Brooks Ghost 14 Review

Disclaimer: I received Brooks Ghost 14 running shoes in exchange for my 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!

The summer is running away from us, whether we like it or not, and I'm making the most of this summer running! Over the past four weeks, we moved, my oldest kiddo finished up his baseball season, we attended two county fairs, a family reunion and hosted my in-laws for a week. It's all been a great time in and of itself though I do feel like I'm currently "running" on empty! I pretty much feel like an empty shell of a human right now. Just being honest.

Through all of the *things* of summer, my goal was to maintain an average of 40 miles per week to prepare for CIM (California International Marathon, for any non-runners!) training to start. Aside from my 0 ft of elevation gain (seriously, treadmill will be my only hill workouts at home), ramping up from training after racing a marathon in May and then taking about two weeks off has gone really well. Juggling time to train is always something but it's worth it overall. 


I always rotate two or three pairs of shoes in training to keep things fresh and, as a BibRave Pro, I have had the treat of trying a new pair of kicks — the Brooks Ghost 14 shoe model! Previously I have only ran in one other Brooks Running shoe model and I was excited to try something new from them.

First off, check out that Ghost 14 COLOR! Brooks offers a great variety of styles so there really is a color/pattern scheme for everyone. I'm usually a neutral color person and this bold style was a welcome change for me.
I have taken the Ghost 14's out on the paved roads, gravel roads and the treadmill and it has performed well on all surfaces! The Ghost 14 feels very natural and offers a nice amount of cushion without being overbearing or clunky, making them my favorite every day shoe to wear as well. Yep - they came to the baseball games, move-in day and county fairs with me!


Something unique about the Ghost 14 is that this Brooks' very first carbon neutral shoe. Most upper materials are made with a minimum of 30% recycled content! 

Overall, I have been very pleased with the Brooks Ghost 14 model and they are now my go-to shoe for easy runs and long run days! I can definitely see myself wearing more Brooks Ghost shoes in the future.

- Brooks Women's Ghost 14 Specs -

  • Support: Neutral
  • Weight: 9 oz
  • Midsole Drop: 12 mm
  • Smooth transitions
  • Soft cushioning
  • Road running
  • $140.00* on BrooksRunning.com
    Specs from BrooksRunning.com
*Ready to give the Ghost 14 a try? Jump over to the Brooks Running website to grab yourself a pair of Brooks Ghost 14's. They are on sale for $129.96 as of today (7/31/22)!

PAC-MAN Virtual Challenge: Level Up 2022 Review

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the PAC-MAN Virtual Challenge: Level Up 2022 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!

I kicked off spring marathon training with some Virtual Run FUN this year! Where are my PAC-MAN fans at?

The PAC-MAN Virtual Challenge: Level Up 2022 is unique because each runner has the opportunity to complete the challenge, level by level, and then to push on for the BONUS level! I don't usually run virtual races but the "leveling up" appeal to this challenge drew me in. Who doesn't love to chase a good Bonus Level?!


I ran some of the miles outside and some of them on the treadmill. This virtual race experience is very flexible! Get the miles done wherever you want and at whatever pace you want, as long as you finish them within the challenge dates. 

With the crazy cold and stormy winter we've had, I was thankful to have the treadmill as an option! I used my marathon training runs to complete the PAC-MAN Challenge levels and tracked the mileage using my usual Garmin Connect and Strava. Runners were also able to track their challenge runs using the RunKeeper app. 


Cover the miles solo, or even with a friend! A furry friend, in my case:


Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 - and that Power Pellet Round Up 6-Mile bonus was mine! 


Struggle with motivation to lace up those shoes and get after it? 

If the PAC-MAN race swag itself doesn't motivate you, the virtual race community will! After completing each level, you receive an email with your downloadable "badges" to share and connect with others via social media. 

And then the race swag - this is what you can look forward to after completing the challenge! I'm still waiting on my race swag to arrive in the mail and the kids have divvied out "who gets what" when it comes. 


Do you enjoy a good ole virtual race challenge or prefer in-person races only? 

A Gentle Feast: Cycle 3 Term 3

Summer is almost here and I really should be packing boxes, but I would rather write up this term review instead :) Where to start. We started Term 3 on Valentine's Day...


