Friday Free-For-All – 07/29/16

Photo Jul 14, 10 05 37 AM

I’m in for some nostalgia this weekend. When I was a kid, we’d spend a week every summer at Crescent Lake in central NH. My dad’s childhood best friend’s dad owned two cabins, and we’d rent one out. Some of my most treasured childhood memories are of time spent there. When I was in my late teens/early 20’s, Mr. Brown sold the rental cabin, keeping his lakefront cabin for personal and family use, so our tradition died, and it was really sad. For old time’s sake, we’ve coordinated with Mr. Brown and his family to rent the cabin for a few days and we’re all going to go together. I can only stay for the weekend due to work obligations, but I’m excited nonetheless for some swimming, fishing, frog and turtle catching, and general family time.

It’s Ladies’ Night tonight! Some of my lady friends and I are having a lady date. We’re getting dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant, El Gato (shrimp tacos in mah belly!) and then seeing Ghost Busters. I’m feeling pretty skeptical about this whole remake situation. As a rule, I hate remakes and reboots, particularly of what I consider to be classic films like Ghost Busters. But I’m trying to look at it from a feminist perspective and support awesome, female-centric comedy, so we’ll see. I do love Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig. And if nothing else, it’s a night out with my girls Stacy and Abbie. Speaking of remakes…

A “Beaches” remake? Really? Don’t get me wrong, I love Idina Menzel just as much as, if not more than, the average girl. I’ve been a fan since I first listened to the Rent original broadway cast soundtrack, waaaaay back before Frozen. But Beaches actually is a classic, and does not require remaking in any way. It starred Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, for crying out loud! I love Idina, but in no way can she replace Bette. I just… Can we PLEASE stop with the remakes? Can we PLEASE come up with some original material??

I have resigned as a BibRave Pro. There was a lot that went into this decision, and I may go further into this in the future, but long story short is that I was feeling overwhelmed by my social media obligations. I enjoyed being part of such a fun group, and I value all of the opportunities I had while representing them, but I definitely needed to step aside and let others who are more excited about social media engagement take my place. Unfortunately, this does mean that I won’t have any more discounts to share with you all, but c’est la vie.

Are you as tired as I am of all the Hollywood remakes and reboots lately?

Product Review: Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra Handheld Bottle

Disclaimer: I received an Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra 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 don’t think I’m the only runner who has a love/hate relationship with handheld bottles. Love, because it can be simpler to carry a small bottle on short-to-middle distance runs than strapping on a big hydration pack. Hate, because they’re often ill-fitting, heavy, or otherwise annoying.

I used to have a handheld bottle, I can’t even remember what brand, but every time I used it, my hands got all crampy from having to clutch it constantly, and I had to re-tighten the strap every few minutes. The nozzle also was one of those ones where you have to pull it open and push it to close, so it wasn’t very fast or easy to get a drink. I threw that bottle away after only a few uses because I was so frustrated with it, and since then, I haven’t had anything to take with me on shorter runs.

When BibRave asked for volunteers to try the Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra, I was a bit wary, but I figured, why not give it a shot? We were heading into summer, and I absolutely wilt when running in the heat, so if nothing else, it would be practical to have one. I chose the 16 oz version because usually that’s all I need for a run up to 10 miles. Unfortunately, I was unable to test this while running as much as I would have liked due to my recent tailbone injury and subsequent two week running break. I did, however, get to take it on one good 4 mile tempo run, and several walks, and I was impressed.

Ergo-Lite Ultra

Features:

  • Jett-Squeeze Cap
  • Reflective detail on pocket
  • Expandable pocket and key clip
  • Thumb-lock sleeve design
  • Neoprene sleeve acts as insulation
  • 3 quick-access gel storage slots

The Good:

The neoprene strap was tight enough to actually hold the bottle to my hand, so I didn’t feel like I had to hold it in a death grip. My natural stance with running is to have my hands completely open and fingers loose, so having to hold onto something messes me up. In fact, it was almost a bit too tight, because I could feel the seam stitching biting into my hand a bit, but after the fact, I realized that the strap is adjustable, so it was an easy fix.

