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?

Roller Coaster Race Recap Part 2: The Ride

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Roller Coaster Race Lake George 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!

Welcome to part 2 of my Roller Coaster Race recap, where I talk about the “ride” race. You can read Part 1 here.

What Is It?
In addition to the 5k and 10k running races, there was also the option to ride a 5k distance (16,405 feet) worth of roller coasters. They had a handy chart (see below) showing how long each coaster was, and each participant received a wrist band with sections for the different coasters. After each ride, you’d get a hole punch to prove you rode it, and at the end of the day, you checked in at the race tent, where they calculated your overall distance, and awarded you with a medal.

Roller Coaster
Distance (ft) Minimum Height (in)
Alpine Bobsled 1,490 42
Flashback 1,870 48
Comet 4,197 48
Steamin’ Demon 1,565 48
Frankie’s Mine Train 787 42 (none w/ adult)
Canyon Blaster 2,036 48 (42 w/ adult)

How Did it Go?
To be honest, I feel like there were a lot of things that sounded good in theory, but in practice, didn’t work out so well. Part of the hype for the event is that those participating would “Enjoy early access to The Great Escape and select rides, before the park opens to the public!” Now, I assumed, and I don’t think I was the only one, that this “early access” would allow us to get a head start on our roller coaster mileage before the park opened to the general public. I know that I shouldn’t assume, but here’s what actually happened:

After waiting around in the sun until 9:30, we were allowed through security and into the park. Several hundred of us streamed in, only to find that we had been relegated to a fraction of the park, with only one operational set of restrooms per gender, no food vendors, and only three operating rides. The bathrooms were jam-packed with stinky runners trying to change out of their sweaty clothes, and there was only one roller coaster available, The Flashback (formerly the Boomerang), which I know for a fact gives me motion sickness because it goes backwards. I was immediately irritated, especially because by this point, I was HANGRY due to the less-than-stellar post-race food offerings.

I ended up just sitting on a bench and waiting until 10 am, when the park was officially open, and then getting changed and making a beeline for the closest coaster, The Canyon Blaster. I’d never ridden it before, and it was actually a lot of fun. There was almost zero wait because it was so early in the day, and I thought about getting in line to get right back on, but I decided to hop on the Steamin’ Demon since it was right next door. They’re doing this new Virtual Reality experience, which sounds cool, but in reality means it takes about 5 times longer to load and unload everyone, because they have to get the headsets on and off. I opted not to do the VR experience, and I’m glad. I didn’t like this coaster much at all–I was jostled hard and my head bounced back and forth between the shoulder guards a lot, giving me a headache that would stick around all day.

At this point, I headed toward the Comet, for several reasons; firstly, it’s the longest coaster in the park, and only four rides on it would get me enough mileage to get my medal, and secondly, it’s my favorite roller coaster EVER. As I made my way to the Comet, I kept my eyes peeled for a food vendor, because as previously  mentioned, I was starving. As I walked, I was disappointed time and time again by signs stating “Open Daily at 11.” It was only 10:20. Strike one. I passed the Alpine Bobsled, my second favorite coaster, and saw a sign saying it wouldn’t be open until 11. Strike two. I got to the Comet only to find that it was closed, and the attendant didn’t know when or if it would be open that day. Strike three. I was full-on pissed.

Photo Jul 16, 12 54 17 PM

I wanted to steal this lion’s beer.

I wandered for the next 40 minutes, stewing in my hanger and frustration. Eventually, 11 am rolled around and I was able to get my hands on an $8 slice of pizza. Yes, you read that right. $8 for a greasy, crappy slice of pizza. But it was better than nothing. Feeling somewhat better, I headed back to where I’d come from and got in line for the Alpine Bobsled. I waited at least 40 minutes in line, in the blazing sun, feeling more and more discouraged as time went on. If the waits were all like this, there was no way I’d have the patience or the staying power to finish the 5k. My head was aching and I could tell I was dehydrated and still very hungry.

After the Bobsled, I decided to try my luck back over at the Canyon Blaster again, since the lines the first time around had been so short. I waited 30 minutes in line, and decided I’d had enough. I’d take a final swing by the Comet to see if by some miracle it was open, and if it wasn’t, I was going home, regardless of whether or not I’d finished the 5k. As luck would have it, the Comet WAS open, and had ridiculously short lines, likely because it’s way in the back of the park, behind the water park. I rode the Comet twice in rapid succession, but after the second time my head hurt so badly I knew that going again would be a really bad idea. I decided to call it quits. I didn’t think I had quite enough distance to qualify for the Ride medal, but I hoped the race officials would take pity on me. (After going back and doing the math, I was 884 feet short).