E was somewhat nearing the end of this wrestling season and, when he wasn't wrestling, the kids and I were skating. There's no better way to pass a super long winter with energy-full kids than skating at an indoor rink! Taking four young kids skating solo is chaotic but I love skating just as much as they do.

That same month, we acquired a hard-hitting stomach bug - just E and I actually. Thankfully, the rest of the family escaped unscathed! Long c@vid caused some issues for me that hit a little harder that month. I'll just blame it on an extra long winter... we all needed some vitamin D! 

On March 31st, E completed his state testing requirements and it went really well. Testing with four kids in the house is a little complicated, as some sections had to happen when toddler was awake and some sections happened while he was napping. Note to self - next year, test on a Saturday or Sunday when dad can help with the other kids. The next school year will be our first time having two state testing students. Overall the CAT paper test has been a great option for us.

And then we sold a house. Things have been a little crazy lately. 

Now as far as school details... 

What worked well this term:


Tinkering Things: Puzzles, alpharods, counters (and snacks). These help to keep the littlest hands busy during our school lessons. It's a bonus if the older kids help the younger two with their work! Toddler is 20 months now and the attention span has increased a teensy bit. That's been very helpful! C is 4.5 and has some light pre-K pages and then he listens along to all of the 3rd grade reads. (Lucky kids? They all listen to the E's school books but I don't think they mind.)



Geography: E enjoyed the online Map quiz game recommended by A Gentle Feast for 3rd Grade. It's isn't quite as cool as the "Zip Zap Map" I played as a kid on our huge desktop, but pretty close! The "My American GeoJourney" workbook was a great resource for this school year. "Our 50 States: A Family Adventure Across America" and "My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States" were okay but not huge hits in our house. Just exploring a plain old USA atlas was fun for the kids though.


Sharing the Load: Having the older two, E (3rd grade) and W (K), read aloud has been very helpful. It's easier to keep the group on task when the kids take turns with reading and it gives me a talking break, too. (I like that!) For the nature study books by Clara Dillingham, we listened to them on librivox and often while on the road. 

Involving ALL the kids, even toddler, in as many subjects as possible is also a huge help. Children are so much smarter than the education system thinks they are. Can a toddler absorb something from picture study? Certainly! It doesn't take long to admire a piece of art. I do wonder what his babbles mean, as S looks at Claude Monet's work and jabbers on. :) 



Curriculum Choices: A Gentle Feast and Dimensions Math were a great fit again this term. They have been good to us in the past but I am open to the idea that, if something isn't working, we may need to change it up. But it's not broke, so there's no need to fix it! Onward we go with AGF & Dimensions Math - and we will continue to move into Cycle 4: Modern Times for the next school year. 

Something I did change in Term 3 was my Kindergartener W's school work. He's a summer birthday and technically an older K student, so I just pay attention to what challenges and interests him, rather than being stuck in a specific grade level (a huge perk of homeschooling!). I ended up throwing "Phonics Museum" in the trash (literally) because it was boring for him and switched him to A Gentle Feast's Language Arts Lower Elementary book instead. I had ordered this for the next school year but figured he could work ahead a little! The AGF approach it language arts is very effective and has worked so well for my oldest. Turns out W really enjoyed starting his book as well! 


What didn't work this term:

Weather: Yes, it's the weather that didn't work. When snow storms cancel co-op, 4H meetings, church, wrestling practice, etc - you might as well make the best of the situation and just play in the snow! The younger two love that, while the older two would rather play legos or read inside where it's warm. I'm a mix of both schools of thought. 


The weather did eventually shape up and we ended our school year on May 6th reading aloud in the back yard. With chocolate chip cookies. Don't forget the cookies!


And for a bonus - this is my Mother's Day picture from W and I feel it fully embodies the joys of spring: 


Here's to a summer full of fun!


Explore the A Gentle Feast curriculum here and feel free to email me or comment here with any questions! Disclaimer: This post contains my A Gentle Feast affiliate link. If you click it, and make a purchase I will receive a commission.


Race Report: Fargo Marathon 2022

We're all thankful Spring has finally arrived up north. That's where I'll start! 