The bottle is also ergonomically shaped; rather than a typical round or oval bottle, the Ergo-Lite Ultra bottle is shaped to fit naturally in your hand, which I think is another reason I don’t have to hold on so hard.

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The expandable pocket on the unit is AWESOME. It actually fits my iPhone 6s in its bulky, Otterbox-style case, and I feel confident that I could also fit extra gels or chews in there if I needed to. There’s a great slip pocket inside the pocket to keep credit cards or ID secure as well.

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I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Jett-Squeeze cap. There’s no pulling or pushing the lid up, no biting or sucking–you just give the bottle a gentle squeeze, and it shoots water into your mouth, or on your head, or wherever you want it to go. I can’t stress enough how much I love this feature. When I’m hot and sweaty, the last thing I want to do is put my sweaty hand on my water bottle cap, or try to pry it open with my teeth. And best of all, it doesn’t leak. You could leave the bottle on the floor for an hour and you wouldn’t have a puddle to clean up when you came back.

The Bad:

My biggest problem with handhelds is unfortunately universal: they’re heavy and they throw me off balance a bit. Whichever arm is carrying the bottle gets tired, so I constantly have to switch off, which is annoying. If I don’t put my phone in the pocket, it’s MUCH lighter and more user-friendly, and I have plenty of shorts/capris with pockets that I can put my phone in instead. While all handhelds have the potential to be annoying, I think the ergonomic design of the Ergo-Lite Ultra makes it much easier to carry than its competitors.

My only complaint specifically for the Ergo-Lite Ultra is that the very first time I took the neoprene sleeve off the bottle, the bottle was discolored. This is probably my own fault for leaving it in my hot car repeatedly, but it still looks kind of gross.

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Conclusion:

I’m really happy with this product. It offers a surprising amount of storage space in a very compact unit, and is much more comfortable and easy to hold onto than other handhelds I’ve tried. I know it’s going to serve me well this summer.

Do you ever run with handheld bottles? Why or why not?

Product Review: Zensah Well Rounded Shorts

Disclaimer: I received a pair of Zensah Well Rounded Shorts to 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!

I’m always looking to expand my collection of running gear. I currently have an entire drawer of my dresser dedicated just to running bottoms and tops (and that doesn’t include sports bras and socks!), but I just can’t stop myself from wanting more. I’m really picky about what I wear, so I’m always looking for the next best thing. When I learned that us lady Pros would have the chance to test the Zensah Well Rounded Shorts, I jumped on it. We’re heading into summer, and I overheat really easily, so having another pair of shorts to add to my arsenal would be great.

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I ordered the Heather Teal color, and it’s lovely. It’s a dark teal, so it hides sweat, but it’s just such a unique and pretty color. According to the size chart, I ordered a medium, and I found that they fit perfectly. The waistband is really wide so it doesn’t dig into my spare tire, which I LOVE. I carry most of my extra weight around my middle and it can be tough to find bottoms that don’t give me muffin top. While the band at the bottom of the leg openings is a bit tighter and causes more of a sausage look than I’d like, I think it’s intended to keep them from riding up (more on that later).

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These shorts have a 4.5 inch inseam, which is quite a bit shorter than I usually wear (7-8 inches is more typical for me), because I have large thighs and I have to worry about chafing. Still, I was willing to give the shorter length a try. The material of these shorts is deliciously soft and comfortable. It’s super lightweight, and the crotch seam is a different shape than other crotch seams, so it doesn’t invade my lady bits. This may be TMI, but I have a history of *ahem* personal chafing from the seams of bottoms, so I was pumped not to have to worry about that.

