Keeps You Moving | Review – Tune Belt

I’m getting really excited about the 2014 racing season – so far I’ve got sponsors signed on for 11 races, and I anticipate more to come soon. You’ll be hearing about those races and the sponsors soon…but before I get into that, I think it’s important to talk about one of the things that helped me get through 2013 and will most certainly help me keep on chugging through 2014. I have it with me every single time I run (unless it’s an obstacle race / mud run), and I’m fairly certain I couldn’t run without it. What am I talking about?

Tune Belt! Tune Belt was one of my sponsors this past year, and they make a sport armband. Yes, I understand there are about 45,000 different sport armbands out there, but they are not the Tune Belt. This thing is great, and is going to help me get through (hopefully) 5+ half marathons this coming year (not to mention a ton of 5K’s, 10K’s, and non-standard distances)!

SO…why is Tune Belt so special?
As I said, there is an obscene variety of sport armbands out there. I can walk into a Wal-Mart, Marshall’s, or virtually any mall BLINDFOLDED and leave with one. They’re everywhere. You would think that with such an immense variety it would be easy to find one that’s just right for you. Yeah, that’s what I thought too. After lots of trial and error, I came across the Tune Belt at the Falmouth Road Race 2013 Expo at the high school. There were several vendors at the expo that had Tune Belt, and I thought it might just be worth a shot. I had been doing my best to spend $10 on one, but after all the trials and tribulations, if I had to spend $20 or $25 to FINALLY have one that actually gets the job done…so be it. And here I am. So let’s talk about what makes Tune Belt special and why my long, exhaustive search is over.

One Size Does NOT Fit All

It’s no secret – I’m an Android fan. I love my Droid – I had the Droid Razr Maxx for the last two years (didn’t break it!) and I just upgraded to the Droid Maxx. For those who don’t know, the Droid Razr Maxx is a pretty big smartphone. The Droid Maxx is even bigger. I didn’t realize just how much bigger a Droid could be than an iPhone…until I started trying to find a sport armband. There are LOTS of really cool ideas for sport armbands out there…if you have an iPhone. I, just like all other non-iPhone owners, was neglected. There were virtually NO good options out there for a sport armband! It’s like the companies only care about iPhone owners…though I guess it makes sense – it’s such a popular device, and there’s only one kind, more or less. There’s a million varieties of Android device, and it’s tough to cater to all of them. I searched TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, I searched Wal-Mart, I searched sporting good stores…nearly ALL to no avail. I felt like a moron standing in the store trying to shove my phone into the two armbands that looked like they MIGHT fit my phone.

At the Falmouth Road Race Expo…I thought I’d give it one more shot. I picked a vendor, picked up the “Generic Large Smartphone” version off the rack (Model AB85) and asked the guy if I could open it up and try my phone in it. Can I tell you the sheer joy when it fit! And it fit pretty well too! For a “generic”…it was pretty damn good! The only thing was, as you can see to the right, the headphone hole was a little off. THAT’S FINE. I just had to shimmy my headphone plug in there and I was good to go. Not a big deal for me – I knew what I was getting into getting a “generic” one.

Fits Like A Glove

This thing fits great! I had no problems with it sliding around on my arm, like I had with other armbands. I slide it on, tighten the strap, and off I go. The strap is a “hook and loop” enclosure…it’s not Velcro, but its similar and it gets the job done. No tugging, no adjusting, no nothing. It stays put. I like that. It’s comfortable too – there’s something to be said for Neoprene…it doesn’t stick to you and feel gross like some other materials out there. More on Neoprene later though…

Also, I’ll throw this out there – They sell an “extender” in case the strap built into it isn’t long enough for your arm…I wear mine around my forearm for ease of use and so I can constantly look at my stats. Even around my bicep, it fits comfortably with room to spare. I think you’d have to have an exceptionally beefy bicep for this to not fit…but then again…I don’t often run into runners with arms that big.

A Well-Built Tool!

This thing is solidly built – they really thought out the design well. What you see below is what sits on your arm:

See that rectangular stitch in the middle? That’s where your phone goes…on the other side. No part of your phone touches your arm! Instead, the compartment for your phone sits more or less on top of a little neoprene pad. Neoprene, for those who don’t know, is what they make wetsuits out of. Nothing like having a waterproof barrier between your arm and the thing holding your phone! What’s more, even the compartment that holds your phone is made of Neoprene! 

