Tag Archives: Gear

Reflective Jacket by WTFinish

Gift Guide for Runners – 2014 “Dupes” Edition

Reflective Jacket from Wheres the Finish

Guess who!

I’m a little late on the holiday gift guide this year, but that’s allowed me to review many other runner gift lists and hopefully not bore you with things you’ve seen already (is there literal magic in the Oiselle New Flyer jacket, $140, that it’s on everyone’s  list?).  If you’d like to see a thorough gift idea list, click here for last year’s guide.

 

But let’s be honest, you’re just shopping for yourself at this point so it doesn’t really matter when you get the goods as long as you get them.  Just remember that all the running stuff you buy only helps you become a healthier, happier, better person, and you can’t put a price on that.  Or actually, you can, since if you bought everything on this list it would cost $838 for the high-end products but only $134 for the cheaper versions.  Sometimes it’s worth buying high-end stuff, but sometimes a great dupe (aka duplicate) can be just as good.  Hopefully this guide will actually end up saving you some money, since there are some great dupes below at great prices!

 

  • All-Over Reflective Jacket – $33 (!!! with shipping included) to $500 – You’ve all seen the Nike Flash gear by now.  It’s really expensive and fancy so it kinda makes laughing at this okay.  They don’t even make the all-over flash jacket anymore – this year it’s dots, $495, or half flash, $350.   I lusted after those jackets last year but decided not to get one (even on sale) after I tried them on and found them too heavy and hot.  My search for an all-over reflective jacket did not end, however.  I considered the Lululemon Bomber Jacket, $228, but it looked too short, heavy, and still so expensive!  But huzzah, I’ve finally discovered a fantastically cheap all-over flash jacket that’s not too heavy – on eBay (Fashion Woman Mens Unisex 3M Reflective Windbreaker Jacket, $23 plus $10 shipping)!  Delivery takes about a month since it’s shipped directly from China, but it’s worth the wait.  It’s a little sketchy since they are clearly branded as Supreme jackets but nowhere in the description do they list the word “Supreme,” but it’s a legit seller and the product is good.  It’s totally reflective all over (minus the Supreme logo) and lightweight enough to wear while running in cool to cold temps (it feels like a rain jacket, so not very breathable, but I wasn’t expecting that from 3M flash material).  Note that the sizing is “Asian” which in this case means “small.”  I ordered the unisex size Medium and it is a tight fit around my hips (laid flat out on the floor the bottom hem measures 19.5 inches across), and while I successfully wore it in the snow last night (and stayed totally warm), I’d prefer a larger size.  It’s also a little bit short on my gorilla long arms, and the pockets aren’t nearly deep enough (I plan on adding some velcro to the pockets so lip balm or tissues don’t fall out).  It has a nice, solid plastic zipper, a non-detachable hood, and velcro along the main zipper and at the cuffs.  It’s not a totally fully featured jacket, but it’s pretty dang good for any jacket at that price, let alone a 3M reflective one.  If you would like a “half-flash” option for even less than that, check out the “Harajuku 3M reflective stars leopard splicing charge trench coat Jacket” for $25 with free shipping (there’s no size choice and it’s listed both as a “women’s M” and a “L” so who knows exactly what size it will be, but it’s cute and cheap!).  There are also similar jackets for even less listed at Aliexpress, but their payment confuses me so I stuck with the more familiar eBay.  None of these will arrive in time for Christmas, but you can put an I.O.U. under the tree, or just keep them all for yourself.  
Reflective Jacket by WTFinish

So shiny!

  • All-over Reflective Hat – $10 to $50 – Ok, so I’m obsessed with reflective gear.  I take crossing the road and running in traffic seriously!  So before I found the jackets, I actually got an all-over reflective hat from Nike (Nike AW84 Hat, $50).  It’s not bad, albeit plenty dorky.  Then I found a slightly-less-dorky-looking-but-still-reflective hat from Forever 21, of all places, and it’s only $10!  (Reflective Night Runner’s Cap, $9.90)  The Forever 21 hat has a stiffer brim and black mesh on the top and sides, making it more breathable and slightly less dorky-looking.  The reflective material is also not as reflective as the Nike hat nor the Supreme jacket, as you can see in the photo below (taken with flash in a well-lit room).  It’s still more visible than a normal hat, so at 10 bucks I say it’s still a “buy.”
Nike hat, Forever 21 Hat, Supreme jacket reflective

The Nike Flash hat, Supreme reflective jacket, and the “reflective” hat from Forever 21.

  • Bluetooth Hat or Headband – $30 to $99 – I’m still seeing AcousticSheep SleepPhones, $40, make it onto “new” holiday gift lists (cough cough Today Show cough cough) even though they’ve been around for what feels like centuries (Amazon tells me I ordered them in January 2011).  They’re ok, I guess, but that stupid cord is still stupidly annoying.  AcousticSheep now sells a wireless version for $99.  And yet Target is selling bluetooth (that means wireless, Mom) hats (Bluetooth beanie, $30) and headbands (Bluetooth Headband, $30, unfortunately out of stock right now) and nobody is covering this.  This is news, people!  I ordered some for gifts (shhh don’t tell!) and of course one for myself, which I’m wearing right now.  It just arrived today so I haven’t put it through its paces yet, but so far it paired quickly with both my phone and laptop, held its connection even when I walked all the way across my apartment and into another room, and it’s plenty loud enough, which is about the only audio review I can give, since I’m totally not an audiophile and my favorite earbuds are 11 bucks.  I can tell that the right speaker seems louder than the left, and the electronics seem a little flimsy, so I worry they’ll break easily, but they slip out of the headband very easily so you can wash the gross off the actual headband.  The headband itself is quite thin so wouldn’t provide much warmth in the winter, but I think it would block the wind and it’s thin enough you could just wear a regular hat over it if you’re cold.  All-in-all, I definitely would take a chance on this over the $100 headband.  Plus everything ships for free from Target from now until Christmas!
Bluetooth headband from Target WTFinish

The only bluetooth headband available from Target last week – the headbands are all sold out now but hats are still available!