Admittedly, I wasn’t able to test these out as much as I would have liked before writing this review. They were delivered while I was on my recent vacation, so my window was quite a bit shorter than the other Pros who tested them out. Still, I was able to take them for a few quick spins. The first run was an easy four miler around my neighborhood. While they stayed in place pretty well, it was a warm day, and despite a liberal application of 2Toms Butt Shield anti-chafe goo, I still had a bit of chafing on my inner thighs.

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My second run in them was an easy 5k while I was recovering from my disastrous 20 miler. It was a cooler day, so I threw caution to the wind and didn’t apply any anti-chafe product. I’m not sure what changed, but on this run, the shorts rode right up my thighs until they were tiny little booty shorts, and I felt incredibly self-conscious the whole run. I took a picture to show how much they rode up, but was too embarrassed to post it here–yikes! This was amplified by the fact that I was pretty aggressively cat-called by a strange man during that run. I kept having to tug them down my thighs, and honestly couldn’t wait to get back to my office and change. After that experience, I was reluctant to wear them out of the house again.

The death-blow, though, was realizing that these shorts are NOT opaque. If I wore them with underwear, I could easily see my underwear through them, especially if bending over (like to tie a shoelace or stretch out), and when going commando, you could clearly see my buttcrack. Not pretty. Many of my fellow Pros experienced the same thing, and we reached out to Zensah for some more information. They let us know that they had intentionally developed the Well Rounded short with female athletes who were looking for a lightweight short that was intended to be worn without underwear. That explains why it’s so soft, and why they probably never did an opaque-test.

I will say, however, that while they weren’t my ideal running short, I really enjoyed wearing them around the house as super-soft PJ bottoms, and loved them for at-home yoga sessions as well. I anticipate that they’ll also be great as a lightweight modesty layer under sundresses this summer. Unfortunately, they’re just not the right running short for me. I need the extra length to help me feel more secure and prevent chafing, and I need to be able to have a full range of motion without worrying that some creeper can see through my shorts. However, I know that some of my fellow pros LOVED the shorts, so don’t just take my word for it, check out their reviews too–Janelle, Cassie, JenAmy. I’m hopeful that Zensah will hear our concerns about the lack of opacity in the fabric, and use that to improve future versions of them

If you’re interested in picking up your own pair of Zensah Well Rounded shorts, use code ZENBIB15 for 15% off your purchase (only valid on Well Rounded shorts), and make sure you join our Twitter #BibChat at 9 pm ET on Tuesday May 10. You can learn more about Zensah, the shorts, and maybe win a pair for yourself!

Do you do the “bend over” test in new athletic bottoms to check the opacity of the fabric?

Product Review: XX2i Bermuda1 Sunglasses

Disclaimer: I received a pair of XX2i Bermuda1 Sunglasses to 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!

This isn’t the first pair of sunglasses I’ve had the good fortune to test out as a BibRave Pro, but it is the first pair of “casual” sunglasses I’ve gotten to review. XX2i has a variety of sunglass styles that are generally geared more towards athletes or active people–they have very streamlined shapes that you would expect to see more on a runner or cyclist than just Jill Everygirl walking down the street.

The Bermuda1 is XX2i’s first foray into “casual” eyewear. They are a brand new product that we Pros got to test out before they were even available for purchase. As I’ve said before, I have a tough time with sunglasses. Any time I’ve ever spent more than a few dollars on a pair, I’ve lost or broken them pretty quickly, but any time I buy a pair for $5 at Walmart, they last forever. That’s why I’m so delighted that the Bermuda1’s came with a rigid, padded case. That way, I can just toss them in my bag and go. They also came with a soft drawstring bag and a neck strap.

  
The first thing I noticed is that despite the larger lens size, the frames are still really light. They’re not heavy on my face. I LOVE the tortoise shell design; it’s subtle, but very stylish, and I feel like I could wear them with just about anything. The lenses are polarized, which is a nice bonus. I like the larger lens size a lot, because I feel like my eyes and face get more protection from the sun than from a smaller lens. 

