Taking This New Body for a Test Drive

It finally happened: I went for a run! *confetti cannons and muppet flails* 

Today, for the first time since the QEOP 10K in early September – and not counting the ~20-foot jog I did in jeans to see what it felt like to run with the jogging stroller – I actually ran. I am so chuffed right now. 

It wasn’t pretty by any means, but it was running(ish):

4.91 miles, most of which was walking. I ran a total of just over 1 of those miles, in between ~1 mile warm-up and cool-down walks. It was glorious to cruise around the pond and lagoon again, and even my giant red face throbbing in the sun felt glorious. A bit. 

The lagoon


I made it just over a half-mile of my first bit of running before I had to take a walk break, which wasn’t too bad. The running felt great, but then less so during each running stint. I am so very out of shape, and I could feel weakness/tiredness in pretty much my whole right side – foot, leg, shoulder. Something to work on… one of these days!

In honor of my jubilant mood, how about a wee indulgent thanks-to-the-academy speech?

Thank you Target, for having a sale on your already pretty reasonable activewear, so I could get some running kit that actually fits. 

Thank you Lanisoh nursing pads, for keeping my new running kit free of any lurking milk. 
Thank you Legend Compression Wear, for providing socks that prevented soreness and fatigue in my calves. I was worried my shins would want to split away from the rest of my legs as a protest, but they behaved themselves nicely. 

Thank you Groupon, for selling fancy new Garmins at a slightly more affordable price. Simon is dead; long live Simon II.

Thank you MapMyRun, for stepping up in the awkward time between when Simon died and Simon II wasn’t charged enough to use yet.

Thank you Mother Nature, for giving me a lovely day in the low 60s for my return to running. 

Thank you Drew, for urging me out the door to run while you wrangled the screaming Bairn. I needed this run badly, and you knew it. I appreciate that more than you know. 

Thank you body, for being awesome. Yes, you’re a size or two bigger now and things are still a little out of whack and disconcertingly jiggly from carrying and delivering the Bairn, but you still know what to do. You can still pound the pavement and clear my head and make me feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally, and that rocks. I look forward to doing this with you again, hopefully soon!

C’mon legs, let’s run.

Review: LEGEND Compression Performance Socks

Well, hello again! I will spare you from my now traditional opening paragraph of blogger shame – it would say basically the same as my last post, so if you feel the urge, you can read that one – in the interest of just getting on with it. Shall we?

Disclaimer: I received a free pair of LEGEND compression socks as part of being a LEGEND Ambassador. This review was not solicited, and opinions are my own.

I’ve been dabbling with compression socks/sleeves for a while, ever since my first major attack of the shin splints a few summers ago. I didn’t have a lot of luck with the sleeves – they didn’t really seem to help much – but the socks seemed to do the trick. Thanks to a few grab bag clearance sales at ProCompression, I was able to get a few pairs for much cheaper than the usual going rate ($50 per pair), and rocked them at various races:

procomp

Marvel at my MS Paint skillz!

While I enjoyed the funky designs (especially the shamrock ones!) and the fact that wearing them helped my shins feel like they weren’t about to eject themselves painfully from my calves, I found that I couldn’t wear the socks for very long, as the elastic band at the top would start squeezing me uncomfortably. Then, the one time I tried to wear them for recovery, I had to pull them off in a slight panic (no easy feat, as compression socks are no joke to get on and off!) after an hour or so, as my legs started feeling a bit tingly like the circulation was getting cut off.

I didn’t bother to experiment with other compression brands, given the steep price tag of all the products, and just assumed that if I wanted to rock compression socks, I’d have to make sure I didn’t wear them for too long.

When LEGEND contacted me about becoming an ambassador this past summer, I was intrigued. For one, it meant a free pair of socks, which meant I could give compression socks a go again without breaking the bank (hooray!). For another, their slogan of “Right not Tight” made me think that perhaps I could get the benefits of compression without the loss-of-circulation feeling and squeezy sensation under my knee. I opted to try out a pair of their Performance Socks, and eagerly awaited mail day.