  • All-Weather Paper – $13 to $25 – I’ll admit I got this idea from the Runner’s World Gifts Under $30 list where they suggest using it to print trail maps for running.  But then I found this version on Amazon for only $13 with free shipping, and it’ll work with my laser (not inkjet) printer.  I haven’t actually ordered any yet, but the reviews are good.
  • Wool Socks & Underwear – $16 to $60 – (This isn’t really a “dupe” item, it’s just a solid gift idea.)  The temperature has finally dipped low enough in NYC that I’m breaking out my wool hiking socks for running, but it would be nice to have wool socks that are actually for running (like Darn Tough Vermont Women’s 1/4 Merino Wool Ultra-Light Athletic Socks, $16, Men’s version here).  Since wool has both magical anti-stink properties and is warm while wet, I’ll be wearing wool underwear (not just long underwear, but Icebreaker Botanical Hipkinis, $30) and even a wool sports bra (Smartwool PhD Seamless Racerback Bra, $60, but I’ve occasionally seen it on sale for $35) for my camping trip around Crater Lake next year.  Besides finding the items on sale, I guess the dupe here would be to find other brands, although since we’re talking about wool next to your most precious skin, you might want to stick with a name brand, like the well-reviewed items above.  Check out Sierra Trading Post for constant sales on stuff like good wool socks.
  • Lightweight Jogger Pant – $27 to $89 – Unlike people who hate ugly and comfortable clothing, I love that jogger pants and tapered sweatpants are all over stores right now.  They’re not for actual running, mind you – they’re to remind you and others that you might have in the past or will in the future be running.  Some of us are celebrating the end of the tyrannically tight yoga pants and are proudly wearing only clothing that can be confused with pajamas or found on those who have given up in life!  So I love Athleta’s City Jogger Pant, $89, but I also love not spending $100 on what are essential track pants.  Luckily, Athleta’s sister brand Old Navy has me covered with some similar pants (Active Lightweight Warmup Pants, $27, but there’s always a sale) and striped sweatpants (Side-Stripe Fleece Pants, $18, so not the same thing, I know, but they were on sale for $11 last week), and Marshall’s was just selling some thin jogger pants that were definitely Athleta-style for about $30 (photo below but no link is available – check your local store for availability).  I like these pants for travel because they are incredibly lightweight and dry quickly, and I can pretend they are fancier than jeans and wear them as such.
Lightweight jogger pants by WTFinish

RBX brand jogger pants from Marshall’s, thank you.

  • Headbands – $5 to $15 – Those sparkly bands look pretty but they always slip off my head and they don’t really do anything besides keep my bangs off my face (until they slip off, and then they really don’t do anything).  Bondi Bands are not quite as cute but they are effective at corralling stray hair and not slipping off, plus they double as ear protection.  A lot of time I just need to block the wind from my ears, and Bondi Bands are great for that.  Plus they have a large selection on sale for $5 at any given time (even ones that look like Frootloops, French Fries, or Jelly Beans).
Headbands from Wheres the Finish

A sparkle band (Sweaty Bands brand) & two Bondi Bands. Guess which one I wear the most?

 

Finally, a note on something I’ve found on every single holiday gift list focused on runners (including mine from last year, grimace) – compression socks and/or calf sleeves.  You know my love of compression gear, and I don’t step foot on a plane without wearing compression socks or calf sleeves (more recently I prefer the calf sleeves as they feel less constricting & let me wear a weird American flag design on my lower legs).  However, it’s one of those gifts that is basically impossible to give to someone else.  Why?  Because you have to know the calf circumference of the person wearing them.  Do you even know your own calf circumference?  No, you do not.  Which is a good thing, because it probably changes over the year with training and ice cream and not-training, forcing you to measure yourself before you buy something as tight as compression socks.  If you know the calf circumference of your giftee, then you’ve been measuring them while they are asleep, and that’s creepy.  If you want to share your enthusiasm for compression gear, give your giftee a link or photo of what they should buy along with a gift card.  Or just buy them a reflective jacket.

 

What’s on your holiday wish list?  How many reflective jackets are you going to order?  Does anyone know a dupe for actually running the miles?  Share in the comments!  

Stridebox November 2013

Runner’s Holiday Gear Wish List

Stridebox November 2013

Stridebox for November, one of the many fun gift items you can get your runner this upcoming holiday!