This has been the coldest, snow storm-iest and longest-feeling training cycle that I have ever had. I did what I could, running outside as much as possible and especially on the weekends. The treadmill was a huge help for speed and some tempo sessions, and also when my husband was recovering from his time in the hospital and I needed to keep an eye on the kids 24/7. 


All in all, the training got done and I really enjoyed the variety that Heidi @ G Training set me up with. This is the most strength training and pilates sessions that I have done before! These sessions kept training fresh, I felt much stronger and it kept many of the "niggles" at bay. (Usually I'm a tight hamstring runner but pilates helped with that especially)


For a quick recap of training mileage, here is a breakdown of the weekly volume:
01 - 40.2
02 - 25.25 (a brief intermission for the stomach flu)
03 - 28.02 (recovering from stomach flu)
04 - 52.0
05 - 42.0
06 - 52.4
07 - 60.1 *My highest mileage EVER!
08 - 56.0
09 - 53.1
10 - 56.3
11 - 35.4
12 - RACE WEEK: 43.3 
That's 544.07 for this training cycle - not counting that I had been averaging 30 miles per week since January 1st. No wonder my white Altra Escalantes need to be retired now! (I didn't believe Strava at first). This was a solid increase in average weekly mileage, going from 36.4 mpw in the previous training cycle to 45.3 mpw in this one. I would say that is a win. I have been a low-mileage marathoner and need to gradually increase to hit those goals I'm chasing - it takes patience! 

Enough of the nerdy numbers.

On to the race experience. Leo and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary on May 19th and this ended up being a great weekend to get away, just the two of us. Thanks, grandma & grandpa! 

Resting up for race day with the littlest bubba

We left on Friday, went to the race expo to pick up my race stuff and then stopped by "our apartment" before going to eat. Yep - apartment! Fargo Marathon offered a free race entry and complimentary "housing" to elite athletes. So maybe it wasn't super romantic, but they had me at "free" :) And the apartments were across the parking lot from the Fargodome, which made race morning super easy!


I felt super nervous for this race. Maybe because it was my first of the year, after the Spring Thaw half changed to virtual, or maybe because my "A" goal was pretty aggressive. I'm not sure! After 15 marathons, you would think it would take the edge off just a little.

Per the usual, I set out my "flat runner" self the night before:


I wrote James 1:2-3 on my arm for this race: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." I also wrote the words Smooth and Strong (hard to read in the pic). Those were the goals - persevere, stay smooth, stay strong.


When my alarm went off early Saturday morning, I got my running get-up on, munched on banana + peanut butter on bread (no toaster!!!) along with sips of water and read my devo. I did pump this morning, possibly for the last time that I will need to before a race. With our youngest weaning, I didn't want to feel "heavy" while running even though supply is dwindling. 

I headed over to the Fargodome a little early - again, probably the nerves. I wanted to check out the Elite locker rooms and staging area. When they let us in, the locker room reminded me of high school hockey days! Lockers side by side, one bathroom, a group shower. Haha. Yep, definitely high school hockey. 

I finished a Honey Stinger Salted Caramel Waffle, tied up my shoes and did some warming up down the hall. It was pretty slick, so I took it easy to avoid biffing it right before the race. 

Half marathoners took off and then finally it was our turn to go. It was about 35 degrees outside when we took off - definitely a chilly one!


I took off with the front pack, planning to stay just ahead of the 3:00 pace group, aiming for 6:50/mile for the first 16 miles. 

Turns out, there wasn't a 3:00-hour pacer there that day and I was going wayyy faster than goal pace anyways. I let myself be carried away with the herd and it wasn't a good thing. When I saw 6:29 on my watch at mile 5, I thought "oh crap!" better pull back a bit. I took non-caff vanilla Clif Shots at mile 5 and 10 - felt gaggy but I was able to keep them down.


While we had a nice sub-3 pack going for the first 13 miles or so, we spread out mid-race, some going on ahead and some pulling back. I went from running with that group momentum to... nada! 

My mental game started to decline when the group split and, then around mile 16, I could tell I didn't have any zip left to negative split like I was supposed to. Took caffeinated mocha Clif Shots at miles 15 and 20, again feeling gaggy but forcing them down.