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Mail day! I love this color.

When the socks arrived, I tried them on right away and wandered around my house in them for a while. They were slower than your average socks to pull on – just like other compression socks I’ve tried – but once they were on, they were so comfortable. I didn’t feel squeezy at all. But, to be fair, this was just a trial run in my house… the real test would come later!

Okay, quick break from my personal tale to share the deets of these socks from the LEGEND site:

LEGEND® Compression Performance socks are designed for all sporting activities to enhance power and endurance while supporting the shin, ankle, achilles, calf and arch of the foot. The product design and manufacturing process of our sports compression socks make them among the best performing socks on the planet. These sports compression socks were developed through extensive research in the compression industry. These socks are unique because they implement design aspects that our LEGEND® team pulled from its years of experience with medical grade compression products. By applying those medical learnings to our Compression Performance Socks, we were able to create a graduated compression product that we believe is the best on the market. Featuring 15-20 mmHg of graduated compression it provides everything you need to perform at your best.

KEY FEATURES AND BENEFITS:

  • 15-20 mmHg Graduated Compression for improved athletic performance
  • Compression Performance socks for all sports
  • Greater power output
  • Enhanced Endurance
  • Faster Muscle Warm Up Pre-exercise
  • Increase oxygen levels and blood circulation
  • Faster recovery time
  • Seamless toe and terry sole construction
  • Promotes circulation for muscle performance
  • Reduction of lactic acid
  • Improve muscle support and injury prevention
  • UV protection
  • Moisture wicking
  • Achilles and arch support
  • Open ventilation and breathable design for comfort

(There’s a whole bunch more information on the website that I won’t copy here, but if you’re curious, check it out!)

Test #1:

So, with promises of these socks providing “greater power output,” “increased endurance,” “decreased shin splints and calf cramps,” and “improved recovery time,” I put them to their first real test at the Beach 2 Beacon 10K. I hadn’t run a lot before that race, and I didn’t really warm up at all due to my desire to be social rather than a responsible runner, and these things are usually a recipe for shin splints, sore calves, and DOMS in my legs for a few days after the fact.

race_1539_photo_40355987

How were they? Well, I’ll refrain from calling them miracle socks for fear of hyperbole, but, reader, they were awesome. I put them on around 5am, stood around in them for quite a while before the race, ran in them for an hour and 20 minutes, sat around in them for at least an hour, then walked another 2 miles in them before taking them off. All told, I’d had them on for probably 7 hours. And there was absolutely no squeezy or loss-of-circulation feelings. My legs felt totally fine. I had no blisters (full disclosure: I did Body Glide my toes before the race). My legs weren’t even that sweaty, considering the socks are long.

But maybe the best part? Remember how I said I hadn’t warmed up at all before the race? When I neglect to warm up, I usually spend the first mile of a race battling shin splints before they calm down. I had zero shin splints at B2B. My calves felt fine. And I had absolutely no residual soreness in my legs at all afterward… not that afternoon, not the next day, etc. It was weird (for me), and I liked it.

Test #2:

img_0426

In case B2B had been a fluke, I figured I should test the socks in another race before reviewing them. Fast forward a month to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park 10K. Once again, I donned the socks early, wearing them for a while before running for an hour and a quarter, then stood around/rode the Tube in them. And again, no discomfort or squeeziness. And, once again, despite my not having run in the month between races as well as doing a paltry warm-up, my legs felt fresh after the race and didn’t get sore at all. (I had been a little worried about DOMS given that I had two flights home the day after the race, but my legs felt totally fine!)

Test #3:

(This was a bonus test, since I got lazy with blogging and didn’t get around to writing a review until now.)