‘Tis the season!  And by season, I mean shopping season!  It’s almost Black Friday, and that means we’ve already been inundated for at least a month with emails, catalogs, and commercials for holiday shopping.  I’m not complaining, since I love gear and sales and excuses to window shop (and actual shop).  If you are stumped for ideas, however, I offer this Runner’s Holiday Wish List, which is sure to have at least one item you or your runner will love so much that you’d run through a snowstorm to get it.

 

(Make sure anything you buy can be returned in case it’s not the right fit or match for your runner and take extra caution on buying running shoes or sunglasses, unless you know the fit and preferences of your runner very, very well.)

 

For the Runner Who Loves Tech

  • GPS Watch – I’ve heard great things about and am personally drooling over the new Garmin 220 and 620 watches.
  • Fitness Tracker – e.g. Fitbit, Nike FuelBand SE, JawBoneUp or JawBoneUp24
  • GoPro Camera – This would be especially good if your runner likes to do other extreme sports like rafting, skydiving, skiing, or mountain biking.
  • iPod Nano – I loved my clip nano(s) since they had the Nike+ feature built-in, plus they were tiny, self-clipping, and still had a visible display unlike the shuffle, but they are constantly dying on me, and I’ve heard other people having the same problem.  I don’t love the design of the newest 7th Generation Nano, but I’d like to get one that actually works…
  • Sport Headphones – I use cheap, over-the-head ones (waiting for them to go back down to original price of $10 each, or you can get these in the meantime), but you could also gift a fancier, sport-specific style.

 

For the Runner You’re Worried About

  • Road I.D. – There are lots of different styles and info you can put on a Road I.D., so this would probably be a gift certificate gift so your runner can customize.
  • Reflective vest/headlamp – Especially good if your runner is thinking of doing a Ragnar relay.  Also, Vespertine makes high-end (expensive), attractive reflective gear.
  • LED safety lights – My favorite is the Vizlet as it’s bright, super lightweight, and can clip anywhere.
  • Reflective StickersThese stick onto just about anything and can be ironed for extra staying-power (they are small, but there are a lot of them).

 

For the Runner Who Has Her Hands Full

  • Running backpack/hydration pack – I like my Camelbak enough, but a slightly larger daypack would be a great, more versatile item (e.g. Mountain Hardwear’s Fluid 12 or 18, a Salomon Racing Vest, Nathan Intensity Race Vest, or an Osprey daypack/hydration pack).
  • hydration bladder or bladder cleaning kit – If your runner already has a hydration system they like, you can get them an extra bladder or a cleaning kit.
  • SpiBelt or Level Flip Belt – Both are great options to hold small items without bounce.  I find SpiBelts to be easier to access during a run, but Level Flip Belts hold more without bouncing.
  • Wrist Wallet – I like the Sprigs brand wrist wallets.
  • Gas Cap Hat – I wear these hats to hold my gels for every marathon now.  The company is out of stock of a lot of the styles and never replied to my inquiry, so I’m not sure what’s going on there, but the hats are great and hold a lot of gels for easy access and without bouncing.  They are shallow hats so if you have a very large head they might not work for you.

 

For the Fashionable Runner

 

For the Runner Who is Always Sore

  • Tiger Tail massage stick – I like it much more than “The Stick” massage stick, so you can also gift it to a runner who already has a Stick as an upgrade.  You could also get them the Tiger Tail Ball on a Rope.
  • Foam Roller – You can go with the giant black roller or a more travel-friendly option.
  • Ice Wrap – Like this one or this one, I use mine all the time.
  • Full body compression suit – You’re meant to sleep in these to aid in recovery – I’ve always wanted to try one, but they’re a bit spendy.  If you’ve tried them, let me know!
  • Gift certificate for a sports massage – A full massage would probably be best, but even those 10-minute neck and shoulder massages can be great, and can be gifted in a pack.

 

For the Runner You Maybe Don’t Know So Well (aka Stocking Stuffers aka You Don’t Want to Spend Too Much…)

  • Socks – Since it’s a gift, get them nice, fancy ones – if you’re a runner, a pair that you personally like.  If you’re not a runner, ask someone at your local running speciality store for their favorite brand.
  • Running gloves – You can go high-end on this with gloves from North Face or Lululemon with or ones with special wind-blocking features, or you can get them a pack of inexpensive semi-disposable gloves from Target or your local street vendor.  I recommend whatever gloves you get, make sure they have touch-screen compatible tips.
  • Headbands – When it’s cold and/or windy, I always need my ears covered.  I really like this style, plus it’s reflective.
  • Hats – There are tons of options, from lightweight caps to warm fleece winter running hats, but if it’s for a woman with long hair, consider a hat that has a ponytail hole.
  • Buff – Multipurpose neck gaiter/ear warmer/hat-in-a-pinch.  I like them because if I get too warm I can easily wrap them around my forearm/wrist and not be bothered with it around my neck.  They sell smaller/shorter ones as headbands but I like to buy the regular size and cut them in half.
  • Chawel – My favorite item of 2013, the changing towel (which can also be used as a makeshift sleeping bag or actual towel in a pinch).  If your runner is doing Ragnar, this is an especially useful gift.
  • Foot scrub or a callus shaver – Kinda gross, but useful (e.g. the Ped Egg or Revlon’s Pedi-Expert kit).  You could hide this in a basket of running goodies so it doesn’t stand out so much.
  • Anti-Chafe stick or lotion – I like Blue Steel, or you can get your runner a brand you personally like.
  • Box of your runner’s favorite bars, gels, electrolyte powders/tabs/drinks – Or for even more fun, get them an assortment of new and unusual bars and treats for them to try!
  • Subscription to StrideBox – a box of running treats (think gels, bars, powdered drinks) and one physical running item (e.g. water bottle, sport towel, safety light, safety bracelet, small bag) will be delivered directly to their door – gift subscriptions available for 1 month ($20) or 3 months ($50), or you can sign up for a recurring subscription for only $15/month.

