Top 8 Marathons for your Bucket List

With 2018 in full swing, there’s never been a better time to dip into your marathon bucket list and pull out a winner or two. Marathons are growing in participation and popularity all around the country, but there are a handful of races that stand out for good reason.  From running through a magical kingdom to running to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain, our “Eight Great Marathons” need to be on any new or seasoned runner’s list of “must-runs!” Pick one of our bucket list marathons, grab your XRCEL, and start training for what will only be an epic marathoning experience!

Big Sur International Marathon

Imagine yourself running in the most beautiful painting of nature you have ever seen. Now, sign up for the Big Sur International Marathon and you can actually run in the marathon that boasts the most gorgeous views your running shoes have ever encountered. This is an unforgettable point-to-point course run along California Highway 1 from Big Sur to Carmel. With canopies of redwood trees, the rushing of ocean waves, and the magnificent coastal mountains, your body might forget you are running 26.2 miles. At the halfway point, you will run across the iconic Bixby Bridge where you will be greeted by a tuxedo-wearing musician playing a Yamaha Baby Grand Piano. You will also be treated to some refreshing strawberries from local farmers around mile 23 as you head towards the finish line. The sights along this race course are unlike anything you’ll ever see!

Boston Marathon

With its 122nd birthday coming up this April, the Boston Marathon is one of the oldest and most memorable marathons around. With qualifying times set by the Boston Athletic Association, runners have to push their running limits to earn a spot on the starting line, which is what makes Boston extremely special. This point-to-point course starts in the quaint town of Hopkinton and ends on the busy downtown Boston street, Boylston Street. For 26.2 miles, you are never alone thanks to the Patriot’s Day celebration in Boston where  the whole city is off of work and ready to cheer for all of the runners. Hear the roaring students from Boston University as you crest the top of the treacherous Heartbreak Hill around mile 20. You will feel the rush of energy from the emcee and spectators as you finish strong through the downtown streets and make your final turn to the gigantic finish line, painted in bright blue and yellow. You have to be fast to race Boston, but we know you can do it!

Disney Marathon

It’s the most magical marathon of them all! Not only is Disney World an amazing place to make memories with your family, but it’s also become a delightful place to test your marathon legs. With your favorite Disney characters hosting this weekend-long event, runners get to experience an enchanting run through the wonderful world of Disney for all 26.2 miles. This is a marathon that welcomes all skill levels and is known as a relatively flat and easy course. Time will fly by as runners are fully-entertained on the course by music, loud cheers, and appearances by the world’s most famous mouse! Runners also receive a one-of-a-kind finisher medal for their time in the Magic Kingdom. If you really want to challenge your marathon legs, you can sign up for the other races taking place that weekend including a 5k, 10k, and half marathon. There are special medals if you choose to take on more than just the marathon and some fun kids races, making it a weekend the whole family can enjoy!

Honolulu Marathon

Get into the holiday and aloha spirit in early December when you run the scenic Honolulu Marathon. With no time limits on race day, runners can fully enjoy and take in all of the sights and sounds on the festive course. Even better, the race does not set a cap on participants, making it a great race for all of your family and friends to enjoy together.  The runners will get the full Honolulu experience as they run through the downtown streets, which are drenched in holiday lights and decor before heading through the famous Waikiki Village and scenic climbs around Diamond Head, where the ocean can be seen and heard for miles. You will feel like a rock star at the boisterous finish line as you can see yourself finish, thanks to a 20-minute delay, on the big screen in the finisher village. Let the Hawaiian spirit engulf you as you enjoy a marathon lined with palm trees and an ocean breeze as you run 26.2 miles in paradise.

Marine Corps Marathon

Known as the “People’s Marathon,” the Marine Corps Marathon is the largest marathon in the world that doesn’t offer prize money and, instead, celebrates the honor, courage, and commitment of all the finishers. This October race was created in 2004 to raise money for wounded service members and has taken on an extraordinary life of its own.The race strives to promote physical fitness, generate community, and showcase the skill of the United States Marine Corps, many who are participating in full gear. Runners from all 50 states and more than 60 countries take their marathon journey through both Arlington, Virginia and Washington, D.C., with the streets lined with members of the military and citizens cheering for miles. The flat and fast course is designed for everyone who aspires to conquer a marathon and will leave you with a true feeling of pride when you hit the finish line.

