26 Lessons I learned training for and running a Marathon…..

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1. You have to be committed to the long haul. I went back and forth with this marathon from Aug-Oct trying to decide if I could pull off the hours, the runs, the LONG runs, etc. I am a mom and my kids do take time, a lot sometimes. They get sick, they throw fits, they have birthday parties, their school shut down for holidays for heaven’s sake. All these things played into my pre-marathon training freak out when I wrote it all down on a calendar.

2. You are not being selfish to pursue your passion & dream big. I fought this one, a lot, like have a meltdown in the middle of fajitas at Gringos, a lot. There were days I felt selfish doing so much for “me” and being gone long hours on mornings while my kids were home. Then there were the races I’d set up as training and those took even more time. It was a struggle, it was real…but in the end I realized that the example I’m setting for my girls, the example of health and of reaching for your dreams outweighed the time I was gone. Ya’ll….momma guilt didn’t win this one, but it tugged at me a lot.

3. Things will hurt that you didn’t know existed on your body. New things, aches, pains, stabbing pains…all at varying degrees and varying times….they hurt, but they passed. Which leads me to my next point.

4. Yoga. Just do it….your body will thank you. Even if you are just following a video at home, those tight muscles need some stretching.

5. Shoes and clothes. Get fitted for the right pair…and then when you find a pair that works, don’t change just because another pair has cuter colors (I don’t know anyone who did this, but if you do, you may end up with a lot of blisters after a race and then go home and order 3 pairs of the original “boring looking” pair immediately while soaking those blister….just saying that’s what I’ve heard) 🙂 Also, try out ALL your clothes in a long run before the marathon….don’t get caught in clothes that chafe or blister. OUCH!

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6. Try out your fueling strategy (gels, blocks, beans, etc) and do it on shorter runs. I started training for my first half using Sports Beans. They were great and did the job, but the whole chewing and running thing was always dreadful for me. When I knew it was almost time to take more beans I started dreading the next few minutes of trying to breathe, chew, and not choke. So when I decided to switch to gels, I asked around a lot, and got the same answer…everyone is different, try them out for yourself. So I bought a few types and tried them on different runs. (I settle on Huma Chia gels, I love that they are natural and I never have had tummy issues with them..WIN-WIN)

7. Hydrate. This should be obvious, but I started training in the winter and got used to doing 8-9 miles just heading out my door with no water, nothing. Then it got hot and I found myself out running and feeling dizzy, weak, etc. Duh, water! I usually take water with me for anything over 5-6 miles now in the winter. Shoot, in the summer I feel like I need water before mile 1 🙂 Houston gets hot and humid.

8. Don’t look to far ahead in your training plan. I freaked myself out many times, as I came home tired from a 5 miler and looked 14 weeks down the road at a 20 miler and thought NO WAY! Just run the week you are in….your body will adapt. It will, I am living proof.

9. There are some really negative little people who try to live in your head. If you’ve attempted anything in your life, anything, you know them. They are the ones telling you to walk, to slow down. The ones that tell you you’re too slow, too busy, too ______. Fill it in. They are there and they are real. BUT you can squash them, or try to drown them out with music, or prayer, or repeating TRUTH, which for me was the Bible. I had to fight these people a lot, but ultimately they never won. Just stay positive, choose joy and choose to do what you know is truth. They won’t win 🙂

10. When you cross that finish line you become a 1%-er. I love that only 1% of people have ever run a marathon. I’ve read that statistic many places, but whether accurate or not, it’s a pretty small percent and from someone who’s never won anything in her life (or really ever competed for anything in her life) it feels like I’m in a small group of people, a tribe of runners, kind of like getting in a club, and its so fun to run into other runners and rehash stories together.

11. Finishing the marathon you are surrounded by the happiest group of people with battered bodies. I loved walking through the runners only area. So many high fives, congrats, hugs, stories, tears…all by random strangers. We had all just endured together. No matter the pace, no matter the highs or lows, we’d all just finished together and it was a beautiful thing. Shared encounters made us friends.