Miles 18 and on were pretty gross. In a way, this is where it helps to have previous marathon experience. I have put myself in "death march" situations before and mentally used those tricks to just stinkin' finish the race. I knew the sub-3 wasn't happening and was questioning whether a PR was possible. Running into a headwind for the last 6 miles (?), I was regretting throwing off my gloves and sleeves. It's at this point where I thought "maybe I should stick to half marathons."

Death March Tactics: Sip sports drink at aid stations and walk while drinking for a morale boost. Mentally break up the miles into 2-mile chunks - 22 miles. Okay, now we're at 24. And now 26... almost there! This certainly doesn't lend to a fast finish but it gets the job done. 


I had a little kick to finish off in the dome but didn't even make it to goal race pace for that .5 mile stretch! Just zonked. 

I was sure happy to see 3:05:27 though. 


Even in a poorly executed race, a 5-minute PR is something to smile about! 

Overall, I was very disappointed with how I paced myself. Heidi recommended that 6:50 goal to mile 16 and then buckling down to finish faster from there, and I basically did the OPPOSITE of that! No excuses. Let it be a lesson learned and don't repeat this mistake again

On the positive side, training went extremely well minus some weird long C@vid health issues and a bout of the stomach flu. I want to keep building on that training experience this year! 

This PR served as a great stepping stone, now to keep the training momentum. I didn't execute the race strategy (at all) but I did finish, and that's something. 

I had an amazing weekend with my husband, who is healthy and here with me - that is an absolute miracle of a blessing from God, in and of itself! We went out to supper, went thrifting (yep, that's very us!), to an art museum, coffee and just enjoyed time together. The kids were pretty good for my parents, minus the youngest not sleeping.


You live and learn. Every race is a new learning experience and I'm thankful for the gift of health to do this! 

I hope to be back at Fargo again next year. It's probably my favorite race! Close to home, tasty post-race food (think donuts, chips, choco milk) and free race photos are a huge perk, too. They keep me coming back for more!



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TURTLe-FLIP Watch Out Mitten Review

Disclaimer: I received Turtle Flip Watch Out Mittens in exchange for my 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!

Let's be honest. This winter has really been dragging on! I am currently training for the Fargo Marathon coming up in May and have had a more solid mileage base and logged more miles than I ever have before in marathon training. With a nice balance of strength + pilates work mixed in, I have actually really enjoyed the higher mileage! 

With all of the winter miles, there have been plenty of stinking cold, blizzard-y runs taking place. Plus, this winter has had WAY more winter storms than our usual! But you have to make the best of the weather you're given - and that means dressing appropriately and getting outside whenever I have the chance. 

I received some pretty sweet mail from Turtle Gloves on Valentine's Day: the TURTLe-FLIP Watch Out Mittens. I chose the orange (to match BibRave orange, of course) and with a left watch gusset. This gusset option makes it easy to view your watch anytime during the run, without rolling up sleeves or losing any of your warmth. Turtle-Flip Watch Out mittens allow you to choose a left or right watch gusset to match your personal preference.

I'm a right-hander that always runs with my watch on my left wrist. The Watch Out slot definitely makes the TURTLe-FLIP Watch Out Mittens unique and quite handy on the run (or walk or skating or whatever you do):
The Turtle-Flips are a mid-weight running mitten made with Polartec® Power Stretch Pro® Wicking, breathable, and fast-drying material. They are super soft and very stretchy! I have thrown mine in the washer and dryer probably ten times now and they hold up so well. Very easy to wash and have ready for the next morning's run.

Another Turtle-Flip feature I enjoy is the fingers-out or fingers-in option. I have ran in a mix of weather with these - a huge variety actually! The only time they felt a little chilly along the seams was when it was an actual temp of -17°F, plus who knows the wind chill factor that early morning. It was stinkin' windy (likely another -30°F morning). That was the only time I felt they weren't warm enough. 

Then I have worn them on warmer days, say upper 20's, and, if they feel too warm, I just flip them into fingers-out mode:
For sizing, I went with their recommendation of Small that works for most women and they feel quite roomy, but I would rather that than too tight. The Turtle-Flip Watch Out mittens come in a variety of colors and are made in the U.S.A. - Woop Woop! Check out the colors here and snag that discount code below for 15% off your mittens:

DISCOUNT ALERT: Use TURTLEBIBRAVE for 15% Off your Turtle Gloves purchase.

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Here We Go, Fargo!