 

For the Literate Runner

Note that I have not read many of these books, but they get decent ratings on Amazon and I don’t think a runner would hate to get these books, unless they’ve already read them.

 

 

For the Difficult-to-Shop-For Runner

  • Gift certificates! –  to your local running or sporting goods store (e.g. Jackrabbit, Super Runners Shop, Modell’s), for a sports massage, or for an online running retailer (like Amazon, Backcountry.com, or Road Runner Sports)

 

For the Runner You Really Want to Impress

  • Alter-G treadmill – If you get this as a gift for someone, please contact me immediately so I can be your friend (or even better, your friend’s friend).
  • Massage Chair

 

For the Runner Who Has Everything (Except More Memories)

  • Race entry fee – Even better if you join them at the race (but make sure it fits in their schedule!).
  • Membership to your local running club – Especially if your runner doesn’t already belong, but you could also look into renewing their membership for them.
  • Running camp vacation – There are several different ones out there, so you can figure out which one works best for you.
  • Running classes – Here in NYC there are lots of running class options, but this might be a more difficult find in other places.
  • Private coaching – This is great if you already know a coach you like, or you can ask at your local running store, or see if your runner has a coach he’s been thinking about using.
  • Volunteer to run with your runner, or volunteer at one of their races, or even just cheer for them – We appreciate it all!

 

What’s on your wish list?  Share in the comments!

Revlon Pedi-Expert pedicure tool

Gear Review – Revlon Pedi-Expert pedicure tool

Revlon Pedi-Expert pedicure tool

The Revlon Pedi-Expert – Sorry for the open package, I wasn’t planning on reviewing it but it was so good I had to share

If you are eating lunch, I suggest reading this another time.  If you are squeamish, I suggest never reading this.  If I might ever go on a date with you, stop reading this immediately and let us never speak of it again.

 

I finally broke down today and bought a Ped Egg (or rather, the more expensive Revlon equivalent of the Ped Egg, since it was the only brand available at my drugstore).  You’re probably familiar with the Ped Egg from the numerous infomercials, but it’s a plastic pod-shaped device with a metal grater on one side which you use it to shave (or rather grate, or plane) down your calluses.  Essentially, it’s a microplane for your feet.  My sister raved about it years ago but I was always a little afraid of trying something so drastic.  But with my ongoing callus problem (which started when I switched to a midfoot/forefoot strike), I finally bit the bullet, bought the Revlon Pedi-Expert (with “bonus” unwanted nail clipper and emery board) and grated my calluses.

 

I never should have waited so long.  The thing is amazing.  You use it on DRY feet, and just gently rub it back and forth over your thickest calluses, and it grates them away into dust – I always pictured huge chunks of skin coming off, but it’s not like that at all.  It’s more like if you used your kitchen zester on parmesan cheese – tiny, fluffy, white shreds come off, nothing thick or painful.

 

The metal microplane snaps into the plastic pod which is supposed to catch the shavings, but I found that the little shavings went everywhere, so it’s best to do this in your shower so you can wash away the ick afterwards.  (But again, you use the product on DRY, not wet, skin.)  When I popped the metal part off I was horrified (and a bit delighted) to find a huge pile of shavings inside, so it does catch some but not all of them.  The Revlon Pedi-Expert also comes with a little smoother pad to rub over the areas you shaved to smooth down any little sharp skin bits – it seemed to work ok, and cleaned up well.  I thoroughly washed all the parts with soap and water as directed, and am almost looking forward to building up my calluses so I can use it again.

 

Online reviews do indicate some people find the Revlon product sharper and superior to the Ped Egg, so it might be worth spending the $12 on Revlon versus the $6 on the Ped Egg.  Plus you do get that clipper and nail file, in case you need them.

 

Are you totally grossed out yet?  Isn’t this much worse than the “what I wear” post?  Share in the comments – we are learning so much about each other!

Ragnar Adirondacks start for Where's the Finish

Updated Ragnar Relay Packing List and Tips (now with PDF!)

Ragnar Adirondacks start for Where's the Finish

Ragnar Adirondacks 2013 Starting Area, when all our clothes were clean.

After finishing my first Ragnar Relay (Ragnar Adirondacks, September 27-28, 2013 – find my on the road posts here and finishing post here, and recaps of Leg 1, Leg 2, and Leg 3), I emerged with some strong opinions on my original Ragnar packing list.  My number one thought was that it was way too much stuff.  We barely touched any of the stuff in the “essential” van kits, and a couple items I didn’t emphasize turned out to be pretty important.   If you just want a one-page, unannotated Ragnar Packing list in PDF, you can find it here.

 

There were some good tips in the original post.  Definitely pack your running outfits in separate gallon zip-lock baggies and write LEG 1, 2, & 3 and your name with a sharpie on each bag.  Definitely put your sweaty clothes back in the bag (baking soda optional – Van 1 used a lot of baking soda but Van 2 didn’t touch the stuff) and then you can zip it up and toss it in the back – since it’s labeled you’ll be able to easily claim it later.