I recently took the Bermuda1s on a spring break adventure with my husband. We drove from Vermont to NJ to DC to NC and then back north the same way. I’ve worn them driving, walking, hiking, and just sitting around having a beer on the porch, and I LOVE them. 

   
   
 Despite being so lightweight, I’ve dropped them a couple of times to no ill effect, so they’re definitely sturdy if you’re a clutz like me. 

  
My only complaint is that when I wear them for a prolonged period of time (think 6-hour car rides 😣), they start to feel a little pinchy on my head. I think the tight fit is intentional, because it means that when I bend over to tie my shoe, they don’t fall off my face. Considering that most people, myself included, generally don’t wear sunglasses that long, it’s a fairly small issue, and if you have a smaller head, you may not have the same issue at all. 

The Bermuda1s are not yet available on the XX2i website, but if you join our Twitter #BibChat on April 26, you’ll be among the first to find out how to purchase them, and you can use code XX2iRocks for 50% off!

Product Review: 2XU Compression Calf Sleeves and Vectr Socks

Disclaimer: I received a pair of 2XU Calf Sleeves and VECTR Socks to 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!

Ah, compression. It’s all the rage. It seems like I can’t turn a corner without someone touting the benefits of compression gear. I am definitely a fan. I’ve written about several experiences with various compression garments, and I’m here today with another review. As a BibRave Pro, I’ve been fortunate to work with 2XU several times, testing their MCS Compression tights and MCS Thermal Compression tights. As you may recall, those were unfortunately misses for me.

This time around, we’re testing out the Race VECTR Socks and Performance Run Calf Sleeves. I LOVE compression socks and sleeves after a long or hard run, so I was excited to put these through their paces.

About the VECTR Socks

vectrThe VECTR socks come in four different colors (for women), and are designed with a special “x:lock”support system to support your ankles and arches. There’s extra cushion in the heel and forefoot, but the rest of the sock is really lightweight, with mesh panels. And of course, the sock offers compression for increased blood flow and faster recovery.

 

About the Performance Run Calf Sleeves

sleevesThese calf sleeves come in LOTS of fun color options, and offer graduated compression (highest compression furthest away from the heart) for better performance and faster recovery. The material is sweat-wicking, antibacterial, and offers UPF 50+ protection from the sun, which is always nice when you’re out logging lots of miles.

 

My Experience With the Socks and Sleeves

Personally, I prefer compression post-run for recovery as opposed to wearing it during a run. I’ve tried many different brands of compression socks, and they always end up making my feet and calves crampy. I gave the 2XU socks and sleeves a fair shot with a couple of short runs, but got the same discomfort I usually get. It’s time to face facts that I’m just not someone who can run with compression on my feet. Oh well.

Photo Mar 04, 12 37 22 PM

For recovery, these items are BOMB.COM. I mostly have all-in-one tall compression socks, which are generally fine. But having a separate sock and calf sleeve allows all kinds of room for mixing and matching. It’s also easier to get them on in two pieces. Instead of having to roll them up like pantyhose, I can just put the socks on, and then slide the sleeves right over them. Easy peasy! I’m also VERY excited to be able to wear the sleeves solo with some sandals during the warmer months, so I can recover without looking like a (total) doofus. They’ll be perfect to rock after the Vermont City Marathon in May.

Pros:

  • Great fit, and stay in place really well
  • Both products work really well together, or on their own
  • The calf sleeves are actually long enough! I’ve tried other brands that don’t quite cover my entire lower leg
  • Compression feels great for recovery–less soreness and fatigue after tough runs
  • I’ve washed them several times (line dry), and they still look great and fit exactly the same as when they were fresh out of the box

Cons:

  • Too much compression for me to comfortably run in; I prefer to wear them for recovery only

The Performance Run Calf Sleeves retail for $39.95 per pair, and the VECTR Socks are $19.95 per pair. When you compare this to other compression socks and sleeves on the market, this is a very competitive price. I think they are well worth the money. And since summer is coming, I will probably be ordering at least one more pair of calf sleeves for warm-weather recovery with free toes.