Miami Marathon

What better way to ring in the new year than with the marathon that never sleeps? The Miami Marathon is the party-of-parties when it comes to 26.2 miles because the people of Miami know how to cheer and celebrate a race like no other! Get ready for the course to be lined with excited crowds, mile after mile as you put your marathon legs to the test. The course is a great course for novices and experts alike as it is a flat and forgiving course. Whether you want to compete for fun or qualify for the Boston Marathon, this course is for you! Don’t be surprised if you recognize many of the spots on course from a movie or T.V. show and you may even see a famous face or two. Although the speedy course is definitely the “star of the show,” this January gem is sure to keep you entertained and inspired through every mile.

New York City Marathon

It’s not only one of the most popular marathons, but it’s also the world’s biggest marathon! With over 50,000 finishers, the New York City Marathon is a true bucket list race for anyone wanting to accomplish 26.2 miles. Even with the often-cold November weather upon the race, it doesn’t stop the millions of spectators from lining the streets to cheer on all of the racers every step of the way. You’ll feel the warmth and love of this patriotic race as it is regarded as a symbol of hope and unity since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Runners get a true tour of the city as they run through the five boroughs of New York City before the epic finish line that awaits in the iconic Central Park. The New York Marathon is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime marathon experience!

Pikes Peak Marathon

There is no actual way to measure or describe the difficulty of the Pikes Peak Marathon. Held in Manitou Springs, Colorado, runners start up a mountain trail with over 7,815 feet of climbing for the first 13.1 miles, hitting the halfway mark at the top of a 14,115  foot peak. However, what goes up, must come down and runners are then left with another 13.1 miles, carefully descending down the mountain to the finish line. Qualifying times are put in place to both challenge runners and to keep them safe. Despite being a tough race, it is also one of beauty and nature. Runners will get to experience running through the soft trails and mountainous terrain, overlooking the majestic surrounding mountains. For runners who want an even tougher challenge than the marathon, you race the Pikes Peak Ascent, straight up the mountain, the day before the marathon. The Ascent also has qualifying times, but we’ll never say no to a challenge!

One Bad Habit at a Time

By Scott Turner

In endurance sports, there is no shortage of amazing stories. At every turn, we are surrounded by stories of people overcoming incredible challenges through the discipline of endurance sports. Be it mental health, addiction, physical limitations or personal tragedy, many people have turned to endurance sports for help. I love hearing these stories as they remind me that all this splashing, pedaling, and running around I do can be so much more than simple exercise. It makes me feel as though the sport I love so much is part of something larger.

However, I have occasionally felt that a certain effect is lost when viewing these stories from a distance. The inspirational feeling that results from hearing someone tell their amazing story can fade quickly after reading or viewing their presentation. Often, we don’t know these people personally, so while their story is immediately impactful, those feelings aren’t reinforced beyond the initial telling.

This is where I have had an incredible privilege over the last three years or so. I have been part of an inspirational story happening right under my own roof. My Mom, Dorald “Dee” Turner, has undergone a life altering transformation that truly must be seen to be believed, and I am so proud to have even had a small role to play in this story.  I sat down recently to interview her to get her thoughts on where she’s come from and where she’s going. This story begs to be told, and while it may seem similar to so many others you have read, it has some very subtle, yet important, lessons to teach about the power of personal effort.

The roots of this story lie, perhaps unexpectedly, not in endurance sports. In the early part of 2015, my Mom’s weight sits about four hundred and twenty pounds. She cannot run due to extensive damage to her knees, her body prevents her from getting onto a bike, and her lack of self-confidence bars her from getting into a pool. That number, four hundred and twenty pounds, bears remembering, because it’s going to become important very shortly.

My Mom began this journey with very little supports in place to guide her. She simply decided that enough was enough, and this was something she was going to take on. She wanted to live a healthier life and take on the weight problem that had plagued her since early adulthood.  She stressed to me that she knew that change wasn’t going to happen overnight, and she had to be realistic about her goals. Her only driving force behind this undertaking was, “focus on one bad habit at a time.”

Fast forward to a date that she marks very specifically, October 18, 2015. She explains to me that this was the date of her first information session. Having already made drastic diet and lifestyle changes, she decided that her next steps were inside a selective weight loss program through Holy Cross Hospital. At this meeting, she learns all the requirements she will have to meet to qualify for her ultimate goal, a gastric bypass surgery. This surgery would decrease the size of her stomach allowing her to attain the drastic weight reduction that was needed to safeguard her health. In addition to further weight loss as a requirement of this program, she would be required to attend two ninety-minute weight loss courses, two three-hour infoormation sessions, several mental health screenings, numerous nutritionist appointments, and submit detailed food journals for her six to nine month attendance in the program. At the end of which, her case would be presented to a panel of doctors to ultimately decide whether to approve her for the surgery.

