Results tagged “Product Reviews”

Bundle Up!

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In response to the frigid temperatures we are experiencing this time of year, and some requests about proper winter running attire, I wanted to discuss what to wear when it gets cold.

When temperatures are at or above freezing, it is mainly a personal preference as to how much or how little you wear. Some people still break out the shorts in the 30s, whereas others cover every inch of skin as soon as the temps dip below 40. But when the temperature gets below freezing, safety is a priority—and it's time to stop trying to be macho.

If the wind is low or non-existent, you really just need to cover your skin. If the temperature is in the teens, and there is no wind, I can usually get away with a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, running tights or pants, a long-sleeve shirt or thin jacket, running gloves, and a hat or headband.

When the wind picks up, you have to start layering up. Here's what I wear when it's below freezing and windy (with windchill in the single digits or below zero Fahrenheit).
  • Socks (I love the Drymax Maximum Protection trail socks). I have yet to need to double up on socks when wearing these, even at temperature of -20 or worse).
  • running shorts
  • running half tights
  • running tights/pants
  • form-fitting upper body compression
  • dry fit t-shirt
  • dry fit long-sleeve
  • two windbreaker running jackets, or thick dry-wick running pullover and windbreaker jacket
  • Mittens (Ditch the gloves at this point; you need your fingers to stay in contact with each other to stay warmer. Oftentimes I even put all five fingers in to the main bay of the mitten; my thumbs have been frostbitten before and that's not something I want to repeat.)
  • Neck gaiter, face mask, hat or headband (combine things that will allow you to cover all skin if need be; you can always pull down the face mask if it's not as bad out as you expected).
  • Goggles or wraparound sunglasses (This sounds silly, but if it gets super cold and dry retina freezing can become an issue.)
The above listed system has kept me warm for up to an hour in temps of -44 below (windchill). This doesn't necessarily mean it will be the perfect or right system for you, but I have had much success with this system.

Stay warm!

Running Toys

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This summer I have had the opportunity to try out a few running products. Included were: Julbo’s Dustsunglasses with Zebra lenses; the Skora Form, Altra Superior, Inov8 Trailroc 235 shoes; and RaceReady’s LD Easy Shorts, Sixer Shorts, Streamline Technical shirt, and Cool T Technical shirt. In this review, I’d like to share in what scenarios I recommend using each of these products.

I have used Julbo’s Dust/Zebra in a variety of situations. The frames are a tough plastic, which do an excellent job of wrapping around your head. This makes them great for the constant bobbing, weaving, and jumping in trail running. I wore them at Burning River 100, though it ended up being an overcast, rainy day. For most of the course I had them propped up on my head as there was no need for sunglasses. I was pleasantly surprised by how they stayed put despite all the turning and bouncing.

Even though they are form-fitting, they do not pinch or feel obtrusive. I like this because I do just as much road running as trail running, so I wanted something non-obtrusive. The Zebra lens has a lighter yellow tint. It works great at cutting through glare without creating too dark of a view for some of the more shaded trail sections. Someone who is constantly in super bright sun might consider a darker lens.

In short, The Julbo Dust sunglasses with the Zebra lenses are ideal for trail running.

I have raced, trained, and just plain wore the Skora Form for almost a year now. This shoe is extremely versatile. I like it best for road and hard-packed trail. It is a zero-drop design with a goat skin leather body. If you enjoy a low profile shoe that is extremely durable, this is a great choice. It has a tough sole, allowing it to withstand the brutality of pavement. I love them when I am looking for feedback from the terrain on which I am running. I also noticed that, despite being low profile and zero-drop, it does a much better job than most low profile minimalist road shoes on pavement. It’s light and gives feedback, but you don't get a shock with every rock or pebble you come across.

For anyone looking to transition into a lower-drop shoe, I would strongly recommend first buying a pair of Forms to wear while walking around in order to strengthen the foot muscles that have been weakened from a lifetime in built-up, cushioned shoes, then ultimately build up to running in them.