So, I’m pregnant. One of the common side effects of pregnancy is swollen legs/feet/ankles as all the extra blood in your body has a tendency to pool at the bottom if you’re not moving around too much. At an appointment a few months back, my midwife suggested compression socks for the days when I knew I would be mostly stationary. At the time, I was being pretty good about taking lunchtime walks – plus all the nearest ladies’ rooms are small epic quests away from my cubicle – so I didn’t really have a need to try them out.

That is, until the day of the Massachusetts Speaks Out Against Hate rally in Boston. Figuring that I’d be standing around for a while without a place to sit, I thought I’d give my socks a non-running go. And you know what? They didn’t let me down. I wore them all day, standing mostly still in them for an hour or two midday, and once again they were nothing but comfortable. And my preggo feet and ankles were happily not swollen when I took them off that night – huzzah!

belly

Can you see my socks under my massive belly?

The Verdict:

I love these socks. I love that they’re compression socks without the squeezy feeling. I love that they don’t make my legs all sweaty and gross, even when worn under long trousers. I love that they’re comfortable to run in, and that they seem to magically rescue my legs from post-run soreness.

But wait, you may be asking… what about the promises of increased endurance and power output? Good question, reader. In all honesty, I can’t really answer that. To give a fair review of those aspects, I feel like I’d have to try them out when I’m at least a little bit fit. Since I ran in them in races I didn’t train for, when my fitness was diminishing thanks to the growing presence of my new running buddy, it wasn’t easy to compare my power or endurance to previous non-sock experiences. Once the wee bairn arrives and I get out there running again, I’m going to take them on more test runs to see what effect they have (or might not have) because I’m curious too. Watch this space!

Want to give LEGEND Compression Performance Socks (or maybe one of their other products, like sleeves or recovery socks?) a go? If it’s your first time buying LEGEND gear, follow this link to get $15 off!

Not your first purchase but want more gear? Use the code AmbFriend2016 to get 15% off any LEGEND purchase!

Review: Armpocket Aero i-10

aero

Aero i-10 image from Armpocket website

(Disclaimer: I wasn’t asked to review this product or given one to review; I bought it for my own use and decided to review it here. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of other users of this product.)

Once upon a time, I was running my favorite route by the pond. I was holding my phone in my hand as I ran, partly so it would be at the ready for photo opportunities, and partly because, well, I had no other way to carry it.

My phone, which I had never dropped while running, suddenly squirted out of my hand and crashed to the asphalt. I suppose it was inevitable, but I was seriously bummed. My phone, which I’d had for more than 2 years and had kept miraculously uncracked, now had a chip in its screen. I was sad.

I decided then and there that I needed a better way to carry my phone with me while running. But what? I had tried an armband holder a few years back, only to have its Velcro fail after a mere couple of uses – at the start of the B.A.A. 5k, leaving me to hold the thing for 3 miles. My Nathan water bottle has a phone pocket, but, well… I don’t love that bottle, to say the least. It regularly leaked into the phone pocket, as well as all over me. Plus, having something in my hand, even if it has a nifty little hand strap, tends to make me feel a little off-balance.

When I got home, I hopped on Running Warehouse and scoped out their products. I’ve been a bit wary of hip belt thingies, not knowing how much they’d bounce or how comfortable they’d be. And all the armband products were for phones newer and bigger than mine. Cue some googling and that’s when I found Armpocket.

Right off the bat, I loved Armpocket’s website, specifically the “fit my phone” feature. You choose the make of your phone, then whether you have a case and, if so, how big it is, and then Armpocket shows you which of their products will fit your phone. No guesswork needed! So easy!

My phone and its case yielded two results- the Racer, which is sleek and only holds your phone to allow for a lighter, more aerodynamic experience while racing, and the Aero i-10. Since I liked the idea of having a place to stow cards, keys, money, and fuel as well as my phone, I selected the Aero i-10.

My shiny new Aero i-10 in the flesh!

Description from the website:

Sleek, durable, convenient. The Armpocket Aero i-10 protects your mobile device whether you’re running errands or just plain running. The armband’s slim design allows you freedom of movement, and its extra interior compartment stores keys, ID, and more.