I was DESPERATE for something that would keep my phone dry! When I was Fat Darrell, I would sweat like I’d just jumped in a pool. Surprise…I still do. I can’t afford for my expensive smartphone to get wet. The sport armband I had prior to my Tune Belt had a slit along the top backside of the thing where you were supposed to shimmy your phone into (see where the green arrow points? That’s about where the slit was on the old armband). Explain to me how having the slit against my arm will keep my phone dry?! Tune Belt got this part right, too! See where all those red arrows are pointing? That’s where you slide your phone into the Tune Belt. The opening sits on top of that neoprene base – sweat doesn’t get up in there. What’s more, when its secured to your arm, it’s tough to get much of ANYTHING in that slit (you have to put your phone in before you strap it to your arm). I am perfectly happy with that. As far as I’m concerned as a runner, it’s basically waterproof (don’t go diving in a pool or anything). I’d feel ok taking this out for a run in the rain. Maybe not a downpour, but I wouldn’t want to run in a downpour anyway.

Cool Feature!

One of the unique things about the Tune Belt is the little flap on the armband where you can secure your extra headphone cord. There’s few things worse on a run than trying to figure out what to do with the extra headphone cord flopping around everywhere! Tune Belt figured that one out and filed it away in a nice neat little place.

There’s a Tune Belt That’s Just Right For You

Remember how I complained earlier that there was a complete and total neglect towards people who don’t have an iPhone? Not with Tune Belt. I swear, they have a Tune Belt that’s designed to be perfect for almost every phone out there! Go on their site (www.tunebelt.com) and see for yourself! You pick your brand, model, and off you go! Not only that…but there are models designed for your phone while it’s in an Otterbox! Yes…they not only make a Tune Belt that fits your phone “naked”, but also that fits your specific model with its Otterbox Defender / Commuter on it! I can literally order a case designed to fit my Droid Maxx with an Otterbox Commuter on it. I don’t have to take my phone out of the case? Seriously? Shut up and take my money.

I’m sold. Seriously. They’re getting it right where everyone else is failing. They’re taking care of not only those who have iPhones, but those who have an Android phone! There’s even a Tune Belt for your iPod Shuffle, Nano, your Nike+ square device thingy, your walkman cd player or cassette tape player, and more. I swear…I have yet to find a device that they don’t make a Tune Belt for. They’re even starting to make them in reflective pink and yellow colors! Those are currently only available in iPhone size or generic large smartphone size, but there’s a relatively smaller market for those so I suppose that makes sense. Kudos to them for offering it in the generic large smartphone size!

Tune Belt is getting it right! If you’re in the market for a sport armband to carry your precious smartphone and equally precious tunes, go find a Tune Belt now! Check out their site www.TuneBelt.com , find your smartphone, and find what model number you need. You can get it all over the internet or in many running / sporting good stores! The one I have (Model AB89) actually does juuuust fit my new Droid Maxx without a case, but I’m strongly considering getting the one designed for my phone with its case on (Model AB88)…if I do get that, you can expect a review – not many armbands out there that allow you to keep your phone in the case – that’s certainly worth its own review!

Go get one. I got one for myself and for Megan. I’m glad I did.

Playlist Update – Go The Distance

Finally updated the running playlist. Learned a lot in the past couple months about running, my pace, etc, and I’ve made some changes and additions to the playlist to go along with that. Finishing that half-marathon taught me a lot, too! Read on to check out the changes, and why I made them. Check out the running playlist here!

You’ll notice there’s a lot of slower songs – around 130 bpm – that were added – I’m still in the process of feeling those out on distance runs. They encourage me to keep a pace I can maintain over the course of 13 miles. I’ll have to do a few more long runs to say whether they’re keepers or not, but so far they’re working for me.

ADDITIONALLY – as of right now…everything 146 BPM and faster is part of a second, separate playlist for “sprints” – 5K’s, maybe 10K’s…shorter runs with a much faster pace! Right now I don’t have the endurance, I don’t think, to maintain my 5K pace over much more than a 10K pace…we’ll see what happens.