The Altra Superior offers by far the most comfortable toe box of all the shoes I have tried. This is my go-to shoe on recovery runs, where I want protection for my feet but don’t want to sacrifice anything in terms of zero-drop. The Superior has a removable rock plate, which I just leave in all the time. Though the shoe is designed to go on both trail and road, I prefer it on the road. Even so, I know many who advocate its trail functionality. For someone looking for a bit more support and comfort, but who still wants low drop, this is a great shoe.

The Inov8 Trailroc 235 have quickly become one of my favorite technical running shoes. It has a 0-inch heel-to-toe drop, allowing me to still mid- or forefoot strike. It has pretty decent sized lugs (wouldn’t take onto the road), which give tons of grip on curvy descents and sloppy terrain. The lugs do an excellent job of not gunking up with mud. I have blasted through both puddles and trails with wet mud and never had an issue of it clinging to the shoe.

I raced the Ice Age 50 Mile and the Kettle 100k in these, as well as numerous workouts on trails. Zero complaints from me on the rugged stuff.

Over the past two months I have been reviewing a few of RaceReady’s products.

From their men's shorts selection, I tested the LD Easy Shorts and Sixer Shorts. To be honest, when I first saw them I thought they would not be quite my style. I typically like the traditional, low-cut racing short, and the LD Easy and Sixer shorts are both longer in length. When I took them out for a run, however, I was pleasantly surprised that they didn't feel obtrusive at all. In fact, I ended up wearing the LD Easy at Burning River 100 and was amazed at how quickly they dried after getting wet (it rained for nearly 50 miles). Of course, the RaceReady outside pockets came in handy during the race as well: I didn't bring a crew and was happy to realize that the shorts alone were enough to hold all the gels/Vespa I desired, so ultimately I ditched my waist pack. I would strongly recommend these shorts, especially for anyone looking for all the comfort of shorter running shorts but with additional length.

The two shirts I tested were the Streamline Technical shirt and Cool T Technical shirt. The Cool T Technical was similar to the shorts in that it is super light and dries fast! It is ideal for warm training in the heat because of how fast it wicks and dries. Its light design also keeps it from getting heavy even when it does get drenched. I noticed how effective it was when I did a few boot camp workouts in August. I was sweating non-stop and I never once felt like the Cool T Technical was getting annoying or intrusive. I would strongly recommend this short for any type of hot weather training.

The Streamline Technical shirt also does a nice job of wicking away moisture. It is thicker, so I prefer it more in cooler conditions. It has a nice feature where you can run your headphone wire through the shirt, so it is not bouncing around or getting in the way. I love this shirt for cool morning runs where I will begin to sweat after the first few miles.

Minimalist Round 2!

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It is hard to believe I have been running in minimalist shoes for nine months. A few months back I outlined my introduction to minimalist shoe training and racing. I highlighted my opinion on running in minimalist shoes, described their performance, and made some predictions on the specific shoes I was currently wearing.

Well, after another couple of months, I would like to reflect on what has changed or remained the same about my original post. A big thanks to Kyle Roberts at Revolution Natural Running (RNR) for providing me with some excellent samples to try out.

Inov8 F-Lite 230

My first pair of Inov8 F-Lite 230s finally checked out. They racked up a grand total of 1,001 miles. This was a bit shy of what I predicted after logging 461 miles in these shoes, but not by much—and still a solid lifespan. Also, consider that I wore this pair for the entire 100 miles on the Western States Trail and the entire 50 miles on the Ice Age 50.

The part of the shoe that finally went was the left inside, by the big toe, where the fabric ripped away from the base of the shoe. I was surprised at how well the sole of this shoe held up. If the toe box was bigger or stronger, I'm sure the soles could have gone quite a bit further. Overall, I was very content with the longevity of the Inov8 F-Lite 230s. In fact, I liked them so much a grabbed a second pair. I’m excited to see if my second pair of the 230s will develop in a similar fashion, or if I will be able to milk a few more miles out of them. Even if not, 1,001 miles is double what we're told to expect from a pair of shoes.

Inov8 155 Road X Lite

My pair of Inov8 155 Road X Lite are still going strong. So far they've counted 940 miles. These are a great pair of shoes for smooth surfaces. They have held up great despite their very light frame (155 grams, hence the name).