Featuring a double-zipper pocket, this sleek sports armband fits all devices and cases up to 5” (12.7cm), including the new iPhone SE, iPhone 5 and iPhone 4.

Another reason I’ve been hesitating to buy another armband after my Velcro disaster with my last one, is that they tend to cost more than I want to spend. (My first one was cheap… maybe that’s why it fell apart so fast!) The Aero i-10 costs $29.95, which isn’t bad but not the $15-20 I was hoping for. However, shipping in the US is free, and Armpocket was offering a deal at the time where first-time buyers got 10% off their purchase. Sweet!

On top of the decent cost, Armpocket products have a 2-year warranty, are water- and mud/dirt-proof, are machine-washable, and have apparently passed a military-grade drop test. Sounded good to me!

So, after that long preamble, how has my experience with my new Armpocket been? TL;dr I’m a fan!

Purchase: It was quick and easy to buy the item on their secure site. After that, Armpocket was great with communication, sending emails when the product shipped and was delivered. Sometimes I get no feedback like this and don’t know how long to wait for my purchase, but Armpocket was all over it.

Mail day!

Mail day: I loved the smiley face sticker on the package, and appreciated the personalized note inside. This company seems to really care about their product and making sure that buyers love the product too!

First test: I took it out for a quick 2-miler around the neighborhood. My phone fit perfectly with its case still on, as promised, and there were little pockets for my keys and cards/money, as well as plenty of room for fuel.

The inside: two pockets at the back and an elastic strap at the front to hold your phone against the clear plastic front, which makes it so much easier to use your phone while it’s inside the case!

It took me a bit to get used to having the thing on my arm, first to get the strap to fit right so that it wasn’t either too loose or cutting off circulation. Once I found the magic spot, it was great. A little weird having a bit of weight on my arm, but I soon got used to it and it was so much better to have my hands free! I took it on another quick run with the same results.

Big test: I wore this puppy during my half marathon last month. I had carried my water bottle (sans water) in my first half, and it worked okay other than the aforementioned off-balance feeling. I was looking forward to not having to carry anything in this hot race, and was also looking forward to trying it out as a music carrier, since this was going to be my first race rocking a motivational playlist.

IMG_20160619_065159669

Ready to rock

For the most part, it was fantastic. Again, once I found the right strap position it felt fine on my arm, and wasn’t hot and sweaty… or at least, no more than I’d expect. It was a really hot race, and my arm was a bit damp when I took it off, but during the run it wasn’t uncomfortably warm/sweaty and didn’t chafe.

The back of the Armpocket, which is surprisingly non-sweaty. (Ignore the little sunscreen stains!)

It passed the waterproof test, too, when a neighbor of one of the water stops sprayed me and some other runners with his sprinkler. My Armpocket took a direct hit, but my phone and everything inside stayed lovely and dry.

The only two problems I had were:

  1. Only one pouch of Honey Stinger chews fit inside. I was hoping to take 2, but 2 wouldn’t fit with my phone in there too. Maybe if I’d taken the chews out and combined them in a ziploc bag they would have fit, or if I’d used different fuel, but what I had chosen didn’t work. I ended up running out of chews 8 or 9 miles in, but was saved by gels at an aid stop.
  2. My headphone cord was a pain to fit in the Armpocket’s cord slot. I struggled for a while to get it to fit and align with my headphone jack, and ended up surrendering it to Drew (who studied engineering and is better at these sorts of problems). He found that if you shove the cord through the slot before sliding the phone all the way down, you can the align the cord using the clear window. This whole problem might have stemmed from the fact that my headphones have a square plug thing, and maybe this wouldn’t be an issue with normal, round ones.

Headphone slots

Little velcro thingie that holds headphone cords and zipper danglies in place – love it!

Other than those two hiccups, I’ve loved my Armpocket, and am so glad I relented and got one. I love the happy bright color, I love the zipper/cord holder so I’m not driven mad by flapping cords or hanging zipper pulls, and I love that I can finally tote my stuff around on runs without having to hold everything. Huzzah!