12. The zombie walk post-marathon is real….and it hurts. Watching people walk away from the finish line, looked like a zombie apocalypse had occurred. If I hadn’t been right there, scooting and shuffling and willing my angry (at me) legs to keep moving, I may have laughed. But my friends did that for me 🙂

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13. Stairs….I just can’t even. It took me days to not scoot on my bottom or walk down backwards….and I’m already looking forward to that feeling again next year. It was like a badge of hard work.

14. Runners are happy people. I love showing up for a race. I am usually alone, but only for 2 seconds, runners are the friendliest, happiest group of people. They will chat your ear off, give you advice, and cheer you on. The endorphins, they are real, y’all.

15. It takes a ton of courage to even show up to the starting line. To get to the start line is half the battle. I have so many wars in my head telling me that I “can’t” it takes a lot of guts to get there some days. But once I’m there….the common goal of everyone together just reminds me that we’re all in different places, different shape, but headed towards the same goal.

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16. Crying and running do not work well together- suck it up, Jackie. About mile 23, when I was hurting, ready to be done and dredging through the “wall” a random stranger yelled out, “You look so good & so strong Jackie.” I lost it, the ugly cry, and could hardly breathe, run and cry. It was rough there, but I pushed through…and fought tears the last few miles so many times, but managed to keep moving forward.

17. Knowing there are people looking for you, cheering for you on the course and then at the finish line is priceless…it gives you that extra oomph when you don’t have any oomph left. I had an AMAZING group of my people who found me along the race on several occasions and surprised me (truly- I was shocked when I saw them) They hollered, held signs, high-five, hugged and gave me the BIGGEST boost to keep going. They were also at the finish line when I got there…..and my parents and sister and family were there too! It was so awesome to hear your name called when you are running near the end. I loved that I had people on both sides of the road cheering me down the chute. It truly made a WORLD of difference, knowing they were there.

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18. I ran for a Reason, for the Ronald McDonald House, and I’d do it all over. When I signed up to run the marathon, I wanted to do it for something bigger than myself. So I chose to run for the Ronald McDonald House of Houston and it was a great experience. I loved getting to be a part of the team, meet RMH families and patients and just be a help to such a great organization.

19. I learned what it feels like to hurt and not give up. Running is hard. I’m not going to lie. Yes, I have run a marathon, and running is still hard. I look around at others while running and think, geez, it must be nice to be able to run and breathe and not feel like you’re dying…and then I talk to them and they say the same thing. No matter the amount of experience, it’s still effort. Well worth it, wouldn’t give it up effort, but effort, HARD WORK, nonetheless. I hurt on 20 milers, I hurt on 5 milers some days….but I still got out there and ran EVERY run. I never gave up. Not to toot my own horn….but just saying…that was a lot of miles 🙂

20. Those medals on my wall…daily reminders of the miracle I am, the hard work I committed to, and the BIG God I serve. Some people may walk into my workout room and think I’m vain. The walls are covered in race pictures, in medals, in motivational sayings…I say to them, judge away. With each of those pictures, each of those medals comes hard work. Every one earned, NEVER given. Each medal, each picture reminds me that I am still breathing, still have a beating heart, functional legs, and an able body- a gift from a loving God who wasn’t (and isn’t) done with me yet. I am a miracle…I see it in each picture, each smile through the pain and the tough stuff. I am a survivor, an overcomer….who was given a grace gift from God and who will use my passion He gave me to bring Him glory in every way possible. I see healing, I see redemption, I see second chances when I never deserved a first. He held onto me and never dropped me all those years…He sustained when I didn’t know I was drowning. He did all that….and He allows me each breath I have today. THAT is why those medals and pictures hang on my wall…its not about me, it reminds me of HIM.

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21. You get to celebrate life. Celebrate triumphs, overcoming obstacles and so much more. Yes and Yes….its celebrations all around. We do hard things…..and in the hard stuff so much beauty is born.