Newly added:
128 BPM – Selena Gomez – Slow Down 
128 BPM – Justin Bieber ft. Nicki Minaj – Beauty & A Beat 
128 BPM – Ke$ha – Warrior
128 BPM – Ke$ha – Die Young
130 BPM – Selena Gomez – Come & Get It (Dave Aude Club Remix)
130 BPM – Alexandra Stan – Mr. Saxobeat 
130 BPM – Pitbull ft. Ke$ha – Timber 
132 BPM – Rage Against The Machine – Sleep Now In The Fire
133 BPM – The Offspring – Hit That
140 BPM – Lady Gaga – Applause 
143 BPM – The Offspring – (Can’t Get My) Head Around You 
160 BPM – Metallica – Ain’t My Bitch

Back on the list:
139 BPM – Britney Spears – Toxic (Armand Van Helden Remix) 

Cut From The List:
123 BPM – Shiny Toy Guns – Le Disko (too slow)
215 BPM – Good Charlotte – Lifestyles of The Rich And The Famous (too fast)

Again…let’s not forget that disclaimer…just because I’d run to it…doesn’t necessarily mean I’d listen to it in real life.

Check out the running playlist here! 

Race Beginner Do’s & Don’t’s

A friend (who is probably reading this!) posted on Facebook that she had signed up for her first 10K. My first thought was “AWESOME! Good for you!” and I immediately sent her a message to start talking about it. As we talked a little, I reflected on my first 10K and how much I learned from it – it dawned on me that not only could I have benefited immensely from knowing then what I know now, but others who are getting ready for their first race could benefit too! My first 5K and 10K both taught me a lot, and they are very different kinds of races!

SO, in the spirit of Hump Day, let’s talk about some do’s and don’t’s to help you get over the hump of your first race(s)!


When I started running this past March, I dove right in. Megan and I talked about it and figured hey, we got through P90X, we did Insanity…why couldn’t we run? We went…and I went farther than I probably should have…and finished having gone 3.2 miles. I’m not exaggerating when I say I had never “gone for a run” before that. I figured if I could do that, I could do a real 5K race – same distance!

So Where Do I Start?
 

Do A 5K!
 
I will be so bold as to say anyone can run a 5K. If you can run, you can do a 5K. Either it’s a challenge and you push yourself to finish, or it’s a piece of cake and you push yourself to break your best time. Either way, you can do it! If it’s going to be more on the “I’ve never run before” / beginner side of things, there are LOTS of training schedules out there to get you ready to run that 3.1 miles. I recommend using Runkeeper (if you have a smartphone / device that can use the app) – you can either track your runs doing your own thing or you can choose a training plan developed to help you be your best!

Did the 5K? How about a 10K?!

If you’ve overcome the challenge of your first 5K and feel like you can go farther, why not find and register for a 10K? A 10K is 6.2 miles – twice as long as a 5K. It might not seem like that much of a difference, but running a race is a whole different animal after the first 3 or 4 miles. A 10K can give you new challenges to overcome, including pacing yourself,  staying hydrated and fueled, dealing with hills and inclines, and much more. If you have successfully completed a 5K I highly recommend finding a 10K to do.

What about those do’s and don’t’s?
 
I mentioned I learned a lot from the first couple of races I ran – I have some hot tips that I really wish I had known going into my first 5K and 10K. Some of them might seem obvious to you, but I didn’t realize the importance of some of them until it was too late.


Rule #1 – HYDRATE!

I CANNOT stress this one enough! Hydration (drinking water) is INCREDIBLY important. Not properly hydrating before and during a race can leave you cramped, panting, and
struggling through what should have been a piece of cake. Properly hydrating is SO important I had been considering writing an article entirely dedicated to it, but even if I do follow through with that, it needs to be mentioned here. The average person should be drinking 8 glasses of water a day. I know we’ve been beat over the head with that our whole lives…prior to this whole fitness thing I never really understood just how important it really was.

How do I know if I’m getting dehydrated?
 
Your body is mostly made up of water – as you sweat that water leaves your body. When enough water leaves your body, you start feeling thirsty and your mouth might get dry. As you get more dehydrated, you might get a headache (I do), you’ll eventually get cramps, and you might get nauseous. If you get dehydrated enough you can pass out and have a real medical issue.