Photo Jul 16, 1 33 05 PM

That’s the Comet in the background

Now here is where I got really upset. In order to check in with the Roller Coaster Race officials, I had to completely exit the park. No big deal, as I was planning to leave anyway. I got outside and tried to walk over to the table that I could clearly see not 20 yards away, but was stopped by a security guard telling me I couldn’t go that way. I asked how I was supposed to check in with the race table, and he told me I’d have to go through security again. I’d have to wait in line and go through a metal detector again when I was hot, dehydrated, and quite frankly, OVER IT. I shook my head in disbelief and left without going to the race table. I’m sorry, but nobody should have to go back through security just to get their damn medal. I had literally just exited the park that I had already gone through security to get access to, and I couldn’t just walk over to the table that was RIGHT FREAKING THERE.

I will be the first to admit that I did a lot wrong. I didn’t eat enough of the post-race fare because I assumed I could get food inside the park. I didn’t drink enough water and got dehydrated. I assumed that early access to the park meant early access to the coasters. But the park and the race did some stuff wrong too. When you’ve got hungry runners, you need to make sure they get fed, or at least make sure they have access to food. When you’ve got “racers” trying to get a certain number of rides in, you need to make sure that all of your coasters are operational, and maybe make it easier for them to get in the required number of rides before lines get out of control. And you need to make access to race officials easy. That table should either have been inside the park, or outside the security checkpoint.

All that being said, I would consider doing this race again, especially knowing what I know now. As they say, hindsight is 20/20. If I had brought plenty of my own water and snacks, the day certainly would have been a lot more pleasant. And I also would have just ridden the Canyon Blaster as many times in a row as I could while the lines were so short, which would have prevented a lot of me feeling pissy about wait times and being able to ride enough coasters before I wanted to go home.

Did you ever make an assumption about a race that turned out to be incorrect? How did you handle it?

 

 

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.

Photo Jun 08, 12 49 37 PM

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.

Photo Jun 23, 1 03 33 PM

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.

Photo Jun 23, 1 21 38 PM

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.

Photo Apr 25, 12 38 42 PM

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).

Photo Apr 27, 7 28 36 AM

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.

Photo Apr 29, 5 41 13 PM

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: Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Wireless Headphones

Disclaimer: I received a set of Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Wireless Headphones 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 was excited to try these headphones out because one of the main reasons I rarely listen to music while running is due to safety concerns. Logically, I know that the odds of a knife-wielding psycho popping onto the bike path behind me are small, but the fear is still real. Also, I’m often running in high traffic areas, crossing major intersections, or just needing to effectively share the path with other runners, pedestrians, and cyclists. It can be hard to respond safely and appropriately if you can’t hear the world around you.

Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones use bone-conduction technology. This means that-wait for it-there’s nothing in your ear. That’s right. No hard, annoying, under- or over-sized piece of plastic wedged in your ear canal. This allows you to hear ambient sounds like cars, dogs, or knife-wielding psychos (I’m telling you, the fear is REAL. Too many horror movies I guess…) while still hearing your jams.

Aftershokz

 

Aftershokz are water-resistant, and offer LeakSlayer (TM) technology to make sure that the sound from the headphones doesn’t “leak” out to those around you. This tech is pretty magical. If I put the headphones on my face at a normal, completely audible volume level, and then take them off and hold them in my hands, I can barely tell that sound is coming out at all!

Photo Mar 18, 11 42 06 AM

With the headphones, you get a semi-rigid, padded case, little winged fit adjuster pieces (which I fortunately didn’t need), a mini USB charging cable, and some reusable ear plugs in a little plastic case. That way, if you are in a situation where you don’t need to hear ambient sound (think air travel), you can block it out with the plugs. It all zips together nicely in the case, and I can just throw it in my backpack or gym bag when I’m on the go.

Photo Apr 14, 12 02 46 PM

Set up was super easy–I charged them fully first, and was paired up with my phone and listening to my audiobook in a matter of minutes. When you power them up, you get a little “Welcome to Trekz Titanium” message, and then they tell you whether or not they have connected to your Bluetooth device. The connection is almost always immediate, and the signal is usually plenty strong, even if I walk a few feet away from my phone. There is a “multipurpose” button on one side that is used for stopping or starting playback, skipping songs, or answering/hanging up phone calls, and buttons for volume up and volume down. I found that the multipurpose button was a bit difficult to push; I really had to hold the headphones while pushing to avoid pushing them into my head.

These headphones are SO COMFORTABLE. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that no matter how well earbuds fit, after a while, having something in your ear is just plain uncomfortable. With these, there’s nothing there! I was worried about getting a headache due to the Trekz using gentle pressure to stay in place, but I’ve had them on for hours at a time and never gotten a headache.

