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.

legend

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?

Extend Nutrition Giveaway Winner!

In my last post, a review of Extend Nutrition Anytime Bars, I mentioned that Extend Nutrition was awesome enough to offer a $25 gift card to one lucky reader. The giveaway closed on Friday night, and I used Random.org’s Random Number Generator to pick the winning commenter.

winner

Fallon!

Fallon was commenter #1 out of 5

Fallon was commenter #1 out of 5

Congrats, Fallon! Please email me at dgobsrunning [at] gmail.com to claim your gift card!

Review: Extend Nutrition Bars (Plus a Giveaway!)

Disclaimer: I was contacted by Extend Nutrition and provided free samples of their product to review. All opinions expressed are my own, and I did not receive any additional compensation for this post.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may have noticed that my approach to pre-race and pre-run nutrition has been somewhat varied, and maybe even a little checkered. I’ve experimented with bagels, eggs, Luna bars, combinations of scones and waffles, yogurt (that one didn’t turn out so well…) … so many different things that I can’t even remember all of them. And yet, after all that, I have yet to find the perfect pre-run fuel for me.

So, when a rep from Extend Nutrition reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in reviewing their protein bars, I figured it was worth a shot! I received samples of three flavors of their Anytime Bar – Mixed Berry, Chocolate & Caramel, and Cookies & Cream:

photo(9)Extend Nutrition products feature a “Nutra9 Blend” of proteins, fats, and carbs that is designed to help stabilize blood sugar for 6-9 hours, which is not only helpful for sustaining energy during exercise, but also for controlling food cravings and managing symptoms of diabetes. The Anytime Bars are high in protein, low glycemic, and either low in sugar or sugar-free, depending on the flavor. (Extend Nutrition also offers crisps, drizzles, and shakes, and all their products are gluten free and kosher.)

I was so excited to try out the bars before running to see if they’d be my running-fuel grail, but… alas. I received my samples just before my trip to Europe, where I managed to stress out my metatarsal and have been unable to run since. Boo.

However, I have tried each of the flavors that were sent to me – both before exercise and simply as a snack – and I have some thoughts to share.

(TLDR – I’m a fan! But do read on for the fun bits!)

Mixed Berry: Work Snack

  • 150 calories
  • 12g protein
  • 1g sugar
  • 2g net carbs

Mixed Berry was the first Anytime Bar I tried. It was afternoon, my stomach was growling, and luckily I had packed the bar with my lunch just in case I got peckish before my long commute home.

Full disclosure: I was worried that I wouldn’t like these bars. Any protein bars I’ve tried have all had that weird, hard-to-describe soy-protein taste that tends to overpower whatever flavor the bar is trying to be. So my expectations were pretty low.

berry 2Upon opening the bar, I was pleasantly surprised to see real bits of berry and a light icing drizzle – nothing too over-the-top. I took a bite… no weird soy-protein taste. I took another… still nothing weird, just tasty berriness. I wolfed it down and honestly enjoyed the whole thing. This was the first protein bar I’d tried that didn’t taste like a protein bar… it just tasted good.

As for controlling my blood sugar and sustaining my energy, I couldn’t really feel anything different, other than I didn’t feel fainty during my commute home. Whatever that was due to, it was a plus.

Mixed Berry Anytime Bar = thumbs up for taste, thumbs up for not feeling fainty.

Chocolate & Caramel: Pre-Workout Snack

  • 130 calories
  • 10g protein
  • 0g sugar
  • 0 net carbs

More full disclosure: after enjoying the Mixed Berry bar, I was worried I wouldn’t like the other two flavors, since they’re both sugar-free. Me and fake sugar don’t get along too well, because the fake-sugar taste ends up being all I can taste. I can’t drink diet soda for this reason, or any of those squeezy water enhancers like Mio that look so cool.

But, in the interest of a fair review, I grabbed one of the Chocolate & Caramel bars before my last gym visit. Drew and I got home from work, changed, and went straight to the gym, which is usually a recipe for making me a bit fainty during my workout. I busted out the Anytime Bar during the car ride over, and – again – was pleasantly surprised:

caramel 2The bar was covered in a thin layer of chocolate, and had a layer of caramel inside. It was very chewy and a little rich, but not too overpowering. And – to my delight – it tasted neither of fake sugar nor of that weird soy-protein thing I don’t like! In fact, it was delicious.