The ferocity with which my Mom took on this challenge was astounding. She underwent what she described as a, “total lifestyle change both physically and mentally.” She attended her first official meeting in November of 2015, and she was off to the races. She passed all her initial screenings with flying colors, and she managed to lose eighty more pounds during her time in the program even before the surgery.

At the end of the program, she was given some amazing news; she was approved for her surgery, and the date was set. She remarks, with a big smile, that they gave her July 5th, 2016, “my Independence Day.”

After recovery, she made quick use of her independence; she continued and even built on the lifestyle changes made within the program, completed three five-kilometer races, and became a spokesperson for her program. She has been invited to numerous meetings to speak to potential members and offer her story as a beacon of hope. She’s quietly made herself a resource to the other alumni of the program and helps to keep wavering members from losing their way when the post-surgery life gets more complicated.

All this progress still rings through today. At the time of writing, my Mom sits at one hundred and thirty-eight pounds. A total weight loss of about two hundred and eighty pounds. As we sit together in her kitchen in Western Maryland for the interview, she informs me proudly that she has logged two years straight in her food journal app as of that date. She tells me with an unmistakable glimmer in her eye about her plans for the future. She has already registered for several more five-kilometer races, an all women eight-kilometer race, and she will make her outdoor triathlon debut this June as her and I race together at the Escape the Cape Triathlon Series in Cape May, New Jersey.

I asked her what made her story different from all the other inspirational stories that we are told about in endurance sports. She thinks for a moment, and she tells me that her story stands out because it’s a victory on two fronts. She explains that she overcame her physical limitations in the weight loss, but the harder fought battle was the mental one. She had to overcome all the feelings of self-hatred and self-doubt, and she had to “know, really know, that I could do whatever I wanted as long as I stuck my mind to it.”

For my final question of our evening interview, I asked my Mom which steps of a race did she think were the most important, the first ones or the last ones. True to form, she picked the last ones. She remarked that the last ones are where you learn the most. I would contend that they are also where you have the greatest opportunity to teach. This, I believe, is the true power of my Mom’s story. There have been so many finish lines for this journey of hers, many opportunities for her to be “done,” and yet she continues to use her journey to teach and inspire. She has recognized that while a journey may end at some destination, the echoes of that final footfall ripple into something so much larger than can be seen. I think that her story teaches that the true power of endurance sports, or any undertaking for that matter, come from mindful participation, deliberate effort, and an awareness of the effect we can have on others.

A Busy Mom’s Secret Weapon for Getting Through the Day

When I became pregnant recently, my professional athlete’s training load was greatly reduced, and along with it my consumption of XRCEL…or so I thought.

I quickly found that with my body working in overtime to grow a human, even the shortest of workouts demanded the proper pre- and post-workout fueling that XRCEL provides. And what surprised me the most is that on my off days of exercise, I was still reaching for XRCEL to power me through days of parenting while pregnant.

I started always keeping a bottle or two in my car, in case I started feeling low on energy while stuck in a traffic jam or if I needed a boost before going grocery shopping. Those may sound like easy tasks, but at 8 months pregnant with two other little kids to wrangle, it feels like running intervals!

I also now always keep an XRCEL in my purse. It has saved me a few times recently – most notably while touring elementary schools (with lots of stairs) for my older daughter and while chaperoning a pre-school field trip. 

 So my theory is, if it’s good enough to fuel you through a grueling 12 hour race, why not use it to fuel you through a (just as hard) day of parenting? 

Bec

Wasserman Twins Share ISRAMAN 2017 1st & 2nd Place Win Experience

Listen to XRCEL’s Laura DeMeo as she catches up with Pro Triathletes Laurel & Rebeccah Wassner and they recount their story of traveling to and ultimately winning ISRAMAN 2017, one of the most grueling Iron distance courses in the world.

Learn how they overcame travel woes, endured weather extremes, and still managed to come out in 1st and 2nd place in this awesome race.

Also, learn about the beauty of the course and the foods they enjoyed.

Truly a wonderful story with a great outcome.

Click Image to Launch Video Interview with Professional Triathletes Laurel & Rebeccah Wassner

7 Essentials to Maintain a Fit and Healthy Pregnancy

By Laura DeMeo

As an athlete staying fit has always been very important to me.  Growing up I competed in gymnastics which kept me in shape and flexible.  I continued to stay fit by going to the gym and running recreationally before finding a true passion for triathlon in my late 20’s. Since that time I have been racing half and full distance triathlons up until the last 2 years when I became sidelined with 2 stress fractures in my foot.  After taking time off for the stress fractures, I am now happily spectating as an expectant, first-time mom.