Bear with me here. One of the easiest ways to tell how hydrated you are at any given time is the color of your urine. Think about it – urine is your body’s way to get rid of what it doesn’t need – the water component of it is more or less a vehicle to get rid of the waste. If you’re dehydrated, there’s less fluid in your body. If your body has less fluid to spare, it’s going to get rid of that same amount of waste using less water, so it’s going to be more concentrated and thus, a darker/more saturated color. If your body is well-hydrated, there’s a lot of fluid in there to spare and your body will use more fluid to flush out the waste – thus less concentrated and a lighter color. The clearer the urine, the more hydrated you are.

So how do I stay hydrated?

Easy – DRINK WATER!  It’s that simple and that difficult. I drink on average about 20 glasses of water a day. That green water bottle? It’s a 1 litre Camelbak Eddy. I drink about 4 or 5 of those a day. Yeah. Water is just about all I drink. I used to drink almost that much diet soda each day, but then again I was also 300 lbs. If you find drinking that much water is a challenge try easing yourself into it with flavor. Add fresh citrus fruit to your water – lemon, lime, orange…not only does it add some flavor to your water but you get some vitamins out of it! Eventually you can use less and less fruit until you can just drink regular water! The calories from the fruit you squeeze into your water is going to end up being negligible, so go for it!

Rule #2 – Eat Breakfast!

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and race day is no exception. The longer the race, the more important it is to eat something before the run. Race-day nutrition can be the difference between a strong run with sustained energy or huffing, puffing, and crapping out. There’s lots of products out there designed to help you before and during your run like Gu gels, sport beans, chomps, blocs, etc. Find what works for you and stick with it! They’re all made from fast-absorbing and easy to break down carbs/sugars to give your body the juice it needs to get through the race. I like to start my race-day morning with a combination of those and some fruit. To each his own.

Rule #3 – Test your playlist before the race

This one only applies if you listen to music during your runs. I do. You can see “The Music While Running Controversy” to see exactly how I feel about the topic. If you DO listen to music while you run, be sure to test out your playlist on a run before the actual race. The wrong music can make you go too fast or too slow, mess up your pace mid-stride, and just all around lead you to a bad time. Find what works and stick with it – always best to test it out. Check out my running playlist (tested) here.

Rule #4 – TRAIN!

Training is about learning your pace, testing your limits, and improving both. Do shorter runs to see what kind of pace you can reach, how fast you can go, and what your stride is. Do longer runs to see if you can maintain that pace over a longer distance. Do some REALLY long runs once a week to push your limits, increase your stamina / endurance, and ultimately be able to run farther. Training is a learning experience, and it IS very important. Try and fail. Experiment. Do hills some days and flat courses other days. Map it out ahead of time – know where you’re going and when to turn around and go home. Give yourself options in case you decide to run a longer or shorter distance when you’re already out there. Get the most out of your training so you’re ready for that race! There are lots of training programs for every different race distance – if you’d like help finding a good one reach out with the contact form at the bottom of the page!


Rule #5 – PACE YOURSELF! Run Your Own Race.

This one I learned the hard way. When you go and do a race, it can get very competitive. There’s lots of people out there, you’ve got the adrenaline pumping, you’re antsy…and once you cross the starting line you just want to shoot off like a rocket and GO. That’s a bad idea. My first 5K I shot off like a rocket – I broke out of the pack early and tried to beat everyone. I was able to maintain it and go hard the whole time…but it was only 5K. I tried to do the same thing on my first 10K…it didn’t work out so well. There were a LOT more people…hundreds! I tried to bounce from open spot to open spot in an effort to break out into open space where I could really run. By mile 4 I was toast. I went SO hard in the first 5K that I had no gas left for the second 5K. I was so concerned with going fast and passing people that I didn’t worry about myself and my own limits/abilities. I paid for it in the end. My time was absolutely awful compared to what it could have been. I learned my lesson and applied it to my Falmouth Road Race run…and what an improvement! I ran my own race and did WAY better than I did during the 10K…better average pace, a stronger run…I felt better…Trust me – this is a lesson you can take to the bank. 