My quick race recap in 4 sections:

22. Miles 1-13. Yay….we are running, look at all the happy people. Happy, happy, happy!! Smile, high 5’s to all the spectators. Woo hoo we’re running a marathon. (Mile 8 the half marathoners turn off and the Full keep going) Yay….my people, I see my people!! Oh shoot, this just got real, we’re in this to the end now. This is it, the people in costume, laughing it up, they are gone. Only 13.1 more to go, we’ve got this. Shoot, is that a blister I feel? I’ve never had a blister. Which socks did I grab, oh man, that’s going to be bad. Oh well…we’re running a marathon woo hoo!!

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23. Miles 14-21. Okay, we are doing this…we’re still moving, right?!? Right legs? We’ve got this….yay for happy spectators and funny signs. Keep feeding off the crowd…we’re getting tired here. Just get to 20, you’ve run 20 before, you can do this…then its only 6 more miles. You can run 6 more miles, that’s just your loop around the neighborhood.

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24. Miles 21-24. Ouch, Ouch, Ouch…what is that feeling? Where are my legs and who replaced them with these stiff, shuffling cement blocks. Why oh why are aid stations a WHOLE 1.5 miles apart….don’t they know we need aid here? Really? This hurts, please don’t tell me we’re almost there. Don’t you know how far 5 miles is?? Have you ever run 5 miles? Oh port o potty, can I just stay here and sit in your awesomeness for the rest of the day, surely no one will notice. Why do I have to get up. Oh, thank you little boy with candy…I don’t like chewing and running, but hey, anything to give me an excuse to slow down for a minute, I’ll take ANYTHING you are handing out at this point. Please make the finish line come quickly.

25. Miles 25-26.2. Only 1.2 miles….I can do that….lets go. Some super power overcomes me and I am sprinting, no flying, towards the finish line (then I look at my Garmin and I’ve barely picked up the pace…wow, I could have swore I was keeping pace with the Kenyans) Then it comes, I hear the crowds…..they are growing, growing….I know it must be near. RIGHT?!? Wait, why did you people start saying I’m almost there….do YOU know how long .2 of a mile is. FOREVER!! Then I see my people, then I see the finish line, I manage to raise my hands up (I barely have any body awareness at this point so I could only imagine what I look like and I DON’T EVEN CARE!!) It’s right there……and stop the Garmin. I AM DONE!!!

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26. The finish line is a beautiful thing. Yes, yes it is….heaving breath, heavy legs….medal around my neck. Yes ma’am….I AM A MARATHONER.

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.2. Be Brave. God created me for something so much bigger than my own mind can fathom. I love seeing how He uses my passions to tell my story. How He’s used running to change me, inside and out, to heal, to overcome and to teach me to be brave. You never know if you can do it if you don’t try.

 

So I ran 26.2 miles…..

I am in the process of writing my recap of my first marathon…..but until I can wrap my brain around the feelings and get them into words on the page, I’ll leave you with this! Yes….I RAN a MARATHON!!!

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Check back in the next day or two for the full update. Ya’ll, putting this into words is hard. I’m still tear up just writing it. Can’t wait to share it with you.

-Jackie, the marathoner 🙂

Runners Holiday Wish List:

As the holidays are almost here, I thought I’d make a quick list for those who are looking to buy a gift for their special runner/athlete in their life 🙂 I’ve come across some great products that I think every single runner should own.

Here’s my top must have running gifts this Christmas:

1) A FlipBelt :
Y’all I have used so many different types of belts and this one, for one, stays put when I run. Plus, it has so much space to store things. My favorite part is flip the belt (hence the name) and everything is locked in safe…no losing things out of the pockets. These are great. Your runner will thank you!

** I have special discount codes for 33% off a flip belt. Comment below with your email address and I’ll send you one. Limited number, so don’t wait! OR use code Sweat10 for 10% off your whole purchase…but 33% is better 🙂

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2) Huma Chia Gel:
I finally found a gel that is light on my stomach for those long runs, but that gives me the carbs/boost that I need while out on a run. The consistency is smooth and goes down so easy and the tastes are great. You won’t regret this one!

3) Feetures Socks:
I am logging a ton of miles….and my feet are taking a pounding. But these socks are AMAZING. They hug my feet, prevent blisters and keep my feet cool in the summer and warm in the winter. LOVE THESE.