Although at 43 I am considered “advanced maternal age,” I am very pleased with how remarkably well I have felt throughout my pregnancy even until now at almost 36 weeks!  Though I get tired, I still have lots of energy and have not experienced the swelling that is common in many pregnancies.  I’ve gained 22 pounds and attribute my healthy pregnancy to eating healthy and staying active.  I never wanted to use pregnancy as an excuse to stop working out and “let my body go” or feel like I could “eat whatever I wanted” and gain lots of extra non-baby weight as a result!

Even though this is my first pregnancy, and I’m not a nutritionist or fitness expert, I wanted to share 7 tips that, even at my age, have helped me stay healthy and fit during my pregnancy.  The following is based on my personal experience, body and doctor consultations, all pregnant women should consult with their own doctors when planning their health and fitness routine.

7 Tips for a Healthy and Fit Mom-to-Be:

Walking:   Walking is great because it is low impact and can be done anytime and anywhere.  I have 2 high-energy American Eskimo dogs that help keep me in shape!  I walk with them about an hour a day.  In my earlier months I ran occasionally, but I stopped mainly due to my lingering foot injury.  Also, it became uncomfortable on the bladder as I got further along in my second trimester.  I first checked with my doctor to see if was okay to run in the first place.  He advised that I could do just about any exercise that I was already doing prior to pregnancy, but he didn’t recommend starting anything new.

Peloton Cycle:  As a triathlete who loves to bike, the Peloton has been my consistent go-to workout, especially during my third trimester when I stopped riding outside on the road. During the early months of my pregnancy in the spring & summer, I enjoyed riding on the road and even did an 80-mile ride on the hottest day of the summer (100  degrees) at 4 months.   My doctor did say I can “do anything I was already used to doing,” however, I would not recommend that to most people.

Even before my pregnancy, the Peloton had been one of my favorite ways to stay in shape. It is a revolutionary indoor spin bike offering both live and on demand classes with your favorite instructor.  You can read my review here: http://bit.ly/1PPQdmu

The reason I like the Peloton so much, especially during pregnancy, is that I can ride at my own pace, control my resistance, and be mindful not to go too hard and elevate my heart rate, all while getting in a solid workout.  I usually take a 1-hour class first thing in the morning about 5 to 6 days a week. I start off by drinking a bottle of XRCEL fuel 15 minutes before I hop on the Peloton to give me steady energy throughout the ride.

If you don’t have a Peloton cycle, you can easily download the app to follow a class and ride from your own stationary bike or bike mounted on a trainer.  The Peloton also offers classes beyond cycling ranging from yoga and stretching, to light strength training, all of which are ideal exercises for pregnant women.

Strength Training:  Exercising with light free weights or using resistance equipment at the gym is another great way to stay fit.  Working on muscle tone helps maintain lean muscle which increases metabolism to burn fat as fuel.  In the beginning, I liked to do some crunches and standard push-ups on the floor, but stopped between weeks 16-20.  Some of my favorite conditioning exercises include arm and shoulder workouts with 5 pound dumbbells including tricep extensions, dumbbell curls for biceps, dumbbell fly and incline dumbbell bench presses, and pushups against a raised bar for overall upper body workouts. I also like using the “gravitron” machine at the gym, which allows me to do pull-ups without having to lift my entire body weight.  This is good for toning the back, shoulders and biceps.

For lower body workout, I like doing lunges using a medicine ball or holding a 5kg kettlebell in each hand.  Other strength-building leg exercises that are a part of my routine include squats with my own body weight or while holding a light weight kettlebell. To mix it up, I hit the gym machines to do leg presses and leg extensions using low resistance.

I don’t have a precise schedule with my weight training.  I’ll just make sure I mix in both lower body and upper body about 45 minutes to an hour, twice a week.  This is enough for me because I do some form of cardio 6 days a week between riding on the Peloton, walking or swimming. Most importantly with all of these exercises is to listen to your body and stop if your body feels stressed.

Swimming:  You’ve probably heard already that swimming is one of the best exercise you can do while being pregnant. It helps maintain your aerobic capacity and is very low impact with the water helping to support your body weight. As with all exercises during pregnancy, it is important not to overly exert yourself and keep your heart rate between 120 and 140, but always check with your doctor.

It’s ironic that I have raced in many triathlons over the years, including 9 ironman races, and yet I feel that I have enjoyed swimming much more now that I am pregnant! I have been more consistent with swimming than I’ve ever been prior to being pregnant.   Most people who know me know that in the past I would always favor biking and running over swimming.  I now have a new appreciation for swimming!