I gave Drew a bite — Drew, who can’t drink Nuun because it tastes too much like fake sugar, even though it doesn’t taste like fake sugar at all to me, and who doesn’t like protein bars very much — and even *he* thought it tasted “really good.” He even asked for another bite, and proceeded to steal half the bar from me. If any of you knew Drew, you’d know just how glowing a review that is coming from him!

And it gets better. I spent my entire gym visit on a stationary bike, pedaling quickly on the lowest resistance setting possible to spare my metatarsal, and I felt like I could go forever. Even while keeping my RPMs above 100. Even with regular sprints of RPMs hitting 120. I’d say I felt like Super Woman, but that might be a little hyperbolic. Essentially, despite not having eaten more than the Anytime Bar since my lunch 6 hours prior, I had energy to burn. And I didn’t feel fainty at all, despite the gym being as hot and stuffy as ever.

Chocolate & Caramel Anytime Bar = thumbs up for taste, thumbs up for Drew’s approval, thumbs up for energy and lack of fainty feelings… bonus thumbs up for caramel

Cookies & Cream: Breakfast

  • 140 calories
  • 10g protein
  • 0g sugar
  • 0g net carbs

My usual breakfast routine on workdays is pretty pathetic. If I remember, I grab a cereal bar as I’m running out the door, which I may or may not remember to eat. More often than not, I forget to eat it, or forget to grab one at all. Sometimes I buy a cheeky danish when I buy my morning coffee. But, usually, I don’t eat breakfast. This leaves my stomach growling like Chewbacca by 10am or, if I remember a cereal bar, the growling doesn’t start til 10:30.

Yesterday, I grabbed a Cookies & Cream Anytime Bar as I was running out the door. I ate it during my walk from the T to my office. Like the other two flavors, it was delightfully devoid of both fake sugar and forced proteiny-ness, though I didn’t like it quite as much as the Chocolate & Caramel flavor.

photo(8)Bar eaten, I went about my morning as usual. I got coffee, I tackled emails, I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off. And I didn’t get hungry. In fact, I didn’t even notice that I wasn’t getting hungry because, well, I wasn’t getting hungry. My stomach wasn’t doing its almost-daily Chewbacca impression. I was able to stay focused on work because I wasn’t daydreaming about pastries.

I usually eat lunch around noon, sometimes earlier if I’m particularly peckish. Yesterday I didn’t eat until 1, and even then I found that I wasn’t ravenous and that I couldn’t eat both sandwiches I had brought (sauteed veg in a multi-grain pocket… I’m working on this whole healthy, no-pastries-for-lunch thing!). I was totally satisfied after just one sandwich, whereas the day before I had devoured both, plus a Greek yogurt, plus stray snacks that were hanging around the lunch room. My hunger was totally managed. Chewbacca had been tamed!

Cookies & Cream = thumbs up for taste, thumbs up for taming Chewy!

All in All

I’m totally digging these Extend Nutrition bars, and I can’t wait to try them out as fuel before a long run… whenever that happens. Luckily the “best before” date on these bars isn’t until 2017, so hopefully I’ll be back to running by then! Although, I may scarf down the rest of my samples before then. They’re that good.

And, honestly, I’m not saying that just because they asked me to review the bars; had I found them on my own, I’d be just as amazed at how much I like them, given my feelings about the protein bars I’d tried before.

In addition to the flavors I got to try, they also offer Yogurt & Berry, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Rich Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Apple Cinnamon, not to mention the crisps, drizzles, and shakes. You can scope out their products on offer here, and find out where to buy them here.

And now, how about a Giveaway??

The folks at Extend Nutrition, in addition to being awesome enough to send me free samples, also offered a $25 gift card for their products to one lucky reader.

All you have to do is leave a comment telling me a) your favorite pre-run snack or b) which Extend Nutrition product you’d most like to try (or both a and b!) and I’ll select a winner using a random number generator.

This giveaway will be open until Friday, October 9 at 11:59pm Eastern.
**Please note: only US residents of the lower 48 states are eligible to win**

Happy running, and happy snacking!

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?)

Review: Nathan SpeedDraw Plus Insulated Water Bottle

(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.)