4) Garmin 220 Watch:
This is so helpful with my training. To be able to see my pace/time/distance all on one screen is awesome. I had the Forerunner 10 before this and am so glad I upgraded. Love the longer battery life as well!

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Running the Race….physically and spiritually

There’s no hiding that I am a Christian, God is first and foremost in my life, and I make no apologies for that. Next comes my family and after that comes time for things I enjoy, including my running. I’m in a Bible study right now and we’re studying 2 Timothy. In 2 Timothy Paul writes to Timothy about being prepared, as an athlete is prepared, and that an athlete does not “win” unless he competes according to the rules.

When we got to this point in the study we were talking about what attributes make up an athlete. Our teacher said that when she was doing this lesson, she thought of me, and my new endeavor in running and training as an athlete. A what?!? I thought, I’m not an athlete….and then the whole class started throwing out attributes of an athlete on the board and talking about what makes up an athlete.

Here’s a short list of words that were thrown out there: dedicated, passionate, driven, committed, determined, disciplined, patient, persistent, self-controlled, etc., etc. I sat there and listened and thought about the short running journey I have embarked on, coming up on a year in late November. I was almost in tears, because while I’ve never considered myself an athlete, I identified with every one of those words in terms of my running and in terms of my life.

For me running has not come easy. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but it takes all I have at each new endeavor. I’m not a natural born athlete, anyone who knows me can attest to that. I’m probably safer wrapped in bubble wrap, then let loose on a concrete road in shorts, graceful isn’t an attribute I’ve ever claimed, if you know what I mean. But once I began running, something in me desired to keep going, even with it being tough, more often than not. I’ve realized so much about myself and about life when I’m running.

Physically running is so very much like running the race of life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out there running in a race and everything in my mind, my body, my whole being wants to just give up. It’s hard, my legs ache, my lungs burn, I’m tired.

This happened to me yesterday at my race. From the first step I seemed to have a terrible ache in my right side, nothing made it go away and throughout the race it would get worse (to the point of stopping and curling over in pain) and then gradually better, but it never went away. I had 13.1 miles ahead of me and by mile 3 I was hurting so much I had no idea how I could possibly finish the race. At one point I ran right past my car, I could see it and for a split second I thought, I’ll just jump in my car and leave, no one will care. (I didn’t.) and I pressed on….step by step, mile by mile, walking for 10-20 seconds when the pain got too great, until it would let up, then running again. It hurt the whole time. I kept saying, just keep going, you’ll see the next mile marker, just focus on the mile you are in. I prayed, I almost cried, I just kept running….always looking for the next mile marker.

When we hit mile 8, we turned around to run back into downtown Houston and the sun was blinding (forgot the sunglasses.) I couldn’t see anything in front of me. I couldn’t look up, I had to stare at the ground in front my feet and just focus on the steps, I missed mile markers 9, 10, and 11 because the sun was so strong. When we got to mile 12 all I could think was…..so soon that finish line will be in sight, no matter how much it hurts, its so close, just one foot in front of the other, I couldn’t think of anything else. Then it came, I could hear the music and the cheers before I could see the finish chute. I didn’t have anyone waiting at the end to say good job, but at that point it didn’t matter, I ran to finish and finish strong. I did…and I am happy to say I am SO glad that race is over (and my side is still sore today- no idea what’s with that.) 😦

Running that (not so great) race yesterday made me think of life in general as I was running, of those things that come at us in the midst of the “race” of life and hurt so bad we just want to stop. We can’t see the finish line, we can’t see the next mile marker, we are blinded and in the dark. I have been there before, if we are honest with ourselves, we all have. This life is hard, without the hope in Jesus I don’t know how people make it.