Not only is swimming great for endurance, it just feels really good and is more comfortable than most of the other exercises while pregnant.  My gym has a saline pool which makes me feel more at ease, even though I’ve read that chlorine pools are still safe for pregnant women.  I usually fill my weekends with a swim of about 45 minutes to 1 hour and shoot for another day or two to hit the pool again.  Whether I ride the Peloton, strength train, or swim, I’ll grab a bottle of XRCEL Fuel 15 min before my workout to give me sustained energy and stave off my hunger.

Water  It may sound cliché, but drinking plenty of water is extra- important during pregnancy, especially when exercising.  It is recommended to drink 12 to 13, 8-ounce glasses per day. I fall short of this most days, but I’m drinking way more water than ever before.  Staying hydrated helps absorb essential nutrients in the red blood cells that are transported to the baby.  The blood flow also helps lessen fatigue and reduce swelling.  I try to have about 8 to 10 glass of water per day and feel it is one of the reasons I have not experienced any swelling so far.  The only downfall is I am constantly running to the bathroom!

I am also mindful of drinking only filtered water or bottled water.  Even though our public water is deemed safe to drink, I just don’t trust any water from the tap. There could be harmful chemicals, bacteria, or pollutants in the water that I don’t know about and is not safe.

Before becoming pregnant, I would get much of my water from drinks like low-cal Gatorade or other low calorie drinks like vitamin water, but now I stay away from any drinks with sugar substitutes and aim to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. I find it much more refreshing and satisfying and plan on continuing to drink a lot of plain water after pregnancy.

Healthy fats & fruits: I’ve always considered myself a healthy eater, but it’s even more important to follow a well-balanced, nutritious diet while eating to benefit the development of a growing baby.

The biggest changes I’ve made while pregnant is adding more healthy fats to my diet.  It is especially critical for the brain development of the baby.  I used to be afraid to eat too many calories from fats, but now I find ways to include fats and oils in my daily diet.  For breakfast, I add a tablespoon of flaxseed oil to my cereal.  For lunch and dinner, I also will mix in avocado and a handful of nuts such as walnuts, almonds, or pistachios. to my salads.  For salad dressing, I skip the low cal dressings, which are loaded with sugar substitutes and fake sugar. Instead, I use wholesome olive oil or walnut oil with white or balsamic vinegar.  I’ve also been adding real butter to fiber rich slice of spread with dinner.

In the past I removed the yolks from hard boiled eggs, but now if I have 3 eggs I’ll keep 2 yolks to benefit from the rich, fat soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids. It is also a great source of protein and good cholesterol.  When buying eggs I make sure to check the expiration date and that the eggs are organic and not treated with antibiotics or hormones.

In addition to eating healthy fats, I’ve found that I’ve been craving even more fruits in my diet, especially during the summer months. Some of my favorite fruits are apples, pears, bananas, watermelon, blueberries, raspberries, oranges, and grapes.  All of these fruits are nutrient dense with essential vitamins, minerals,  and antioxidants that foster healthy growth and development.

Aromatherapy- I’ve always been intrigued by the health benefits of aromatherapy.  I love walking into a room with a nice scent that is not overpowering.  While I enjoy the smell of candles, burning candles can be toxic so I rarely burn scented candles. Aromatherapy is a technique featuring essential oils extracted from plants to boost your health and overall well-being. Essential oils are the LIVE essence of the plant.  Unlike herbs, which are dried, essential oils carry all the active chemical constituents within the plant, which is why they are known to be so therapeutically effective.

Some of the benefits of essential oil therapy during pregnancy include relief from tension, nausea, headaches, swelling, and fatigue.  Aromatherapy can also help promote relaxation, improve sleep, boost immune system, and enhance mood.

It wasn’t until my third trimester that I started incorporating aromatherapy (www.doTerra.com) into my weekly routine.  I use a diffuser to diffuse some of the essential oils for about 15 minutes at a time, which releases the natural aroma.  While I still have much to learn about aromatherapy, my primary interest is in stress relief and boosting my immune system.  I’ve also found that some of the essential oils such as peppermint and citrus oils, including orange and grapefruit, are invigorating and help give more energy.   Before using aromatherapy, it is always best to talk to your doctor or holistic specialist to learn how to safely and effectively use it in your home.  There are specific essential oils that are recommended and deemed safe for each trimester.  Some of my favorite essential oils I’ve used during my third trimester are lavender, frankincense, aromatouch, and lemon.

I am grateful to have had a healthy and smooth pregnancy with ample energy so far.  I feel that keeping a consistent, daily exercise routine, eating healthy, and minimizing stress are essential components of a problem-free pregnancy leading to a healthy baby.