 

I want to emphasize that Van 1 used different items than Van 2, and even within the same van we used/needed/liked different items, which brings me to my number 2 lesson – you don’t become a different person during Ragnar.  If you like or don’t like a certain food or article of clothing, that’s not going to change just because you’re doing an overnight relay.  If you never spray your shoes with sneaker spray, you probably don’t need to start now (despite the cramped van, it didn’t really get that smelly).  If you think moleskin is too thick and you never use it, you won’t suddenly use it this weekend.  All of these packing items are suggestions only, and the list is more inclusive than exclusive so it gives you ideas of what you might want, but ultimately all you need are running shoes and clothes – the rest is gravy.

 

Now here’s my updated annotated packing list for Ragnar Relay!  Clean PDF version is here. [Comments added post-race are in brackets in bold italics.]

Clothing

  • Running shirts – 3 at most and remember, you will be getting a tech (short sleeve) Ragnar shirt at the starting line, so you could count it as one shirt that you don’t have to pack [In general your clothing should be as bright and reflective as possible – it’s not only safer to wear bright clothing on open roads, but it’s also easier for your teammates to spot you.]
  • Running bottoms – 3
  • Running shoes – 1 or 2 pair [I packed only 1 pair because I knew it wouldn’t rain, and I’m glad I only had 1 pair to deal with, but if there might be rain, pack 2.]
  • Running socks – 3 pair [I’d say bring one additional pair to wear between legs, too – especially if it will be cold at night.]
  • Sports Bra/Undies – at least 3 pairs each [I went through more clean underwear this weekend than I thought I would, so definitely pack enough.  Also, I kept my clean underwear in my “between legs” bag instead of my “running legs” bags – it was easier organizationally this way since then I didn’t have to dip into both “between” and “running” bags to get fresh clothing post run(s).]
  • Hat/visor for rain or sun (the bill of the hat/visor also helps keep the headlamp from falling down) – 1 or 2 hats, depending on how much you sweat [2 hats worked well for me, one bright one for day and reflective one for night.]
  • Non-running shirt to wear in-between runs in the van – 1 or 2 comfy shirts (can always wear the next running shirt, too) [1 shirt for between legs was fine – I’d put on the same shirt after each leg and it didn’t get wet or gross by the end.]
  • Non-running bottoms to wear in-between runs in the van – something comfy like sweats or yoga pants [I wore the same pair of capri pants between each leg, which was fine.]
  • Non-running shoes – something to air out your feet and that you can be comfortable in and shower in [I wore slip-on crocs, not flip flops so I didn’t have anything between my toes, which allowed me to go barefoot or wear socks when it was cold – they worked perfectly.]
  • Warm jacket or sweatshirt – it will be cool at night [DEFINITELY bring something warm for cool-weather Ragnars – I wore both my sweatshirt and quilted jacket for almost every minute I wasn’t running, and I wished I had an additional jacket or a warmer one, but I’m also a person who hates to be cold.]
  • Rain jacket/windbreaker [I didn’t bring a rain jacket because I knew it wouldn’t rain and I knew I wouldn’t wear it.]
  • Costume items – anything fun you want to run in or cheer in! [Even though it was a little bulky to pack, I’m glad I had my costume, and many other runners ran the entire race in tutus and such, which was cute.]

Safety Gear (required) – check that all work and batteries are good [and take all gear for a test run – even if you look foolish testing it in the daytime, you’ll want it to be comfy during Ragnar]

  • Headlamp – strongly recommended to have your own, sharing headlamps is gross (they get sweaty) – you can get a small, lightweight one for $6 with shipping, or a more substantial one for $19, or the first one I linked which has a red filter for night-vision, at $29 [A good strong headlamp was helpful – I’d say don’t cheap out on this item.  They also seemed to sell them at the start, so if you do forget yours they might be available on-course, but don’t count on it.]
  • Tail light/blinking lights, if you have them – I found the best little light called the Vizlet LED by Amphipod – they’re only 10 bucks each on Amazon, very lightweight, and can clip-on anywhere [The Vizlets were fantastic, very visible and very lightweight – worth getting several of them.]
  • Reflective vest for night running – I got a cheap one and also this fancier one with a small single pocket in the front [The “fancy” one was a nightmare of choking and chafing, but I had leant my cheaper one to another runner, so I was stuck with my nightmare.  Definitely test your gear!]

Running Accessories – Keep in one separate Ziploc bag with night safety gear for easy of finding in van before each run [Yes!  Definitely keep all your accessories in one place – it was much easier for me to access those little items all in one spot and not spread out across my “leg” bags or general bag.]

