so much wonderful time with family.
Feeding the birds at the zoo...
Bedtime stories... 
Reading time...finished 4 books during the week!
Plenty of tea parties...
Love being steps from the ocean!
Three beautiful beach runs, one at sunrise...

The highlight of the week was probably the morning my brother, mom, dad, and I spent doing a ropes/zip line course at the Brevard Zoo.  It was sooo much fun and a great workout too!  
Dad and I high in the treetops...  
LOVE zip lining!

Mom's not afraid!
Some of the zip lines were really long, and one went over the zoo alligator habitat--eep!
Super hero dad! 
We did it!

Today it's back to real life... :(  Oh, and stay tuned for some AWESOME product reviews and giveaways coming up in the next few weeks!

March 20, 2014

Three Things Thursday

My new discovery this week is a great one...Chia Seeds!  Have you tried these little guys?  I have seen them on healthy living blogs before, but ever since reading Born to Run last summer I've been super intrigued.  They are filled with Omega 3s, fiber, and some protein. Saturday afternoon I happened to spot them at Trader Joe's, so I picked up a bag.  I have to say I am sold!  I tried using them to make this Chia Seed Pudding which I loved--just like a healthy version of tapioca.  I also have made Overnight Oats twice--greek yogurt, raw oats, almond milk, fruit, and chia seeds.  After a night soaking in the fridge, the chia seeds are all "puffed up" and the consistency is awesome.  Loved this for breakfast this week!  While I am *slightly  disappointed* that I am not magically capable of running 100s of miles thorugh the Mexican desert barefoot ala Born to Run after eating them, they taste good and helped make my breakfast a little more filling, so I'll take it. ;)
Overnight Oats = On the Go Breakfast!
Tuesday I swam my FURTHEST DISTANCE EVER!  I made it 2,000 yards in the pool and swam all of it freestyle!  If you're a long time reader, you may remember that I battled my freestyle fear for years--I have no idea what it was, but I'd panic when I swam freestyle for longer than a lap or two.  In fact, I swam breaststroke for all three of my tris.  This year, among other goals, I decided I was going to conquer freestyle.  While my form is far from pretty, I am getting stronger, can swim further, and feel much more comfortable.  And hey, that's the goal, right??  I was pretty pumped about my long swim--don't worry, I rewarded myself with a shamrock shake after.  No picture because it was pretty much gone by the time I got home!!  ;)
Between that long swim and the ten mile run I banged out Sunday, I am pumped for tri season to start!  

I leave for Florida tomorrow!!!  So far my packing has consisted of "make a big pile of everything on my suitcase, organize later," but at least I've got my books packed!  Three YA sequels and a tri training book.  Hoping it has some new tips for me!  (My Dad loves the title of this book bc he says only an idiot would do a triathlon... ;)
Anyways, I am more than ready to get out of here and spend some time with my brother, sister in law, and sweet little niece.  Can't wait for some amazing beach running too!!  

Did you make any new discoveries this week?
Have you had an awesome workout lately?
Spring break plans?

March 19, 2014

How a Work Party Turned Me into a Pretend Yoga Teacher

A few weeks ago, my principal hosted a party at his house as a "pump the teachers up for state testing" kinda thing. At one point in the party, a few other teachers and I were talking about our "dream careers."  It's no secret that these days teaching is more demanding than ever before, especially with the new intensity that came with the adoption of Common Core and the looming threat of the challenging PARCC tests that may or may not be adopted next year...I love teaching and love my students, but I know I'm not alone in that on particularly stressful days I find myself sometimes thinking, "Maybe I could be a _____(fill in the blank with less stressful job)..."

Anyways, I decided my "pretend dream career" is a yoga instructor.  Come on--they are so calm, they wear comfy clothes, and they get to do yoga all day long.  Oh, and they also get to teach something without worrying about learning standards, testing, AYP, RTI, you name it.  Of course, I doubt they get health benefits, but this is my fictitious dream world we're talking about here!
 After sharing that, someone said that if I led a yoga class at my school, they would totally come.  I decided this was the way to realize my yoga instructor dreams!  I invited some other teachers and a few days later we unrolled mats, towels, etc. on my floor, dimmed the lights, and I led some coworkers in a half hour of vinyasa yoga.  It was wonderful!  The next week we did it again, and a few other teachers showed up too.  Yesterday was our 4th "class," and I am LOVING IT.  It is the perfect relaxation break during a busy week.