What’s your preferred method of carrying your stuff while you run?

I am Legend

Hello and happy Wednesday!

I’m wicked excited to share with you that I’ve been chosen to be a 2016 ambassador for LEGEND Compression Wear!

legend

LEGEND was launched in 2015, on a mission “to improve the performance of every athlete – from the casual jogger to the competitive triathlete.” In addition to traditional athletic compression gear like performance socks, leg sleeves, and recovery socks, they also offer socks for hiking, golf, and even business socks and stockings.

One thing that really caught my eye about LEGEND is their commitment to the long-term health of their customers’ legs, in addition to their athletic performance. The compression level in their performance socks is medically designed to be just right, and not too tight. As someone who’s tried other compression socks and sometimes struggled with a too-tight, constricted feeling, the #rightnottight movement definitely appealed to me.

You know what else is awesome? As a LEGEND ambassador, I get a discount code that I can share with my readers! (I know this will make me sound like a huge dork, but I’ve always thought it would be cool to be one of those bloggers with a “use X code to save Y% on this cool product!”splashed across the blog. And now I can do that! Woohoo!)

Use the code AmbFriend2016 to get 15% off any LEGEND purchase!

Have you used compression gear for running or recovery? What brands have you tried?

Rando Friday

Happy Friday!! Are you doing a happy dance in anticipation of the weekend? I certainly am! All the happy-dancing knocked a few random thoughts loose, so I figured I’d share. After all, my post count for 2016 is pretty pathetic so far! So without further ado:

I got some new kicks!

shoesI’ve been wearing my current shoes (Saucony Guide 7s) since my first 10K two Augusts ago, which is longer than they might have lasted, since I spent most of 2015 being injured and didn’t put a lot of miles on them. I bought a backup pair on clearance when the model was discontinued, but I took that pair on my grand European adventure last summer, and they were what I was wearing when my metatarsal went wonky. So I’m a little wary of them.

Around this time last year, I bought a pair of Adidas running shoes that I absolutely loved. I ran my fastest 5-miler in them and everything was peachy, and then the next time I wore them I got the runner’s knee. Was it because of the shoes, or was it because of my lack of stretching and generally taking care of myself? Almost certainly the latter, but I haven’t run in the Adidas since (they’ve become my Yeti shoes).

Plus, all that wariness enabled me to splurge on this beautiful pair of flashy blue Guide 8s, which were on clearance because the Guide 9s are now out. I do have a thing for flashy running kicks, since my rampant overpronation means I’m traditionally stuck in white stability shoes instead of the fun neons of the neutrals. This sad shoe history made it extra hard to pass up new shoes in a fun color. I mean, just look at these lovely blues! I can’t wait to christen them.

Running club field trip?

Two years ago, Colin and I ran a frigid 5K around Lake Whalom called Shamrocks on the Rocks. I rocked my shiny new Shammies singlet and quite enjoyed being a Shamrock at a non-Shammies shamrock race (say that 5 times fast):

Pre-race power pose by Lake Whalom

Pre-race power pose by Lake Whalom

Although I’m trying not to pre-register for races way in advance this year, I may have been casually browsing Cool Running the other day and spotted the upcoming Shamrocks on the Rocks. I sent the link to my fellow Sunday Morning Shammies (SMSs), and jokingly said how awesome it would be if a bunch of us showed up in Shamrock gear, and now it’s actually building steam. A few run clubbers have already registered and are talking about carpools.

Now that I’ve created this monster, do I have to jump on the bandwagon (that I’m already driving…?) and register too? Or do I stick with my original plans and hold off, possibly missing out on a spot in the run club carpool? Hmm.

I’m not volunteering at the Marathon expo

photo(10)And I’m kind of relieved about that! I did it last year (been there, done that, got the free volunteer jacket, next!) and while it was a cool experience, the whole thing left me feeling a little funny. (You can read my epic recap here).