  • Handheld water bottle/water belt/Camelbak/SPI belt – whatever you normally use when running [It was essential for me to have my Camelbak on my longer legs.]
  • Watch or GPS [My Garmin kept its charge for the whole race, but I’d sometimes forget to turn it on in time, so my distances and times were a little off.]
  • Road ID – for your shoe, in case of emergency
  • Sunglasses
  • Hair ties/hairbands
  • Ipod & headphones [I’d say only use these if you absolutely must.  Only one runner in our van used headphones, and she only used them in one ear.  The roads aren’t closed to traffic, and it’s helpful to be as alert and aware of your surroundings as possible.  Also, relays like Hood to Coast prohibit them.]
  • Phone numbers of all teammates & maps of your legs of the run – in a small ziplock bag, a “must carry” when running (other people sometimes remove course markings and runners get lost, so reviewing your segments and having little maps to carry with you are an excellent idea) [I carried this but luckily never had to use it, but another runner on my team did, so definitely better to carry this small item for peace of mind.]
  • Cell Phone – see above – you should pre-program your teammates numbers into the phone, and you can photograph or screenshot the legs of your run – but hard copies are advised in case your phone dies [My phone almost never got service so I used it as a camera instead of a phone – it wouldn’t have helped me get rescued, but at least when they found my body they could have enjoyed some pictures of scenery.]
  • Cash – small bills (in general people said to have a decent amount of cash in small bills for food and drinks and random stuff you’ll want to buy at kiosks and stuff along and at the end of the course) [The $3 I spent for bathrooms and sleeping was maybe the best $3 I’ve ever spent.]

Miscellaneous

  • Cell phone – yeah, don’t forget this
  • Cell phone car charger & cords [Our van oddly came with a USB port, so we actually didn’t use the chargers very much, but you still should have at least one dual charger available and don’t forget the charging cables.]
  • Water bottle – something you can refill from the van’s large water supply (so you don’t have a million empty bottles floating around) – this is my favorite water bottle for refilling and tossing in my purse as the locking mechanism is very secure, but it also pops open easily and has an easy drinking spout (no wide mouth to splash you, no straw to get dirty).  [Definitely used my bottle a lot, refilling it from the gallon jugs of water we bought at the grocery store.]
  • Camera – can have one “team camera” [Should have used it more.]
  • Body Glide/anti-chafe – I like Blue Steel Sports [Should have used it more.  Ouch.]
  • Toiletries – your standard travel toiletries, pared down to a minimum (toothbrush & paste, small soap & small shampoo, etc.) [I only used my toothbrush & paste, since I didn’t take a shower until the end.]
  • Sunblock – see my post for more on sunblocks [I used a lot of sunblock.]
  • Chapstick with SPF [Yes.]
  • Deodorant [No.  I only used it before and after my showers – didn’t need it within reach in the van.]
  • Towel – for showering and also to sit on in van (so the seats aren’t gross) [CHAWEL!  Skip the standard towel and bring a Chawel instead.  This turned out to be an essential item for me, allowing me to change in the van between legs and get into clean, dry clothes quickly.]
  • Ear plugs & Sleeping Mask – highly recommended if you want to get any sleep at all [Yes to mask but I used my marshmallow headphones as ear plugs instead, so I could set my phone alarm and wake up without waking everyone else.]
  • Small pillow – inflatable camping pillow? [Inflatable worked well for me since I didn’t want a bulky pillow in the van, but you may or may not want a traditional pillow.]
  • Small blanket or compressed sleeping bag [More important than I realized.  My sleeping bag and AIR MATTRESS allowed me a couple good hours of sleep in the gym instead of struggling in the van.  Even a warm blanket would have worked either in our out of the van.  Give some thought to your sleeping items.]
  • Any medicine you need
  • Any prescription glasses/contacts you need
  • Food & Drinks – specific stuff you’ll need, e.g. GUs/gels/sport chews, special snacks, special protein powders or electrolyte tabs, etc. and any special snacks you’ll want (e.g. for me it’s Pop Tarts & Bonk Breaker bars) [I didn’t eat as much of this as I thought I would, plus they give you some gel and chews at the start, and I forgot to eat my chews during my long leg, so I had to take most of it home again.]

Optional

  • Compression socks/calf sleeves/arm sleeves/tights for recovery [I got the Ragnar compression socks and they were great – some compression socks are too tight and uncomfortable for me, but Pro-Compression’s socks were comfy for many hours.]
  • Buff or headband if your ears get cold/are sensitive [I wore my reflective buff around my neck for both night runs and my reflective headband around my ears for my night/morning run.]
  • Running gloves – probably won’t be that cold, but if you get cold hands easily, toss ’em in there [I ended up wearing gloves between runs when I was cold.]
  • Swim suit – not sure if there will be an opportunity, but if there is an ice bath or hot tub available, you’ll be glad you have it [I couldn’t have been paid enough to use the gross hotel pool.  HOWEVER, for those very shy folks, someone mentioned that the shower situation at the schools was just a giant open room, and they would have felt more comfortable if they could shower in a swimsuit.  So if you’re a nevernude, definitely toss in a pair of denim cutoffs.]
  • Dry shampoo [Skip it.  Didn’t touch the stuff.]
  • Glow sticks/fun stuff [Surprisingly didn’t use the glow sticks because I had enough LED items – I did buy a last minute Halloween flashing pumpkin necklace that I enjoyed, plus some of those “finger lasers” that worked well as mini-flashlights in the back of the van – you can get 40 of them at Amazon for under 8 dollars.]
  • Any additional reflectors or LED bracelets you might have – I got this LED slap bracelet which is quite bright (brighter than the Nite Ize slap bracelet) [This was great – wearing a colored light at night (that’s not red or white) can help your team spot you when every other runner looks the same.]
  • Jumper cables [Did not bring and luckily did not need.]
  • Car power converter [Did not end up using, but if you have a water boiler or Christmas lights or other things that need a traditional outlet, you’d need it.]