If you are in a relationship with Christ, we are told that there will be trials and tribulations, but that we will always be given a way out. But that doesn’t mean we don’t suffer. Our society today teaches that suffering is bad, and that if you are suffering its because you have done something wrong. I’m not going to pretend that I like suffering, who would say that, but I do know that some of my most amazing growth as a person and as child of God has come in times of suffering. I am who I am because I have walked in the darkness. Because I have been there, acquainted with the darkness, I intimately know the light. I stay acquainted with my suffering because of the lessons it has taught me, it has became ingrained in the fibers of who I am. While my human nature is to avoid hurting, I know that suffering produces a result in me that, while its painful to get there, its a gift to me in the end. Just like running that race that hurts to get through, when you cross the finish line, you know you have done well and you take with you the lessons of that run, that trial, and grow from them.

We each have our own race (good and bad ones,) our own darkness and our own struggles. I guess I write all this to say that if you are there, in the dark, running that hard race and that pain keeps hitting you in the side, hang on….the next mile marker is just ahead, and each leads you to the finish line. When you get there, it will be worth it…you may not see it right away, but you will be better, stronger and more capable the next time.

PS- on a side not, I read today that it takes your body 2 weeks to reap the physical benefits of a hard workout. Isn’t that just life….we get to that finish line, but the results take time to come back. Its not instantaneous like we wish…all good things come with waiting. 🙂

Hang in there wherever you are today. If you are in the dark…keep one foot in front of the other, you’ll get there. And if that isn’t you today, join hands with someone who is…no one needs to walk the hard stuff alone, God created us to be in community, to help one another as we struggle, no one is exempt.

Maybe a Marathon?

So I commented on my Facebook page awhile back with this post:

“You know that place where, for a whole variety of reasons, you come to the realization that a marathon isn’t in your best interest in this season. Yeah, I’m there. After much struggle and internal strife I made the decision to switch to the half for this January and while a little sad, I am also al ot relieved. There are many more times to run a marathon. My kids are only little once, only high maintenance once (wait, who are we kidding?!?) and I know that my marathon debut is still on the horizon…..just maybe not this January. I’m at peace with this decision….and still excited for the several races I have between now and then. I’ll be the best where I am and at what I’m doing, that’s all I can ask for.”

That’s where I was then….writing out the 18 week training protocol for the marathon plan I had chosen…and I felt defeated. The 6 days a week of running would work if I didn’t have kids, or if I had kids and had a husband who worked a normal 40 hour week, or if I had a nanny. 🙂 I am not complaining at all, I wouldn’t trade where I am, staying at home with my girls for anything. My husband is an amazing provider and in this season of our life has a crazy work schedule with unpredictable hours and sporadic travel involved. I am fine with all this…it was just when I put pen to paper and saw the hours and the miles that training for a marathon would require, I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t want to put in just what I could and end up injured, or sacrifice my role as mom and wife when this is a choice. So I made the decision to change to the half which required much less miles and hours of my life for the next 4 months.
Well that was fine and good, except I couldn’t convince my heart to let go of the dream of running the Houston Marathon this January. So I went online and started researching again. Then I came across Hal Higdon’s Marathon training plans that only call for 4 days of running each week. (This is the same basic plan I used to complete my first half marathon in February of this year.) I started feeling hopeful and then I sat down with my calendar from Oct-Jan again and plotted out this training plan. I felt encouraged, hopeful even. I saw that I could move around a few things and do all my time intensive runs while my kids are in school, which only left a short run that could be done early before they are up on Saturdays….and lo and behold I could be both mom and runner 🙂 My heart was happy. BUT….I didn’t want to set myself up for failure so I made a deal with myself and that is where I am today. Here’s my current plan…
I am going to continue on with training for the full marathon using the new plan I found. When I get to December (which is where the 18 & 20 mile training runs take place) I will see how those runs go, see how I feel at that point. I have until December 31 to switch to the half, so I think that if I can get through those two BIG runs, I’ll know if I am prepared to run the marathon on this plan, or if I should switch to the half. My heart is in the full…but I am going to be smart and keep my priorities (mainly my husband, children, and health) at the forefront and continue on as far as I can make it…maybe all 26.2 miles. But if not, there is next year 🙂 I will do it and that makes me feel better.
So thats where I sit for now….I’ve completed the first three weeks of training and am in week 4 as we speak. Anxiously awaiting Houston’s weather to consistently stay cool so I can enjoy the runs as much as I did this weekend when the temps dropped. Come on FALL!! 🙂