Training for the Fargo Marathon, on May 21st, started last week! That has looked mostly like treadmill runs during the week with a couple outdoor runs over the weekend. 

Eventually, I hope to be outside for everything but the crazy cold, icy-packed streets and dark just aren't working for me right now. Soon, though!


If you are unfamiliar with the Fargo Marathon, definitely check out some of my past race reviews (2014, 2016, 2019, 2021) and more on BibRave.com. The course is flat, fast and has plenty of spectators (and music) to distract you from the personal pain cave that you may be running through as you push to a new PR. 
Use the code "BIBRAVECOOL6" to get a free Backpack Cooler when you register for Fargo - I hope to see you there! 
Besides the mostly treadmill-based training lately, the build up to this training cycle has been the most consistent mileage that I have ever had! My mileage isn't huge but the base miles have been 30+ for the past 8 weeks (this week should close in at about 35 miles). 

I have also had a nice mix of strength training in there from Heidi at G Personal Training and that sure keeps thing fresh and fun. I'm hoping these changes add up for the better in May!
    

Training is to be taken one week at a time - life is just crazy and unpredictable with the kiddos, activities going on and family life - but I really enjoy returning to the routine of training. It's the one predictable variable in my life! Ha. Seriously.

Happy running to you and may warmer days be on the way!

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A Gentle Feast: Cycle 3 Term 2

Let me start off this review with an Instagram post I shared at the beginning of Term 2. This is a peek at what our neat little homeschool family "should" look like, with the perfect social media lenses on (actually, it's even a bit messy per those standards here!):
And here's what it usually looks like, in real life!
Learning is messy and there are too many busy young men in this house to pull off the neat "farmhouse chic" vibes. So to keep it real, most days, this is us:
 
Homeschooling itself went very well and we are all thriving in A Gentle Feast's Cycle 3: Reforms, Revolutions, and Reconstruction. Here is a quick rundown of what is working for us:
  • Cycle 3 Curriculum
  • Cycle 3 Morning Time
  • Songschool Spanish
  • E/3rd Grade: AGF Lower Elementary Language Arts (Print Font), Singapore Math 2B
  • W/Kindergarten: Phonics Museum (that I found on eBay), Singapore Math 1A
  • C/Pre-K: Preschool Workbook that I bought online (on Christian Books, I think), homemade Letters & Numbers notebook
  • S/Babyschool: Cheerios, applesauce with spoon to make a mess with, matchbox cars
We have swapped out the Solfa in the curriculum for piano lessons (with mom) for the older three boys, as interest leads. Really I wouldn't start a 4-year-old on piano but I help him a little here and there, if he wants to practice like the brothers. 

For our Hymn Study, we switched from using the Happy Hymnody resources to going by A Gentle Feast's hymn schedule. This has been really helpful because the sheet music is already in the Morning Time binder and I can play the piano for our hymn study (personal growth for mom right there)! This was a great change for us because the less we use YouTube, the better off we are. It ends up being a big distraction!

The kids and I have enjoyed every book on this Term's booklist. Once again, D'Aulaire's Abraham Lincoln was our favorite - one we were supposed to break up into a couple days and ended up reading in one sitting. We just couldn't put it down. As it turns out, Lincoln's living room may have looked a lot like mine!
Another excellent read that we ended the Term with was The Last Brother; an excellent Civil War tale that the boys couldn't stop talking about.
We dealt with some sick bugs over these months and my husband being in the hospital in December but this made me all the more thankful for homeschooling! The boys were able to go to my parents' farm while I was with my husband and, even through sick bugs (like mom having the C-virus), school can still keep rolling! The kids and I were even able to go on trip to Florida with my parents, my brother and his family - including a stop at SeaWorld and Disney World! All in all, we're right on track with the school year.
Ice skating, riding snowcats, wrestling practice and project nights for 4H have helped to pass these cold, long winter months. With Term 2 ending, I'm thankful Spring is on the way! Onward we go into new exciting books, hopefully some thawing weather in a month or two and marathon training for mom, of course :)

Explore the A Gentle Feast curriculum here and feel free to email me or comment here with any questions! Disclaimer: This post contains my A Gentle Feast affiliate link. If you click it, and make a purchase I will receive a commission.