Rule #6 – Know The Course And Have A Plan

You should absolutely know the course before race-day. Know the route, know if there’s hills and if so, how steep/long they are, and overall know what to expect from the course. Knowing the course ahead of time allows you to come up with a plan for your run – where the hard parts are, what parts you need to save some energy for, and where you can turn on the afterburners and just go. If you don’t know the route you might burn yourself out before a particularly hard hill at the end. Conversely, you could be more conservative than you need to and not achieve your best possible time. You could also, heaven forbid, take a wrong turn! Suffice it to say – know the course and have a plan.

I’m sure there’s more to running a race than just this, but these rules are a good jumping off point to help you achieve success in your first race(s)! Take these lessons to heart and learn from my mistakes – I certainly wish someone had told me about these when I was getting ready for MY first race(s)!

What tips would YOU give a beginner? Comment below!

And Then I Ran… | Falmouth Road Race

I lost 107 lbs. I trained for 140 miles. I raised $2,520 for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (so far). I spent one year of my life turning around my health and fitness. I re-learned how to think about nutrition and what I put in my mouth. I got in tune with my body. I gave it my all. And then I ran… 

All I can say is…wow. What an experience! No wonder so many people want to run the Falmouth Road Race! I had heard that it was the second most popular race in New England, the most desirable race in the country, etc…but I had no idea what an incredible
experience it would be! As you can see from the Runkeeper screenshot above (check out my Runkeeper profile and road race activity), I got the time I was shooting for! Runkeeper reported 1:10:13 and my “unofficial” chip time was 1:10:04.

For the non-runners out there – there are two different “times” many timed races will report – “Gun Time” and “Chip Time” (sometimes called “Net Time”). Gun Time is
the time from when the gun goes off and the race starts to when you cross the finish line. Chip Time (or Net Time) is the time from when you actually cross the starting line to when you cross the finish.  You may think these times would be the same, but if you’re in a large race you might actually cross the starting line one, two, five or even ten+ minutes after the gun goes off. Yesterday in the Falmouth Road Race I didn’t cross the starting line until more than 20 minutes after the gun went off. They call it “Chip Time” because it’s the time when your timing chip crosses the start and finish. They call it “Net Time” because it’s the gun time minus the time it takes for you to get to the starting line (in this case, “Net” is a math term).

In terms of performance and results – Yes, I got the time I wanted. I was pretty steady in my pace and stayed under 9:46 per mile the entire race. Once I got up the big hill in Falmouth Heights (the last challenge where lots of runners drop) I turned it on and zipped to the end on a mission. I felt great, due I’m sure in part to a number of things including proper sleep the night before, being hydrated, good pre-race nutrition, my intra-workout drink during the race and a clear head with a positive attitude. Know what helped? It was like I was the only person out there. Nobody else mattered. I was doing my thing and the other 12,799 people were just…there. People zipped ahead of me early on and I smiled to myself thinking “I’ll see you around mile 5” and I passed people walking from mile 3 onward thinking “I was you during the Finish at the 50 10K”. I learned a lot and it paid off!

There are two things I want to put out there for those of you who don’t know: 1. I ran this race as a part of Team Lanzoni – the 99 Restaurants team. Team Lanzoni is a part of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute running program. 2. I am a Freemason, and so was my grandfather Peter. What do these two things have in common?
 
Last July my grandfather passed away. During his battle with cancer, he was taken care of in the Dana-Farber center at Faulkner in Boston. They took great care of him, were incredibly compassionate, and were there for my family when we needed them. They took the time to make sure they did everything they could and to make sure we were OK when we ran out of options. I wanted to be able to do something for them – help to give someone else a fighting chance. I ran this race for him, and I carried him with me the whole 7.4 miles (or maybe it was him that carried me).

Speaking of Team Lanzoni…
One of the guys in corral 5 with me was an interesting character. His name is Eric Parent, otherwise known as TheSmoothBear

This guy is a part of Team Lanzoni too. He’s got a vlog (video blog, check it out here) where (among other things) he chronicles his running thing. I checked out some of his videos and he’s pretty entertaining. In one of his videos RFTF: Orange Is The New Black he literally talks about the Netflix show OITNB while running. I mean, I know some runners can just have a conversation like its no big deal while they cruise along, but I guess I was kind of expecting that from those toothpicks in running shoes…TheSmoothBear (no offense buddy) is a big dude, not your typical running toothpick, so I was surprised. I know I sure as hell can’t have a conversation like that while running, so kudos to you on that! As far as content – he just kinda tells it like it is, which I like. It’s always good to see a big guy (read beasty, not fat) rockin’ out in fitness world, so more kudos to you on that! Keep on keepin’ on. Hopefully I see this guy again in next year’s Falmouth Road Race. Be sure to check out his vlog and his Facebook – let him know Darrell sent you from “So THIS Is Fitness…”!