At first I felt guilty not signing up, and decided that if the Shammies were desperate for warm bodies I’d go and give it another shot. But then I heard from our BAA liaison that we actually had more people volunteer than there are spots, so now I’m glad I didn’t unenthusiastically take someone else’s place! Hopefully people won’t end up curmudgeons like I did.

——

What are your plans for the weekend? Anyone racing?

Ever been illogically wary of a pair of shoes after getting injured in them?
Or is that just me?

Review: Stridebox

Last summer I splurged and bought myself a sample gift box from Runnerbox (you can read my review here). Anyone who’s read this blog knows I’m a gearhead, and a box full of goodies was just too hard to pass up. I was so tempted to jump on the subscription box bandwagon, but wanted to give it a test run before I signed my money away.

As I wrote in my review, there were two running-themed boxes to choose from – Runnerbox and Stridebox. I chose the sample of Runnerbox because, at the time, Stridebox didn’t offer a one-time gift option. Well, I don’t remember how I found myself on the Stridebox website recently (honest!) but it turns out they now offer a one-time gift box! Hurrah!

Not being able to contain my curiosity at how Stridebox stacks up to Runnerbox – and having a PayPal balance big enough to cover the cost, thanks to a recent ebay sale – I signed up for the gift option and eagerly awaited my delivery.

The Stridebox was roughly the same size as the Runnerbox - 8" x 5 1/4" x 2 1/2"

The Stridebox was roughly the same size as the Runnerbox – 8″ x 5 1/4″ x 2 1/2″

Like Runnerbox, Stridebox includes a motivational quote on the box

Like Runnerbox, Stridebox includes a motivational quote on the box

"Gift from Dana" - I have to admit that made me laugh!

“Gift from: Dana” – I have to admit that made me laugh!

That card sitting on top of the box’s contents is the “Stride Guide,” which explains each item in the box. I love this feature! Runnerbox didn’t have one in the box I ordered.

Flip side of the Stride Guide and the cute sticker beneath it

Flip side of the Stride Guide and the cute sticker beneath it

All the contents

All the contents

Here’s a list of my spoils:

-Chike high-protein iced coffee (Coffee? Gooooooood.)
-Vitalyte Chia Surge gel (I’m a little wary but always willing to try new forms of energy.)
-Stridebox sticker (The 8-year-old in me is so happy about this.)
-Picky Bars cookie dough energy bar (Cookie Dough? Goooooood.)
-Nuun tab (Gooooooooooooood. (#stayhydrated))
-Joshua Tree organic lip balm (It’s winter and my lips are sad. I’m looking forward to trying this.)
-Skratch Labs apples and cinnamon hydration mix (Says it’s best served hot. I’m intrigued.)
-iGlove tech-friendly running gloves (So goooooooooooood.)

To sum up:

Gooooooood. (source)

Gooooooood. (source)

Okay. Now that I’ve had the chance to explore both types of box, let’s do a quick run-down of which product wins in the following categories – price, design, number of items, and value for money:

[Disclaimer: I was not asked to write this review, nor was I provided either product for the purpose of a review. These are all my own opinions, and I wrote the review purely because I was curious.]

Price – Stridebox

Runnerbox is $19.95 bimonthly (plus $6.95 shipping) for a “perpetual” subscription; price jumps to $21.25 per box for a 1-year subscription, or $22.25 for 6 months. Gift box was $24.95, plus $6.95 for shipping.

Stridebox is $15 per month (free shipping) plus a $15 sign-up fee*, which I don’t remember seeing back in June when I first investigated these boxes. Gift box was a flat $15.

I’ve got to hand it to Stridebox… even if you look at the costs bimonthly, Stridebox just makes the whole thing simple with its flat rate and free shipping.