I’ve mentioned on this blog before about how I hate running in the heat, and how I can tend to get fainty sometimes. I’ve also talked about my propensity to avoid hydrating properly, especially before races. Given this winning combination, I’ve taken to carrying a water bottle with me when I know I’ll be running in intense heat. At the Shipyard Old Port 5K last year, I carried a Nathan QuickShot, which I bought on impulse the night before:

QuickShot can be seen in my right hand

QuickShot can be seen in my right hand

I liked that this bottle had a hand strap so I didn’t have to actively hold it while I ran, but the 10oz it held ran out very quickly on that hot, hot day, and the water got warm SO quickly from the heat of my hand. I never used it again.

For the Firefighters 6K back in June, I was so desperate to have liquid with me that I carried a giant water bottle filled with Nuun the whole way:

Giant water bottle and phone in hand

Giant water bottle and phone in hand

That wasn’t ideal either. My hand got really tired holding that bottle, and again, the liquid inside got pretty warm from my hand after a short amount of time. I started researching better handheld bottles (I’m not ready for a hydration belt yet… a belt or pack seems like overkill to me for short races, but a small bottle in hand doesn’t seem quite as bad) and came across another Nathan product, the SpeedDraw Plus Insulated:

It seemed to cover all bases – it had a hand strap so I wouldn’t have to actively clutch it while I ran; it’s insulated so the liquid inside should stay cooler longer; it’s 18oz so it wouldn’t run out quite as fast as the QuickShot; it’s dishwasher safe; and as a bonus, it features a zippered pocket that holds most cell phones, as well as keys, ID/credit cards, money, and a little bit of fuel.

It was also $35, which I wasn’t prepared to shell out on a water bottle. I left it in the back of my mind until I returned to Portland for the Old Port 5K. I spotted a few SpeedDraws on an endcap at L.L. Bean and decided to go for it after a) examining it in person and deciding it seemed legit, and b) getting worried that the race would be as hot as last year’s. The morning of the race ended up being pretty cool so I didn’t bring it (even though once I started running I really wish I had brought it!) and ended up not using it until a few weeks later.

The first time I used it, I filled it with tap water and set out on my run. My phone, ID, and a tissue fit well in the zippered pocket, and it was really nice not having to hold my phone (which I’m doing in almost every picture of me running before I bought Simon!). Drinking out of it took a little bit of getting used to; I found the best way was to hold it above my mouth, pointing down. When you squeeze the bottle, water shoots out in a little (loud, funny-sounding) burst, and before I mastered the amount of pressure I needed, I found my shirt covered in splotches of water. Eventually I got the hang of it and it worked pretty well. I was happy, and considered writing a positive review right away.

However, I’m glad I waited. Each subsequent time I’ve used it it’s been a pain in the neck. The second time I took it for a run, I popped a Nuun tab inside, filled it with water, and put the cap on right away (mistake!). The pressure from the carbonation built up so much that when I went to take a drink the first time, Nuun sprayed out violently and drenched me. It kind of hurt, too! To make matters worse, liquid kept dribbling out from under the lid, soaking the zippered pocket and making my hand all wet and sticky. I blamed myself for pressurizing it with Nuun and shrugged it off.

The next time, the bottle continued to leak from under the cap even though I let the Nuun fully dissolve and settle before putting the cap on. It continued to leak until I only had maybe 3 or 4 ounces left. I thought maybe the bottle just really didn’t like Nuun. So the next time, I put plain water in (after washing it really well). Nope, still leaked. The time after that, I only filled it about halfway with water and it finally didn’t leak! However, this was the day of my 5-mile long run and I was wishing I had been able to carry more than just 9 or 10 ounces as I was gasping for water once I finished.

Last night I used the bottle again at the weekly Shammies Fun Run. I had made a glass of Nuun and drank about half of it (8 ounces or so) before transferring it into the bottle. I figured it would be safe since it was only half full, Nuun or not, but sure enough it started leaking almost immediately after I left my house. I kept fiddling with the cap, changing the tightness and position, but nothing I did stopped the leaking. This was the worst it had ever leaked, and it soaked right through the pocket and got my phone wet. Not cool!

You can see the little puddle on top of the pocket here

You can see the little puddle on top of the pocket here

And here, you can see by the "tide line" just how far through the pocket the liquid soaked

And here, you can see by the “tide line” just how far through the pocket the liquid soaked

I really wanted this bottle to work because I loved being able to stash my phone safely in a pouch, and I liked being able to carry water without having to actively hold a bottle. This bottle did get a little heavy when it was full, making me feel a little off-balance as I ran, but I was willing to deal with that. But all this leaking? Nope. Last night was the last time I’ll use this bottle. I think I gave it enough benefit of the doubt but it just kept failing and now I’m sad that I spent so much on it.