But Perhaps The Best Part Of Yesterday…

We may not have run next to each other, but being out there with my fiancee Megan was great! She’s been right there next to me since day 1 of P90X when this whole thing started, and it was a great feeling to be out there with her for our biggest challenge yet. I’m so proud of her and how far she’s come. Despite knee issues (and no uber-knee brace like I have) and a history of debilitating cramps every time we run she achieved her best pace to date and smashed the time she expected to get, coming in at 1:21:48. Sounds like she plans on being a part of Team Lanzoni with me next year for this race, and in the more immediate future…hopefully she’ll be a part of my next undertaking…more on that soon.

Oh, By The Way:
My Playlist did me a lot of good. I find it ironic that Chelsea Dagger never came on through the whole run, but I did have Lift Me Up on for that last hill climb in Falmouth Heights, and let me tell you it felt pretty badass climbing that hill and flying to the finish rockin’ out to that.

So, Overall?
The Falmouth Road Race was an incredible experience, I performed better than I could’ve expected, felt great and I’m looking forward to next year where hopefully I’ll get a lower number and a better corral.
Just think – if I can do this, anyone can do it. Get out there and get to it.

Primed And Ready – Falmouth Road Race (w/ playlist update)

So here we are. Tomorrow is the big day. Race day. I keep hearing that the Falmouth Road Race is the biggest, most popular race in New England second only to the Boston Marathon itself. All things considered, I believe it. I’ve been preparing for this for months, and I feel like I was preparing for it before I even knew I was doing it. I’ve logged over 140 miles training for this which, frankly, isn’t
as much as I would’ve liked. I suppose it was about the best i could do considering I’ve been doing a bodybuilding program for the past 8 weeks…cardio and heavy iron aren’t usually best friends…

Anyway – in preparation for the race I gave special attention to my playlist. Some songs were ditched and some added. This was a painstaking process and believe it or not I did “road test” most of the songs I was considering…kind of the only sure way to know you can run to it.

First – additions:

A couple of these are actually kind of working as Power Songs for me
135 BPM – Slipknot – Psychosocial
140 BPM – La Roux – Bulletproof (Chrispy Dubstep Mix)
145 BPM – Slipknot – Duality
148 BPM – Florida Georgia Line – Cruise
150 BPM – Five Finger Death Punch – Lift Me Up
152 BPM – Five Finger Death Punch – Under And Over It
152 BPM – Five Finger Death Punch – Back For More

Next up – cut from the team:
These songs were just really throwing off my rhythm. Overall they were too slow and I was trying to move too fast to them – ended up off-sync and with a weird stride.
108 BPM – The Ting Tings – Shut Up And Let Me Go
120 BPM – Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines (feat. T.I. and Pharrel)
120 BPM – Cobra Starship – Hot Mess
120 BPM – Karmin – Brokenhearted (R3hab Remix)
125 BPM – Rammstein – Du Hast

Last – tried and failed:
I really wanted to be able to run to these songs, but you just can’t force it. Instead of my running playlist I’ll have to be satisfied with having these on in the car or something. Maybe when I do a cycling playlist I can revisit these (cadence and pace is different)
120 BPM – Robin Thicke ft. T.I. – Blurred Lines (too slow of a beat, couldn’t match the rhythm to my stride)
138 BPM – The Vines – Get Free (beat just wasn’t quite right…almost)
150 BPM – Imagine Dragons – Radioactive (song is kinda slow and draggy. Beat would be good but its a sluggish kinda song – not energetic enough for running)

One thing is for sure – I. Am. Pumped. I feel like I’ve trained and have gotten myself to a point where I can not only finish, but finish strong with a time I can be proud of. I’ve run the course once for practice so I know what to expect and I’ve re-tooled my playlist. Just think – if in one year I can do what I’ve done…anyone can.

At this point, there’s nothing to it but to do it. See you at the finish.