The thing to keep in mind with the Trekz Titanium headphones is that you are meant to hear ambient sound. They are intended to offer you a safe way to both listen to music or whatever you want, and still hear any potential safety threats. Due to this design, it can be difficult to hear what you have playing over the headphones if you run through/past a noisy area. I experienced this multiple times when running on a busy road, or near a moving train. For me, this isn’t a super big deal. You just need to understand that that’s the way the Trekz are designed; it’s intentional.

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I only have a few small complaints about these headphones. Number one is that the loop that goes around the back of my head hangs down a bit low, and can sometimes bump into my hydration pack. I need to play more with how I wear them and possibly involve the little plastic wings to see if I can eliminate that issue. Otherwise, I almost don’t even feel them. Next, wearing the headphones plus a hat plus sunglasses can be a bit tricky, but usually I can manage without any discomfort, and I feel that this would be a problem with any over-the-ear headphone setup. Lastly, I wish the headphones gave an automatic battery update upon power-up. I’ve had other Bluetooth headphones that did that, and it helps to manage battery life better. You have to push the multi-purpose button in a special way to get a battery update on these, which I find annoying.

The only aspect of these headphones I didn’t have a chance to test was accepting or making phone calls, but based on the sound quality while listening to music, I have no doubt that the call quality and volume would be great.

On the whole, these are excellent headphones, especially if you like to run outside while listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks. They retail for $129.99, which is pretty average for high-quality Bluetooth headphones. If you’re interested in picking up a pair for yourself, you can use the code BIBRAVE20 for 20% off!

Aftershokz will be sponsoring our Twitter #BibChat on Tuesday, April 19, so don’t miss it–our sponsors usually run a giveaway!

You can also read more about the Trekz Titanium headphones by checking out reviews by my fellow BibRave Pros:

Heather

Do you listen to music/podcasts/audiobooks while you run? Why or why not?

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.

Photo Jan 25, 6 02 18 PM

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.

Photo Jan 30, 10 01 33 AM

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.

Photo Jan 04, 10 54 04 AM

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?

Product Review: OrangeMud Hydraquiver Vestpack

Disclaimer: I received an OrangeMud Hydraquiver Vestpack 1 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!

When I made the commitment to running my first marathon in 2016, I knew I was going to need a new hydration solution for long training runs. I have been using a Fitletic hydration belt for a while, but it wasn’t ideal. I could only carry 16 oz of water at a time, and the pouch was barely big enough to fit my fuel, let alone my fuel, phone, keys, chapstick etc. I decided I would save up and treat myself to an OrangeMud pack for Christmas.

Lo and behold, Christmas came early when BibRave teamed up with OrangeMud yet again to let select Pros test and review the Hydraquiver Vestpack 1. It’s called the VP 1 because it holds one 25 oz bottle; there is also the VP 2 which has two bottles.

I had the opportunity to take the VP 1 on two test runs, both of which were about 5 miles long. My first impression was: “Hooray, space!” The two stretchy cinch pockets on the front of the pack are more than large enough to accommodate my iPhone 6s in its bulky Otterbox-style case, and one of them has a key clip as well.

There are two more pockets on the straps that are oriented so that the opening faces downward, making access very easy. These pockets are great for additional fuel, chapstick, or other small bits and pieces. And then there are TWO MORE velcro-closure slide pockets on the back, on either side of the bottle. These aren’t quite as roomy, but would still be great for things you don’t need to access on the run, like cash or your ID.

Photo Dec 01, 8 29 22 AM

The pack is very lightweight, and made of breathable mesh, to help keep you cool. The waterbottle holster height is adjustable, so you can raise or lower the bottle to make it easier for you to grab, or to use a bottle other than the OM bottle which might be a different size.

My two biggest concerns about this pack were:

  1. Will this thing chafe the crap out of me if I wear a tank top?
  2. Will getting the water bottle in and out of the holster be awkward?

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to test worry number 1 yet. I didn’t have an opportunity to run with it in warmer weather when I could safely and comfortably wear a tank top. I am still very nervous about this, as chafing is a huge concern for me anyway, and the pack fits very close around my chest and under my arms. I will update later once I have a chance to test this.

Regarding accessing the bottle, there was definitely an adjustment period, but after the first few tries, it was just as easy to reach up behind my head to grab or re-holster the bottle as it is to reach down for a bottle at my waist, and way less tiring than carrying a handheld bottle.