With a heel-to-toe drop of 3 mm, these are great for someone who has some miles under their legs in a low-profile shoe, and great for someone trying to work down to a zero-drop shoe. I've used these for races, workouts, and long runs. My guess is the sole will wear through before anything else falls apart on the shoe. The fabric and toe box are still in phenomenal shape.

In my previous post on the topic, Minimalist Shoes, Maximum Durability, I estimated that I'd get close to 1,000 miles out of this pair. I am pleased to say I am confident they will surpass that by a healthy margin.

Inov8 Bare X Lite 150

The Inov8 Bare X Lite 150s are a pair I have not reviewed in the past. I have racked up 619 miles in these shoes since getting them from Revolution Natural Running in Wauwatosa, WI. Like the 155s, I am continuously surprised at the durability of this shoe. It is incredibly light, and so flexible that I can crumple the shoe up into a ball.

When I first put these shoes on, I loved the feel, but I thought I would blow through them quicker than the first two minimalist shoes I tried. I am pleased to say that these shoes show no sign of going out any time soon, and will likely last as long as the 155s. They are fantastic for racing and workouts with their feather-like weight of 150 grams. The 150s are minimalist throughout with no laces and a zero-drop heel-to-toe ratio. After a few runs with these, you will be able to literally slip them on hands-free and hit the road. I have used the 150s for races, workouts, and long runs.

However, they are a road shoe, so it is wise to stay clear of sharp rocks. I have taken these on trails, but have found I have to tiptoe through the nasty stuff, so I typically stay on the pavement with these shoes.

Skora Form

I was really excited when Kyle at RNR told me he wanted me to try out the Skoras. I knew very little about them, but Kyle said I would love them, and so far all his suggestions have been great to me. They are a bit heavier than the Inov8 150 and 155 shoes, but they look and feel extremely durable.

They also have a lot more protection for the heel and forefoot. There is enough there to absorb small stones. This has allowed me to take them on trails. In fact, I raced the JFK 50 Mile in them, which has some technical trail (Appalachian Trail) and a gravel tow-path. I never had any sharp shots to the foot when running on the gravel or technical sections.

And they're great for roads. They have a unique rubber sole (see specs below) that really grips the pavement well. I love these for road speedwork. It almost feels like wearing spikes on the track. The sole seems to be quite resistant to wear, as can be seen in the picture. Even after running 300 miles in them, you can’t see any wear on the actual sole.

The comfort in these shoes is top notch. In fact, I have probably walked as many miles in these shoes as I have run in them, so these shoes probably have over 500 miles of overall movement in them. My estimate is that these shoes will easily eclipse the 1,000-mile mark (running miles, not counting the walking miles I have done and will do in them).

Here are the technical specs of the Skora Form:
  • REALFIT™ last
  • Pittards Armor-Tan Goat upper
  • Pittards WR100X Sheepskin lining
  • Asymmetrical lacing
  • Anti-slip microfiber heelpad
  • No-tongue design
  • Elastic heel strap
  • Reflective details
  • 4mm Ortholite sockliner
  • High abrasion rubber
  • Zero-drop construction
  • Stitch-down construction
  • 9mm forefoot/heel stack height (13mm with insole)
  • 8.2 oz/235 grams

As always, please post any questions, comments, or personal experience you have in regards to the topic of minimalist running.

Minimalist Shoes, Maximum Durability

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I have reached about the 1,000-mile mark of wearing minimalist shoes. I spent a good deal of time transitioning towards minimalist footwear, which I think was vital to making the switch without getting injured.

The reason I mention the 1,000-mile mark is because I have recently become curious about shoe durability. Kyle, at Revolution Natural Running, mentioned that he thought it would be cool to be able to reference the number of miles that certain shoes last.

Immediately intrigued, I thought to myself, “Why do people replace shoes?” I think the number-one reason is because the midsole cushioning in the shoe wears out. The next thing to go would probably be the tread. And then there are probably some folks who wear a shoe until they literally wear a hole through it.