If you’re interested in trying some socks or sleeves of your own, use code TRAIN15 for 15% off any full-priced item until April 30. If you’d like to read more about the socks and sleeves, check out what my fellow BibRave Pros have to say:

Frank | Mark | Jessica R

Also, don’t miss the 2XU-sponsored Twitter #BibChat on March 22!

Do you like to run with compression socks/sleeves, or do you save compression for recovery?

 

 

 

Product Review: 2XU MCS Thermal Compression Tights

Disclaimer: I received a pair of MCS Thermal Compression Tights to 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!

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As I said in my Buff Hoodie review, I live in Vermont, and Vermont winters are no joke. For the most part, I run pretty warm as a person, but the one thing that always gets me when running in the cold is my legs. I can be sweaty and warm everywhere except my quads and my butt–sorry if that’s TMI, but it’s true. Many a winter run has ended with bright red, semi-frozen legs and buns.

Now that I’m training for a May marathon, cold winter runs are part of my norm, and I’ve been working on getting my winter gear stash up to snuff. Luckily for me, BibRave teamed up with 2XU once again for Pros to test some of their thermal tights. Full disclosure here, all of my fellow Pros received the Hyoptik Reflective Thermal Compression Tights, but due to a shipping SNAFU, I received the MCS Thermal Compression Tights.

I have to admit, I was bummed about the mixup. I do a lot of dusk and dawn runs, when having some extra reflective gear would have been really useful. Also, the Hyoptik tights have a wider waistband, which I would greatly have preferred, as you may recall from my review of the regular MCS Compression Tights.

Disappointment aside, I was still excited to have some new cold weather gear, and I was determined to give the MCS Thermal Tights a fair shake. My first impression upon opening the package was that the thermal tights felt of a much higher quality than the regular tights. Not thick or woolly like I might have expected, but heavier weight. The first thing I did was pull out the drawstring–I’m sorry, but I don’t see much use for a drawstring in tight compression pants. And the next thing I did was to try to stretch out the waistband as much as possible. And then some more. Unfortunately, the waistband on these tights just DOES NOT work for me. The rise isn’t high enough to come up over my stomach, so it cuts into my tummy and hips. I also found length to be an issue–I’m 5’7″ and according to my height and weight measurements I got the correct size, but the tights leave a good couple of inches of ankle exposed, and cut into my lower calf a bit.

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You can see that’s a whole lotta exposed ankle

Other than those two issues, these tights feel AMAZING on my legs, like a soft, warm hug. You can see the Muscle Containment Stamping (hence MCS) right in the material, and it’s designed to support individual muscles and muscle groups for optimal recovery.

I had the opportunity to wear these tights for a couple of runs in different conditions, to really put them through their paces and see how much protection they offered in the extreme Vermont weather. I found that in conditions any colder than about 35 degrees, or if it was windy, these tights weren’t enough on their own, although they would definitely make a great base layer. In middling temps (35-45 degrees), the tights were perfect. My legs were definitely warmer than with other tights I’ve worn, and the compression feels so good on tired legs. The only thing that would keep me from wearing these tights during runs of 6 miles or longer is the waistband issue–it is truly uncomfortable for me, although this might be a personal problem. Many of my fellow Pros have worn the MCS tights with zero issues.

My favorite way to wear them has been for recovery around the house after long runs or on rest days. I wore them as a base layer under snow pants when I knew I’d be standing around watching a Nordic ski meet for hours after an 8 mile run, and I was toasty warm, and my legs felt awesome.