I also had some difficulty adjusting the straps properly the first few times because as we have discussed ad nauseum, I am a Busty Runner. The chest strap tends to slide up and over my chest, especially when I’m wearing any kind of slippery tech material, so I end up with a bit more bounce than someone else might. I need to work on getting the side straps right so that the chest strap is less important. That being said, I would ALWAYS rather wear the VP than my stupid hydration belt. It’s more comfortable (while wearing long sleeves, anyway), and offers much more in the way of storage.

It sits high enough on my shoulders that it hardly feels like I’m wearing anything at all, and even with 25 oz of water, phone, keys, gloves, fuel, and chapstick, I didn’t feel any more fatigue than I would after a 5 mile run without all that gear.

Photo Dec 19, 9 46 45 AM

Overall, I’m REALLY pleased with the Vestpack 1, and think it will be critical for my long training runs this spring. In Vermont winters, it’s incredibly important to have enough gear for the brutal cold and bi-polar weather patterns, and with the Vestpack, I feel like I can carry all the gear I need and still keep proper running form.

If you are interested in trying an OrangeMud Vestpack of your own, you can use the code “BIBRAVE” for 15% off your order. If you’re interested in reading more about the Vestpack 1, check out these reviews by my fellow Pros:

Amy | Angie | Brad | Jessica B

 

 

Product Review: Rudy Project Rydon Carbonium

Disclaimer: I received a pair of Rudy Project Rydon Carbonium 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!

For me, sunglasses are a necessity for running, especially in the summer. I hate squinting in the sun. I hate having to worry about bugs in my eyes. And I like that when I’m wearing sunglasses, no one can see the pain in my eyes as I suffer through a 10 mile run. Just kidding! No, but really, it’s nice not to have to worry about what my eyes are saying when I’m tired and hungry and just ready to be done. I can just smile and wave at other passers-by and they never know that I’m dying inside.

Unfortunately, I have a really bad track record with sunglasses. I lose them. I break them. I scratch them. I also have high cheekbones, so many times, sunglasses are too large, sit on my cheeks, and fog up like crazy when I get sweaty. Or, they’re too tight around my head and give me headaches.

When I found out I’d been selected to try the Rudy Project Rydons, I was VERY excited. Over the summer I had purchased a nice, moderately expensive pair of sunglasses, and broken them within a month. After that, I bought a cheesy pair of $10 specials from Walmart, which were not ideal, but the price was right. I had never had a really “nice” pair of sunglasses before, and was excited to see if they made a difference.

About the Rudy Project Rydons

Rudy

The model I received is the Carbonium Impactx-2, with photochromic lenses that go from clear to “laser red.”

  • Photochromic transition lenses
  • 88 oz in weight
  • “Unbreakable” lenses
  • Prescription lenses available
  • Adjustable nose piece with anti-slip lock
  • Adjustable temples
  • 2 year warranty

They came with both a hard case and a soft drawstring bag, which is great. As I said above, I’m none too gentle with sunglasses, and the hard case means I can just toss them in my bag and go.

Photo Nov 23, 4 47 50 PM

My Experience with the Rydons

I will start by saying I’m amazed at how light these sunglasses are. It hardly feels like they’re there at all. They sit well on my face–they don’t rest on my cheeks, so I haven’t had any issues with them fogging up. I was worried that the straight stems would mean that the glasses wouldn’t stay put, or would slide off my face, but even bending over to tie shoelaces or stretch out, they stayed put.

My only criticism is that the stems are VERY long; so long that when I wear a winter hat with the glasses, the stems poke back awkwardly, and the hat actually almost pushes them off my face. However, I haven’t tried any adjustments to the temple pieces, and I may be able to minimize this issue with a few tweaks.

I will say, though, the transition lenses make up for any fault, real or imagined. It is SO convenient that the glasses can be used in a variety of conditions. One of my first runs in them was one of those days where the sun keeps sliding in and out from behind clouds. One moment, it was bright and sunny, and the next it was dark and gray. The transition lenses meant that I didn’t have to keep putting sunglasses on and taking them off to adapt to the different light levels.

Photo Dec 04, 8 52 34 AM

Right: Just stepped outside. Left: After a sunny day run.

The transition lenses also mean that I can wear the glasses in low light conditions just for protection from wind, rain, or bugs, and still be able to see clearly. I’ve used them not only for running, but for driving and just walking around, and they’re pretty excellent.

Unfortunately, these sunglasses are not cheap. Retail price is $274.99, and to be completely honest, I probably never would have purchased them for myself. Now that I own them, though, I’m pretty spoiled, and hopefully I’ll never have to replace them, because I LOVE them. As long as I take care of them, they will likely be the only sunglasses I’ll need for a loooong time.

If you’re on the fence, check out what my fellow BibRave Pros have to say about the Rudy Project:

Heather | Bonnie | Katherine

Do you wear sunglasses when you run?