Running for the Ronald McDonald House-Houston

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I have signed up to run my 1st official FULL marathon! 26.2 miles of Houston roads I am going to train to run in January 2015. I decided to sign up to run for a charity to give special meaning to my 26.2 mile journey and to run for someone other than myself.
I chose to run for the Ronald McDonald House of Houston. An organization that has helped me at times and one that is dear to my heart. I believe in what they do and how they help so many families, mine included.

I am not required to raise money. I CHOOSE to for this great organization and ask that if you would like, please help me in reaching my goals.

I hope you will sponsor my efforts, so together, we can make a difference. Please consider a donation of $35 or $70, $100 or more. Your donation is tax-deductible and will make a tremendous impact.

Please visit the link below to donate to this cause:
http://www.ChevronHoustonMarathon.com/Donate/PersonalPage.cfm?MID=12000&CID=520

Every donation – large or small – brings me one step closer to reaching my goals. One step closer to helping another family as they walk through unknown battles with their loved ones.
I thank you for each and every dollar….it fuels my passion for running!!

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ENERGYbits Review #fueledbybits

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Twitter is a great resource. The amazing people at ENERGYbits reached out to me and offered me a chance to try their products. To be honest, I had heard and read of many people using these amazing bits, as they all claimed, but did not really know much about them. They were kind enough to send me some information in email, as well as a wealth of information via mail, along with a travel tin full of energy bits to try. I tried my bits in the morning before my long run…normally I eat a banana and a bowl of oatmeal about 2 hours before my run, then about 30 minutes before I head out I’ll grab about a half of a protein bar for a last minute shot of carbs. For this run I ate my usual oatmeal/banana combo, but I subbed the bits for my protein bar. I headed out to run feeling good….run went as usual. I can’t say I felt any different running, but I did have sustained energy throughout the 12 miles, could be the bits, could be just a good run. The biggest thing I noticed was that when my run was done, once I was home and showered, I’m usually wiped out, just want to take a nap kind of tired, but I felt great. I stretched, showered, and headed out to the grocery store and ran errands. Then a few hours later I was still feeling great as I headed to spin class that night. Coincidence? Possibly, but I really think the bits may have something to do with just a great steady feeling of sustained energy throughout the day. I felt good enough that I was convinced to buy more bits…if this is the way they make me feel, which natural and whole food ingredients, sign me up. I am always looking for whole food ways to fuel my body. I will grab for a bar if I have to have a quick snack/food source, but I’d prefer to not have the extra added “junk” that many bars contain. I want my body to be fueled as naturally as possible and that is why I am going to continue to try ENERGYbits as a source of fuel.

Here is a short summary that Jonathan sent me of the product:

ENERGYbits is a new Boston based sports nutrition company. Our “bits” are rapidly becoming the fuel of choice for athletes and people looking to lead active lifestyles. ENERGYbits have the highest concentration of protein in the world and deliver a steady stream of energy, all naturally and all without sugar, caffeine, chemicals or stomach distress. Even better, ENERGYbits are the only protein in the world that also contain natural antioxidants and Omega 3 which reduce muscle inflammation, iron which prevents fatigue, chlorophyll which builds the immune system and electrolytes which replenish mineral imbalances, all for just one calorie per tab. No other protein offers all this.

ENERGYbits are all natural too, because they are a food, not a supplement. They have just one ingredient – 100% organically grown spirulina algae. Algae has been used by Olympic athletes for over 50 years, but is still virtually unknown in the USA and Canada. We are the first company to bring algae to national attention as a high protein, high performance snack food for athletes and active consumers.”

Here is a chart they sent me for comparison:

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ENERGYbits are only available at ENERGYbits.com, and Jonathan (their Community Manager) has shared with me that he’d be happy to connect anyone with a current ambassador to share a discount on a bag of bits, or more info on their sample program – you can email him at jlevitt@energybits.com