It's been a wonderful change of pace for me to create the playlist, plan out the class, and practice yoga with coworkers. More than ever, I am reminded the importance of having an outlet during the workweek that is unrelated to teaching.  Sure I have my running and tri training, but I love that this is just a different change of pace.  And it gets me doing yoga an extra day of week.  Motivation FTW!  I don't know why I didn't think of doing this sooner!

Do teachers at your school ever exercise together?  

March 18, 2014

Unpacking "Grown Up" Poems in the Classroom

Does your district use the MAP test?  We take this computer-based test three times a year in math and reading.  The test gets easier or more difficult based on student responses, and students are expected to make growth throughout the school year.  Once kids start scoring in the top 10 or 15 percentiles, the questions can be suuuper difficult.  My kids' have been asked to read Shakespeare, Poe, and any number of difficult poems.  Because our literacy series is definitely on the light side (and that's an understatement) when it comes to poetry, my team tries to supplement it in as a shared reading activity every other Friday or so.  This year, I made it a goal to use as much classic poetry as I can--"grown up poems" I call them--because the kinds of poems the kids see on MAP tests and the kinds they need to be able to read to meet Common Core Standards are definitely not the cutesy ones about leprechans or school buses I may have used with students in the past.  Don't worry, we are still reading plenty of Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutzky, but this year my students have been exposed to Poe, Wordsworth, Dickenson, and other classic poets.  

The goal of sharing these heavy poems with my third and fourth graders is not that they can demonstrate complete comprehension--some of the poems we've read I first read in my high school or college literature classes!  Instead, I hope to show my students that they don't need to be intimidated by tricky poems.  We read with the goals of visualizing what the poet is describing and identifying the types of figurative language used by the poet.  When given a smaller purpose, my students have found that they can attack the poems and begin to understand pieces of them which, for an 8 or 9 year old, is definitely a great step into the world of poetry.  

When we were working on personification, I shared the poem "I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud."  We did a class close read, reading the poem a few times together for different purposes.  First, I had the kids listen for the rhyme scheme.  Then, they listened to one stanza at a time with the purpose of visualizing.  We did Turn and Talks to share which parts we were able to visualize.  The kids realized when they broke it into bite-sized pieces, they were able to better understand the poem.  (This was definitely all guided, btw!!)  
After reading the poem together a few times, I reviewed personification and modeled identifying an example in the poem.  I then gave the kids copies of the poem, highlighters, and had them work in pairs to reread the poem a few more times, looking for more examples of personification.  They also hunted for similes and imagery, two other literary devices we'd learned earlier in the year.  The kids marked the figurative language and coded the text.  We then came back together as a class, and the kids shared the examples they'd found, underlining and circling them on the board.
This lesson had a few goals--to give my students practice at identifying examples of figurative language in a quality text, and to help my students become comfortable with unpacking a high-level poem.  My hope is that not only will they be less intimidated when they encounter poems on standardized tests, but that they will see the beauty in poetry from a young age and be less intimidated by poetry their whole lives!

March 14, 2014

A Child's Pose Kind of Day

(Pssst!  My new Facebook Page for Juice Boxes + Crayolas is already at 53 likes!  Help me make it to 100!  Thanks guys!)

You ever have a day when you're just totally off your game?  I have felt like that this whole week.  I don't know if it's the time change or a busy week or most likely the two things combined, but I have been capital-E-Exhausted all week.
Evidence of my exhaustion--yoga bag from Wednesday has yet to be unpacked...
Wednesday night at my hot yoga class, I think I was in child's pose at least a quarter of the time.  Seriously, the yoga teacher was all about planks and core and I just wasn't feeling it.  I tried to keep up with the class at first, but eventually I surrendered and found myself a nice rest in child's pose.  

Between a morning meeting, no specials for my kids during the day (which means no breaks for me), a lunch club, staff development after school, and racing to the pool to get in a swim, by the time I got to yoga class I was done.  As the rest of the class planked and chatarunga-ed around me, I caught my breath for maybe the first time all day.  And you know what? I am 100% okay with that.  There are days when you need to really push yourself to run that extra mile, swim that extra lap, or hold that pose that extra minute, but there are also days that the kindest thing you can do for yourself is listen to your body and what it needs.  Some days you just need a child's pose.
When do you know it's time to give yourself a break?
What "I need a child's pose" moments have you had lately?
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