Kit for Van – One Kit per Van (so everyone doesn’t have to bring everything, also helps with organization – amounts below are per van)

  • Race bible in binder – 1 per van required [Required and used a lot to navigate – we actually used the written directions more than the GPS.]
  • GPS unit – another tip I heard was to pre-program all the exchange points into the GPS so you can just select them when it’s time to find your runner (could be very helpful when you’re tired at night) – the locations can be found at the Ragnar website under each leg [We never programmed in the exchange points, and actually used the GPS very little during the actual race, preferring instead to follow the Race Bible and roadsigns.]
  • First Aid Kit for blisters, cuts, etc. (include Vaseline, instant ice packs, rubber gloves, bandaids and antibacterial cream/spray, ibuprofen, aspirin, Tylenol, tums, immodium, tweezers, scissors, day time cold medicine, cough drops, moleskin, tampons/pads) [We didn’t use a single item in the first aid kit besides one instant ice pack and the scissors to open a package of Chomps – but I guess I’m glad we had it.]
  • Safety pins – several [Ragnar provided safety pins for the bibs at the start, so these weren’t needed.]
  • Flashlight – 2 handheld [Didn’t use the flashlights – used the internal van lights and headlamps/finger lasers instead.]
  • Colgate Whisp one-time use toothbrushes (no water required) [Used a couple of these but mostly just used the sinks with real toothbrushes at the major exchanges.]
  • Hand sanitizer – 1 large pump bottle [Used this quite a bit.]
  • Toilet paper – 1 roll [Neither van use this at all – all the porta potties were well-stocked.]
  • Kleenex – 1 box (especially handy if it might be cold outside and warm inside, which always makes my nose runny) [Used a few tissues, but could have just used the baby wipes, so I’d skip both the TP and the Kleenex next time.]
  • Trash bags – 1 box (for trash, ground cover, emergency poncho, etc.) [Used a few for the final clean up, but mostly used the same grocery bag as a small trash bag during the race.]
  • Ziploc bags – 1 box quart & 1 box gallon [Used a few of these, but not that many.]
  • Sharpie marker [Didn’t use – a pen would have been better, and luckily we had a few pens floating around.]
  • Duct tape – 1 roll [Didn’t use, don’t bother bringing.  A roll of scotch tape would have been nice to put up a couple decorations I had, but it wasn’t a big loss, either.]
  • Shoe anti-odor and drying spray – 1 can (optional) [Didn’t use.]
  • Baking soda – 1 box [Van 1 used but Van 2 did not.  Personally, I’d bring again.]
  • Baby wipes – at least 2 tubs per van, unscented – for on-the-go “showers” and general freshening up, cleaning hands, etc. [Definitely used these – almost finished two full containers.  A must.]
  • Bug spray – 1 bottle [There were tiny annoying bugs at some of the exchanges, but nothing that would have been deterred by spray – so we didn’t use.]
  • Febreeze – 1 bottle (optional) [Didn’t use until the drive back – but even then it wasn’t really necessary – so I’d say skip it.]
  • Van window markers/decorations/sidewalk chalk [A definite yes on the Loew Cornell Simply Art window markers, and a pass on the Crayola kind because they’re not very good.  We only had one pack of the Loew markers and we shared between vans, which was fine (the white and yellow colors showed up best on the tinted windows).  We forgot to use the sidewalk chalk but next time I’d definitely use it.]
  • The Stick (massage stick)/Foam roller [We used the Stick a bit but never the foam roller – there was never a time I wanted to set up on the ground and roll, although I did see some other teams doing it.  If you know you’ll use it, then bring it, but I shouldn’t have because I’m not a foam rolling fanatic.]
  • Snacks for the group – bananas, apples, nuts, pretzels, Twizzlers, granola bars, PB and J, etc. & gum [We ate a lot in the van, but not what we expected – we didn’t touch the PB&J and bread but Van 2 made several sandwiches.  We guzzled down a lot of chips and chocolate and made a second stop to buy more of those things.  I ate several apples, several granola bars, and one banana but no one else in my van did.  We finished almost an entire loaf of cranberry walnut bread.  The Nilla Wafers, Oreos, and peanut M&Ms and other chocolate candies were popular all around.  Having gum was nice.]
  • Drinks – powdered sports drink mix, water (purchase water on the road) [Van 1 bought 6 gallon jugs of water and used about 5 of them during the race – but that was with perfect cool weather, so if it was hot we definitely would have drank more (they did have water at the major exchanges, but it was easier to just refill in the van).  We bought a few individual bottles of Gatorade and some people drank them but I stuck with water and Nuun, which I got at Exchange 6.]
  • Soft-sided cooler – for semi-perishable foods (optional) [We had a couple mini soft coolers and didn’t use them at all.  Skip.]
  • Water cooler – very optional, if someone already has one you can fill with ice and water and use it to refill bottles (otherwise can just pour from gallon jugs) [We didn’t have coolers and just used jugs, which was totally fine.  If you’re doing a “hot weather” Ragnar, ice would have been nice, but ours was so cold we didn’t miss it.]
  • Cups & paper towels – 1 roll towels, a few cups [It was a good idea to have a roll of paper towels, especially for van clean-up.  We only used a couple cups and could have done without if we didn’t have.]