*EDIT: After I posted this review, the founder of Stridebox reached out to me to explain the $15 sign-up fee. It turns out that $15 fee pays for your first box, which is shipped to you within 5 days. Before, some subscribers would have to wait almost a month to get their first box, and doing things this way ensures that you get your gear sooner, no matter what time of month you sign up. In my original review, I said that the signup fee was “a little lame,” and, now that I understand why it exists, I felt the need to retract that statement!

Box design – Stridebox

Alright, this is a silly category that doesn’t really matter. However, the design on the Sridebox made me smile, whereas the Runnerbox was purely utilitarian:

photo(1)Number of items inside – Runnerbox*

I got 13 items in my Runnerbox, and 8 in my Stridebox.

*There is an asterisk on this winner because, if you subscribe, Stridebox comes every month, whereas Runnerbox comes every two months. Runnerbox is also roughly twice as expensive. So, if you look at what you get in two months’ worth of Stridebox, you’re essentially getting the same number of items, or slightly more, as Runnerbox, for roughly the same price spread over the two months.

Value for money – Stridebox

When you look at the rough cost per item, Stridebox wins. 8 items at a cost of $15 comes to about $1.88 per item, whereas Runnerbox’s was $2.45 for 13 items at a cost of $31.90 (when you include shipping). Even if you look at the cost per item of a Runnerbox with a perpetual subscription ($26.90 including shipping) the cost is still higher at $2.07 per item.

It gets complicated again when you factor in that Runnerbox comes every two months and you get Stridebox every month, but all the math started to make my head hurt. To keep it simple, as far as the one-off gift boxes go, Stridebox does give you better value for your money.

On top of all that math nonsense, Stridebox gives you some value-added features that I feel definitely provide more value for the money. For one, the Stride Guide. Yes, Runnerbox was crammed full of goodies, but there were no explanations for anything (granted, they were mostly self-explanatory). The Stride Guide not only gives a helpful little description of each item, but it also shares the retail price and lets you know if the items are intended for before, during, or after workouts, or anytime.(Disclaimer: I’m not sure if Runnerbox includes a guides in their usual subscription boxes… does anyone know?)

Another value-added feature doesn’t seem to be working yet, but has the potential to be pretty cool. In addition to the other information on the Stride Guide, there’s also a URL provided for each item that I assume will someday go to the StrideShop, which is “coming soon.” According to the Stridebox website, the shop will either let you buy the items directly “for a great price” or will direct you how to procure the items elsewhere, possibly with a discount from Stridebox. I love this idea of a StrideShop, because many of the items I received in my gift box are things I’ve never seen in shops near me, and I’d love to know that I have a place to go to buy more if I really like something.

EDIT: Since posting this review, I stumbled on the (open!) StrideShop. The products available right now are a little limited, but I expect it will continue to expand.

To sum up:

For me, Stridebox wins the battle of the running-themed subscription boxes. The cost is less of a headache, I like that I’d get a box every month, I appreciate the Stride Guide, and love the idea of the StrideShop, if it ever opens. Plus, to be totally subjective, I like the goodies I got in the Stridebox better than what I got in the Runnerbox. I’d rather get a few energy gels/bars and some kit than a ton of packets of granola and nuts, but that is my preference.

For people wanting more snacks – and a wider selection of box types – Runnerbox might be the way to go. In addition to the regular Runnerbox, they offer Cyclebox and Tribox plus limited-edition boxes like the race day survival kit or “new year’s fit in 15.” When I looked at their website last summer, they included gluten-free boxes, but I can no longer find that option.

It’s been several months since I last asked… do you subscribe to any boxes (running-themed or not)? What are your thoughts? Stridebox or Runnerbox? (Or other?)

Reflections on a Half Marathon: Kit

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since my half two Sundays ago, trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t – before, during, and after the race. Now that I’ve started to realize that I’ll likely run another someday (inevitable?!), I want to make sure I improve what I can, and stick with what’s tried and true.

This was originally going to be one simple post in which I outlined what did work and what didn’t, but – me being me – I rambled out of control, didn’t want to edit it down, and decided to break the post up topically. So it goes. First up:

What worked? My kit.