I had read some reviews when I was researching bottles, but they seemed pretty evenly split between positive and negative. All the negative ones I’ve read report the same leaking problem, which makes me wonder… did the people who left positive reviews leave them right after using them for the first time, or are those of us with leaking bottles the victims of a batch of defects?

Anyway for me it’s back to the hydration drawing board, I guess. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t recommend this particular product to anyone!

Do you use a bottle/pack/belt that you’d recommend?

Review: Runnerbox

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been hearing a lot about subscription boxes lately. I have friends who get Birchbox – monthly packages filled with beauty and grooming products – and have been seeing ads on Facebook for subscription boxes of pet toys, shaving kit, healthy snacks, full meals… the list goes on. Clearly, subscription boxes are so hot right now. The way it works is that you pay a monthly fee and the company will send you a box full of samples of various goodies. Some, like Birchbox, encourage subscribers to write reviews of the products, and for each review you get so many points, which you can then cash in for more goodies.

One of my co-workers is pretty much the Birchbox queen. She reviews her way to so many points that she can cash them in and buy fancy swag for only a few bucks. She’s also shared some of the edible samples with me, and I have to say I’ve quite enjoyed this perk. The way she described the whole thing sounded so cool to me that I wanted to jump on the bandwagon, but most of the samples Birchbox sends would go to waste on me, since I don’t wear makeup or use many of the products they include. So I got thinking – with so many subscription boxes floating around out there, what kind would I be interested in?

Me? A runner and a gearhead? Hmmm…

photo(1)

Enter Runnerbox.

Let me back up a second. I had poked around the internet a few months ago to see if there were any running-themed subscription boxes, and my searches yielded two: Runnerbox and Stridebox. There were also some general fitness-themed boxes: Bulubox (vitamins, supplements, health, and weight loss), Fitbox (healthy food, supplements, workout gear and apparel, recipes, etc.), KLUTCHclub (choose from women’s, men’s, or mom’s boxes full of snacks, beverages, supplements, and personal care products), Kona Kase (nutritional products, training tips, and inspirational quotes)… and those are just a few. To read other bloggers’ compare/contrast reviews, check out here, here, or here. Again, I’m sure those are just a few!

I narrowed my interests down to Runnerbox and Stridebox, but from there struggled a bit with which to choose. Here are the basics:

Runnerbox:

  • Can choose from Runnerbox, Cyclebox, or Tribox
  • Once you select Runnerbox, you can then opt for the regular box, a gluten-free box, or the limited edition race day survival kit
  • Runnerbox is a bi-monthly subscription costing $19.95 per box, plus $6.95 shipping for each box. Or, you can opt for just one year at $21.95 per box plus shipping, 6 months at $22.25 per box plus shipping, a 2-box starter kit for $24.95 per box plus shipping, or a giftbox – also $24.95 plus shipping.
  • The website’s description: “RunnerBox is a subscription based box for runners, triathletes and other active people. It’s a mini shoebox filled with running products, mailed to your front door. It has everything from energy products, gels, chews, protein shakes/supplements, nutrition bars, skincare, to safety products and other fun accessories! Some products will be brand new (but personally tested) on the market, and some will be tried and true favorites. With so many products coming out on the market, leave the trials and testing to us, we’ll search out the best and send them to you!
  • You can cancel your subscription anytime

Stridebox:

  • Stridebox has only one option, which contains “6-8 products” per month
  • It’s a monthly subscription costing $15 per box and shipping is free
  • The website description: “StrideBox is a monthly subscription box service for runners. This means, each month, as a StrideBox subscriber you’ll receive a selection of products focussed on enhancing your trainings, workouts, and races. Our products come from both well established brands as well as emerging companies and smaller businesses. The monthly box is delivered direct to your door, and could include anything from energy bars, gels, and other foods to apparel, gadgets, and other fun extras. Each month is a surprise, and allows you to discover and experience new brands and products without doing all the legwork of finding them.
  • You can cancel your subscription anytime
  • This part isn’t active yet, but the website says it will soon feature a StrideShop where you can buy more of the products you received in your box “at a great price”

To be honest, I was leaning toward Stridebox because it’s cheaper, it comes every month, and the description mentions apparel, gadgets, and fun extras, whereas Runnerbox’s description has more emphasis on gels and food, and I’m obsessed with kit. In the end, Runnerbox got me because of their giftbox option – this allowed me to try the box without having to subscribe, since I’m not sure I’d trust myself to cancel my subscription (“Free” running stuff in the mail every month?! Way too tempting to “forget” to unsubscribe!).