With the minimalist approach, you can basically scratch the first reason for replacing a shoe, given that the whole point of minimalist footwear is eliminating the cushioning to allow the natural motion of the foot to absorb the impact. Since a thick cushion would destroy this process, minimalist shoes do not have midsole cushioning—meaning there's no midsole to wear out. I guessed that my Inov-8 F-Lite 230s and Inov-8 Road X-Lite 155s would rack up a ton more miles than, say, an average cushioned trainer.

Why does this all really matter? Well, all runners can agree that shoes are not cheap. If you follow the general rule of thumb that many running shoe companies have put out, we should only run 400 to 600 miles on a pair of shoes before replacing them. I believe lots of people think of these numbers and turn away from minimalist shoes, because they can be expensive. However, if we can get double or even triple the miles out of them, the shoe budget decreases.

 I don’t want you to have to take my word for it, so I listed the stats and some pictures showing how my minimalist shoes are holding up. Even after hundreds of miles, they're in really good shape. I should be able to easily get another 800 miles out of the 230s, and another 500 from the 155s.

Inov-8 X-Lite 230s: 461 miles (including two races: WS100 and IA50)

Inov-8 Road X-Lite 155: 417 miles

Fuel Belt Product Review: Effectiveness at IA50 Mile

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During the Ice Age 50 Mile (IA50) I utilized a variety of Fuel Belt products in order to keep hydrated. Hydration is a must in sports lasting multiple hours, and as the summer brings in warmer temperatures it becomes even more crucial. I want to let you in on what gear I use to stay hydrated, and why I use it.

At IA50 I cycled through five different Fuel Belt products, listed below. I will run through them and explain why I love each of these products.

The Slice Atlantic Breeze

The Slice Atlantic Breeze is probably my favorite product that Fuel Belt offers. It is a new member of the 2012 catalog. The features that drew me in were the bottle shape, size and flexibility, and the holder design.

The bottle shape is contoured perfectly to sit in your palm when your fingers are slightly curled (a comfortable running position). The cap is slightly tilted so the user does not have to curl their hand or arm awkwardly in order to take a drink. The size of the bottle is listed at 18 ounces, but if you really want to top it off you can get 20 ounces into it. I love this because you can carry along a healthy amount of liquid with little intrusion.

The flexibility of the Slice is awesome! It is designed perfectly to let you take a small sip or guzzle down the bottle's contents. I love this because in different parts of a race or training I like to vary the amount of liquid I take in at once. The Slice lets me down a whole bottle quickly if I need to, or sip at it slowly.

The holder design is spot on. It's made of a material that does not hang onto water, so if you sweat a lot, spill a lot, or get caught in some rain the bottle carrier will not take on extra weight. It also boasts a large side pocket. It's easily big enough to fit two gels. The holder feels extremely comfortable in your hand. I never had to grip it tightly or awkwardly. It just sits in your hand and does a great job of distributing its weight so it doesn't become a burden. If I had to pick just one product to carry while racing or training, the Slice would be it.

The Slide Atlantic Breeze

The Slide is a waist carrier that holsters the same bottle that goes with the Slice. This is awesome, because you can interchange the bottles and carriers.

This is by far the least obtrusive waist carrier I have ever worn. I was able to wear the Slide and carry the Slice (meaning I had about 40 ounces total of water) and did not feel like I was carrying any extra weight, nor was the waistband uncomfortable at all. The Slide provides a large surface area where the bottle is holstered, which is why it doesn't sit awkwardly, jiggle around, or put unwanted pressure points on your midsection. I have worn waist carriers in the past that made me feel like I was wearing a belt buckled too tightly.

Another nice feature about the Slide is that the strap adjustment allows you to easily loosen or tighten the belt on the fly. This let me swing the bottle carrier to my front or back with ease (really nice for holstering and unholstering the bottle).

The bottle is easy to carry even without a handheld carrier for it. I did not try to jam it into a hand carrier when I was using the Slide. I just pulled it out drank from it until it was gone, then re-holstered the empty bottle.