I debated with myself for a long time about what I was going to wear for this race! Part of me felt strongly that I should wear what I had been wearing for my long runs – long-sleeve tech tee and shorts with double-layer socks – since I was used to that, but I had actually hated dealing with long sleeves during those runs (I could roll the sleeves up when I got warm, but they tended to roll themselves back down and drove me crazy) and didn’t want to be driven crazy during my first half. I also really wanted to wear my run club singlet, but was worried I’d be too cold. I thought about a light long-sleeve tee underneath, but knowing how hot I get when I run, I didn’t want too many layers (see also: sleeve comments above), even though a light singlet over a light tee probably wouldn’t have been too much.

I tried to think about races that had gone really well and that I had felt comfortable during, figuring I’d replicate whatever outfit I had worn then. My mind went immediately to the Old Port 5K back in July, where I remember feeling fantastic:

My kit at the Old Port 5K

My kit at the Old Port 5K

Okay, brilliant. Sorted. But now the question came back around to the issue of sleeves and whether I’d be warm enough running in upper-40s/low-50s temps in that same kit. I toyed with the idea of arm warmers, but something just seemed silly about those… why not just wear a long-sleeve shirt? Then Colin brought up a good point when I asked him for advice – if I got too warm wearing the arm warmers, I could just push them down and wear them as sweatband-type-things, whereas a long-sleeve shirt would be way more difficult to remove if I got too warm. I figured I’d give them a go.

Now that that was settled, what about how to hold my crazy hair back? At the Old Port race – and at many other races this year – I had worn my Buff headband and it had done its job at taming my flyaway hair. I planned on rocking the Buff again, and bringing my sunglasses, until my FIL planted the idea in my head that a hat would be better at protecting my eyes from glare. (Fair point, especially since my cheap sunglasses aren’t polarized and I still squint when I wear them.) I’ve rocked a few different hats in previous races, but they tend to make me feel really hot and God knows I didn’t want to faint during my first half. I needed to be extra cautious! Enter Julie with her magic visor. It would block more glare, protect my face from the sun, but wouldn’t hold all the heat in. Perfect. Throw my new knee bands into the mix and I was ready to go:

Modified kit for the half

Modified kit for the half

It ended up being a perfect combination. It was kit I knew I could be comfortable in for shorter races, and turns out it works for 13.1 miles as well. Nothing bothered me, nothing chafed, everything stayed in place*, I didn’t get blisters (credit also due to Body Glide for this!), and I ended up being fine temperature-wise. I was questioning the arm warmers a few miles in but, despite being thermal, they didn’t make me too hot, and I was super glad I had them once the sun went behind the clouds and the wind started whipping off the lakes. I might have gotten too warm with a long-sleeve shirt on (an extra layer is an extra layer) so they were a great solution.

*I guess this isn’t entirely true. At one point my knee braces rubbed against each other and the velcro caught, loosening them both a bit. I stepped off to the side to re-tighten them and they managed to behave themselves for the rest of the race. So they stayed in place for the most part!

So what, exactly, was this kit? (I feel like I want to write something cheesy like “you, too, can have this look!”)

-Asics Core* singlet (bought through my run club… I’m unsure of the exact style)
-Fila Core Essential High-Impact sports bra
-Nike Racer Dri-FIT Double-Layer shorts
-Wrightsock Cool Mesh II double-layer socks
-Saucony Guide 7 shoes
-Nike Thermal arm warmers
-Shock Doctor Knee-Patella support straps
-Nike visor (specific style unknown)
-Sunglasses (brand forgotten)
-Garmin Forerunner 15
-Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated water bottle*

*I gave this bottle a pretty negative review a few months ago, vowing to not use it anymore, and yet I still keep using it. I’m still not a fan, to be honest, but desperate times…. Anyway, I plan to write a follow-up review soon.

Do you fret over your race-day kit as much as I did for this one? (Please tell me I’m not the only one!)

What are your tried-and-true pieces of kit?