Anyway, on to my review!

Even though the description called it a “mini shoebox” I was still surprised at how small the box was:

Runnerbox perched on top of a regular-sized shoebox for comparison

Runnerbox perched on top of a regular-sized shoebox for comparison

A motivational quote under the lid

A motivational quote under the lid

However, it was completely crammed full of stuff:

photo(3)

I was a little surprised at just how much stuff they had fit into that little box! Here was my haul:

  • Kay’s Naturals protein cookie bites, honey almond flavor (gluten free)
  • Honey Stinger organic energy chews, fruit smoothie flavor
  • Cherry Bay Orchards dried Montmorency cherries
  • Eden Quiet Moon packet of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit
  • Jelly Belly quick energy Sports Beans, assorted flavors
  • Jelly Belly protein recovery crisps Sports Beans, chocolate flavor
  • Smooch mango, pineapple, and banana fruit snack fortified with chia seed and acerola
  • The Good Bean fruit and no-nut trail mix bar
  • Nuun tab, lemonade flavor
  • Rani’s Yummy granola, key lime flavor
  • Fluid Performance natural sports drink powder, raspberry lemonade flavor
  • 2Toms blister shield powder
  • Runnerbox “The original multifunctional seamless wear” headband/snood/wristband/hairband/balaclava thing
  • Two informational cards, one about Sports Beans and one about 2Toms blister shield products (no coupons or promo codes)

I assumed from Runnerbox’s website description that I’d be getting a lot of energy products and food, but I was still a little disappointed at just how little “other” stuff I got. The blister shield sounds interesting – you pour it into your socks before you run and supposedly it prevents blisters – and the Runnerbox-branded multifunctional head wrap thing will definitely come in handy as I navigate running with my new short hair, but that was all. I had read reviews of other Runnerboxes containing safety lights and lace locks and I got a little kit envy and had to remind myself of the energy-product-heavy description.

As for those energy products, I’m looking forward to trying them out! Now that I’ve signed up for my first half-marathon I expect to start doing some longer runs soon and I’m sure I’ll need all the energy and carbs and electrolytes I can get my hands on. It’ll be interesting to see if I prefer chews to beans, and I can use these products as a springboard for testing others to see what works best for me. I was happy to get another Nuun tab too, because I’ve grown to love it after buying my first tube on National Running Day.

All in all, though it was fun to get a box of running swag in the mail, I don’t think I’d subscribe to Runnerbox. I’m not sure the contents* are worth the nearly $30 every two months; for that price, I’d rather go down to City Sports or wherever every two months and pick out my own products to try, and pick flavors that appeal to me rather than get them at random. And while I like granola and cookies and things like that, I might be more apt to consider subscribing if, instead of those products, there were other chews or gels to try, or another bit of kit. If I won the lottery or worked in a field that pays a little better than librarianship maybe I’d consider subscribing just for grins, but I don’t think Runnerbox is for me.

(*I have wondered how different the contents of a giftbox are from a regular subscription box, or if they’re different at all. I can’t really tell from the website. Does anyone know?)

Now, Stridebox on the other hand… half the price for boxes every month instead of every two? I know that works out to be about the same cost, and that Stridebox says it contains 6-8 samples whereas my Runnerbox contained 12, but every review of Stridebox I’ve seen has shown about the same number of samples as Runnerbox, so technically that ends up being twice the amount of goodies for roughly the same price. Oh, so tempting. Someone talk me out of giving it a try! 🙂

[Edit: Check out my review of Stridebox!]

(**Also, just a disclaimer: I wasn’t asked to review Runnerbox or provided with one to review. I bought it out of curiosity and decided on my own to review it. All opinions are my own and very well may differ from that of other Runnerbox samplers.)

Do you subscribe to any boxes (running-themed or not) or have you been tempted? If so, what are your thoughts?