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Features:

  • PWX Flex Thermal Fabric for warmth
  • MCS is targeted to the calf for ultimate muscle protection
  • Graduated compression increases blood circulation for improved recovery and reduced muscle stiffness post exercise
  • Flatlock seams to reduce chafe for greater comfort
  • Powerful Invista LYCRA® for exceptional fit, support and recovery
  • Moisture-wicking material
  • Antibacterial and UPF50+ sun protection

Pros:

  • Just the right amount of compression on legs
  • No chafing
  • Warmer and softer than regular compression tights, though not ideal as a single layer below 35 degrees or in windy conditions
  • High-quality, well-made product

Cons:

  • The key pocket is one of those floppy add-ons attached to the waistband, which I personally don’t like. I’d rather have nothing at all
  • The narrow waistband is too tight/too narrow and cuts into me
  • Not long enough for my legs (I’m 5’7″ and ordered the correct size)

These tights retail for $129.95, which seems expensive, but is actually pretty comparable to what’s on the market. While they aren’t a match made in heaven for me, those of you without quite so big a spare tire around your middle may find that these are just what you’re looking for. As my fellow Pro Angie said, “It’s like the MCS tights and the Hyoptik tights had a baby–the best of both worlds!”

Do you wear compression when you run, or when you recover, or both?

 

 

Product Review: Buff Thermal Hoodie

Disclaimer: I received a Buff Thermal Hoodie to 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!

Winter running in Vermont is no joke. Temperatures fluctuate wildly, there’s precipitation of every kind, there’s wind, there can be weeks on end of below freezing temps… Last winter I completely chickened out and ran on a treadmill until spring. This year, because I’m training for my first marathon, I need to run outside at least sometimes to avoid insanity. When I found out that I’d get to try the Buff Thermal Hoodie as part of being a BibRave Pro, I was pumped, because my stash of winter outdoor running gear is pretty small at the moment.

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What is the Buff Thermal Hoodie?
It’s a cozy Polar fleece hood with a Merino wool Buff attached. The Buff can be worn as a double-layer neck warmer, or you can pull the top up to wear as a face and ear warmer. The hood has drawstrings so you can cinch it down for added protection. Basically, it can be worn as a hood, or a neck warmer/face shield, or both!

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My Experience with the Buff Thermal Hoodie
In colder weather, I prefer to run wearing a long sleeved shirt and a vest, because I overheat really easily. Keeping my core warm and my arms a bit cooler works really well for me. Unfortunately, though, most vests don’t come with hoods, and I personally really like hoods.

Photo Jan 09, 1 36 50 PMI was able to tuck the neck-warmer portion right down inside my vest for seamless wind protection, and I could pull the face portion up and down on the run easily. The hood is super soft, and the Merino wool is breathable when it’s up over my face. I wore it for a few runs, and was pleased to find that the hood is big enough to fit my ponytail in back and still stay up on my head with minimal adjustments–I did have to cinch the drawstring a bit. I think If I wore my hair down at the base of me head, it would have stayed put even without the cinching. Some of my fellow BR Pros were annoyed by the drawstrings bouncing up and down, but I had no problem with it.

I mostly wore the Buff hoodie for walking to and from work. The weather has been jumping around between 50’s and below freezing, so I’ve had a hard time adapting to the cold this year. While 90% of the time, the hood/Buff combo was more than enough to keep my ears warm, there were times when the wind was really blowing that I actually wished the material offered more wind-protection.

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Long story short, if you do ANY kind of winter outdoor activity (skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, running, walking your dogs etc), the Buff thermal hoodie is a versatile piece of gear that can adapt to changing conditions easily. I also love that it’s all one piece, so I can eliminate the hat/scarf combo and just have one thing to remember instead of multiples.

Make sure you join me and my fellow Pros for our weekly Twitter #BibChat tomorrow January 19 at 9 pm EST to chat with Buff USA. If you’d like to read more about the Buff Thermal Hoodie, check out what other Pros have to say:

Jen S. | Angie | Gina | Katherine | Andrew | Amy | Heather | Sarah M | Abbie

What’s your number one, can’t-live-without-it piece of cold weather running gear?