The R2Outdoor

The R20utdoor is perfect for transition. It holds two 10-ounce bottles and has three nice zip pockets between the bottles. I loved this because I could stick my Vespa, gel, water and sports drink in this belt. It's a real multitasking belt. The bottles are like mini versions of the bottle used for the Slice and Slide. The part about this belt that I liked the best was it was a quick transition belt. I could carry 20 ounces of liquid, and when it came time to replace I could just grab two new bottles that were pre-filled and sub them in for the old empty bottles. It was quick and effortless. I wore this belt for approximately 18 miles of  the IA50.

The Sprint Palm Holder

The Sprint Palm Holder is basically a mini version of the Slice. It holds a 10-ounce bottle (same bottle as in the R20utdoor). Once again, this allows for interchange between the Sprint and R20outdoor bottles (great for transition). The Sprint holder also has a zip side pocket big enough to fit a gel. I loved carrying the Sprint while wearing the R20utdoor. It allowed me to carry 30 ounces of liquid unobtrusively.

The Insulated Sahara Palm

The Insulated Sahara Palm was what I turned to at the end of IA50. It was a relatively warm day, so when I grabbed my first of two Sahara Palms they had been at the bag drop for about four hours. Despite this, the liquid had stayed relatively cool.

This is a classic carrier that holds a 20-ounce rounded bottle. If you prefer a more cylindrical form in your palm, this is a good choice. It also has a side zipper and netted pocket that can fit up to two gels comfortably. I like this bottle for races when I know I am going to have to stop at an aid station and fill the bottle myself or have a volunteer fill the bottle. It has a wide mouth, so you can fill it extremely quickly without making a mess and be back in the race quickly.

If you have any questions about any of the products I have reviewed, feel free to post or shoot me a message. I would love to answer any inquiries.

Four Week Review of Extreme Endurance... SUCCESS!

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A month ago I wrote a post saying that I would be trying out a new supplement called Extreme Endurance, which is designed to buffer lactic acid and leave you feeling less sore after intense sessions. This product has picked up quickly with the triathlon folks, and it's starting to make its way over to the running community. Even soccer teams, including DC United, have bought in based on experience and a strong scientific backing. I wrote a more detailed post a month ago about the science, and I have been giving brief updates in my blog as I began to notice changes since taking Extreme Endurance.

Here is more detailed explanation of what I personally noticed along the way. The effects were almost immediate. Within two days I noticed myself feeling more fresh at the start of runs, most notably during two-a-day sessions. The second of the two sessions felt more comparable to when I would only do one afternoon run. It seemed I was experiencing less of the fatigue from the morning session than I previously had.

I have had some people ask me about “hurt” during runs. I believe what they mean is the pain everyone has to push through when doing an intense workout. Extreme Endurance does not eliminate this, and never claims to do so. If it did, people would be running themselves to death. The body's pain threshold can serve as a governor on what you should allow it to do. However, what this product does do is get you back up to par quickly after a workout, making it easier to tackle the next intense workout. For example, I used to consider an intense training week anything over 120 miles that included a long run and 2 to 3 intense training sessions. Typically, I would do these types of weeks right before a down week so I would be able to recover from the workload. But with Extreme Endurance in my tool bag, I was able to complete a 138 mile week with FIVE intense sessions!

The kicker is what followed that big week; I probably could have pushed through a week like this without Extreme Endurance, but would have had to do the last couple workouts on sore legs and take a big recovery week afterwards. But this time I did not feel sore during the back end of the week, and I took on another high-mileage running week right after (with no down week). This was probably the most exciting thing about the product, because all winter I had almost religiously done two weeks intense, one week down. My body told me to follow that schedule, like clockwork. I really never caught myself mentally and/or physically pushing myself to do a workout. It really helped me keep a positive attitude about training.

I guess the biggest red flag with this product would be smart usage. Yes, it will allow you to recover quicker—and feel good running more often. I personally noticed both of these effects during my training. But you have to use it smartly. I have realized that now it is going to be much harder for me to take down weeks when my body needs it, simply because my body won't scream at me like it used to. In other words, you still have to incorporate recovery sessions to prevent burning out the other endurance-related systems in your body. USE WISELY!!! My guess would be if you take this product in hopes to never rest again, you will likely plateau down the road.

So if you take Extreme Endurance, be detailed in your record keeping so you can make an educated decision on when to take rest weeks. I can personally say that I am pumped to be able to approach summer training with Extreme Endurance. I outlined a brief recap below for anyone who likes the quick visual.

Benefits I found:
  • Quicker recovery
  • Less soreness
  • Positive attitude towards training
  • Less fatigue during the day
What to be mindful of when using Extreme Endurance:
  • User must be smart with usage! Do not completely eliminate rest!

Extreme Endurance

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Hey folks! A few weeks back I started downloading podcasts from Pace Per Mile and Endurance Planet. I thought to myself, why not tune in to some great informational and motivational stories while churning out miles? Like with everything nowadays, there were a few advertisements speckled throughout the episodes.

One of the ads caught my attention by the way it was worded: Extreme Endurance was selling a product that claimed a 15 percent reduction in lactic acid and an increase in aerobic threshold. Then they explained how they came up with this number: by conducting a third-party, double-blind test. A what? Simply put, this means they had their product tested by a outside source who had no knowledge of who they were, thus eliminating any chance of accusations that they "cherry picked" a favorable testing agency. This all caught my ear because, as a social studies and history major while in college, I did a lot of back-checking and source-checking. When I hear claims like this, I automatically go into research mode.

After reviewing the results and methods of the test, I was quite interested in trying out this product. I contacted Iron at Extreme Endurance, told him a bit about myself and my training, and asked if he would be open to sending me some samples to review for my blog. Iron was very accommodating with my request, and he's sending me some product to review. I have to say I have pretty big expectations from the product after reviewing the science behind it.

If I have made you curious, check out the site and tune in for future posts outlining how I react to the product.

Training Recap: Dec. 11-17

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I am very happy with this week of training. Last week I started introducing some workouts and focused mostly on hill work. This week I tried to incorporate a little more turnover early in the week. This may sound odd to some, as I am focusing primarily on the ultramarathon. I am finding time for turnover for two reasons. First, I find that doing too much hill work tends to tighten up my stride, and doing workouts that include tempo running and pickups help keep that spring in my step. Second, I hope to run at least one marathon in 2012, and want to keep myself physically in position to be able to feel comfortable with the 5:30–5:40 pace.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I wanted to increase the intensity of hill work in this training cycle, so I did not neglect to take some solid bouts with City Park (one of the only places within 20 miles of Marinette, WI, where you can find any type of substantial climbing). City Park takes a lot of focus to do long hill workouts because of its layout. There's a loop of about 600 meters that includes some rolling hills, and then there's one spot in the middle that is steep (close to 45 degrees), but only about 20 feet in height. This is why when I do a decent hill workout at City Park I usually churn out between 50 and 100 trips up that short steep hill. Please take a peek at the bottom of the page to see the specifics in my running this week.

In addition to the technical side of my training, this week included a gift from the folks at Drymax. As a guy who has dipped below the six toenail mark on a number of occasions, I thought this could be a great way to treat my toes. The reason I turned to socks was because the majority of my toenail traumas are a result of moisture causing blisters to form under my toenails (too much info???). Anyway, if Drymax can keep this from happening, my toenails may make a strong comeback this winter! I tried out the max protection running and max protection trail running socks this week and I love them. My feet were dry as a bone after all my workouts. Big props to the Drymax engineers!

SundayAM: 20 mile long run
PM: 4 mile shake-out
MondayAM: 10 mile pick-ups, 16x 35–45 second pick-ups
PM: 10 mile easy run
TuesdayAM: 15 mile easy run
PM: 10 mile easy run
WednesdayAM: 10 mile hybrid run (2x15 min tempo at 5:50 pace, then 4x45 second pick-ups)
PM: 10 mile easy run
ThursdayAM: 10 mile easy run
PM: 10 mile easy run
FridayAM: 15 mile easy run
PM: 7 mile easy run
Saturday20 mile hill workout:
- 3x City Park loop
- 25x hill
- 3x City Park loop
- 25x hill
- 3x City Park loop
- 15x hill
- 1x City Park loop
- 10x hill
- 3x City Park loop
- 50 minute cooldown
Weekly Total151 miles