 

Should Have Been on The List or I Things I Wish I Had

  • Chawel.  Yes, you could make one yourself by sewing together two thin towels, but let’s face it, you’re never going to get around to doing that, plus it’s bound to be bulkier than their “sport” version which also has a nifty little pocket and elastic strap.  I swear I do not work for the Chawel company and am not getting compensated for what I say about them.
  • Warmer jacket.
  • Air mattress or foam pad for sleeping.
  • Team Shirts – It was really nice to have team shirts at the end, and it’s a nice souvenir (the team voted on what kind of shirt to get, and we ended up with soft cotton shirts with a small team logo – very easy to wear again and very comfy).  We used Custom Ink for printing and for about 13 shirts each shirt was about $14.
  • Jambox bluetooth radio – I brought mine and we used it on the drive up and also to cheer our runner.  It was a good thing, although obviously not essential.
  • Walkie Talkies or a Phone that Worked – People tell me there’s no such thing as a walkie talkie that works over miles and mountains, so basically I want more cell phone towers to be built, because not having a working phone was an inconvenience to me but would have been a major problem if everyone in the van had Sprint as their service provider.
  • Painter’s Tape for decorating the vans
  • Personalized Magnets for tagging other vans
  • A fun team name and theme – We had a great name/theme.  Breaking Ragnar got photographed a lot, because Breaking Bad is a popular show and the finale was the same weekend as the race.  Plus Runner 4 ran in his tighty whities and green button-down the entire race, while still managing to knock out 7:30 miles, and who doesn’t want to take a picture of that?  I also had fun handing out little baggies of “blue meth” candy to other runners and volunteers, who always said a polite “thank you” even if they had no idea what I was giving them.  We’re already joking about our team name and theme for our next relay race, so if you haven’t decided on a team name yet, I urge you to pick something with multiple “fun” possibilities.
  • Crepe Paper (maybe…) – to make a fake “finishing tape” for everyone’s last legs.
  • A special food and/or beverage for the finish line – We saw one team with multiple bottles of wine at the finish, and while I didn’t want wine after the relay, something special would have been nice to share with the whole team, like a cake or even sparkling juice.  Others on my team wanted cocktails, though, so that’s always a thought, too.  Yes, you have the pizza and beer, but they ran out of pizza so we had to wait, and the beer lines were endless.

 

Clean, unannotated, one-page version of the Ragnar Packing List in PDF is here.

 

And that’s all I’ll say on Ragnar ADK for a while, I promise!  I can’t wait for my next relay race, but first I have a couple marathons scheduled (yikes).

 

Have you run Ragnar?  What packing or other tips do you have?  Share in the comments!

Ragnar Relay packing tips and advice

Ragnar Relay Packing List & Tips

Ragnar Relay packing tips and advice

The important stuff to pack for team Breaking Ragnar…

In just two weeks I’m running a Ragnar Relay (Adirondacks) for the first time, and I’m excited and nervous and don’t really know what to expect.  To ease those nerves, I focus on things I can research and control – like packing!  In fact, the final spark that made me start this blog was all the helpful packing advice for the Ragnar Relay that I found online – lots of good advice, but I felt like it was scattered, and I wanted to compile it in one spot.  So, here’s my Ultimate Compiled Ragnar Relay Packing List, annotated! [EDIT:  FOR POST-RACE, UPDATED PACKING LIST, PLEASE VISIT HERE.]

 

This list assumes you’re running a standard Ragnar, not an ultra (so 3 legs, not potentially 6 legs).  Also, post-Ragnar I will let you know what items I found essential, what I thought I could have done without, and which items I wish I had.

 

In general, the two main tips I found were (1) not to overpack & (2) to be organized. The van gets crowded with all the people and stuff, and it sounds like you don’t end up using much stuff besides your running clothing and baby wipes.  A soft-sided duffle or backpack is recommended (no luggage with wheels – too bulky).

 

Everyone said to pack each running outfit in a separate gallon ziplock bag (socks, undies & bra, bottoms, top) & write LEG 1, 2, 3 on each bag with a sharpie – that way you can grab & go quickly, and post-run you can put sweaty clothes back in the bag along with some baking soda to combat odor until you get home to wash them.

 

As for food, each van can decide if/when you stop for meals, and it sounds like there are opportunities along the Adirondacks course, so the snacks are for fun but many people reported not eating as much as they thought they would.

 

Also, the Adirondacks are dark at night – and a lot of the roads don’t have street lamps.  So a decent headlamp is important, and make sure your flashing/reflective gear is comfy if you’ll have a long run in the middle of the night.  I bought a couple of Vizlet lights which weigh almost nothing (compared to those traditional red blinking lights with 2 AA batteries).  The Vizlets are thin and magnetized and can snap on to your hat or even the neck of your shirt without bouncing around.

 

Another tip was to have assigned duties for each person in the van. Jobs can rotate but it assures you’ll have a couple people on each duty.  For example, each van could have a –

  1. Van “Captain” – overall coordinator of van and between vans
  2. Navigators (2) – helps driver with directions, knows where & when to meet each runner
  3. Photographer – captures the memories (otherwise you might forget to take pics!)
  4. Food & Bev directors (2) – makes sure you have enough water/food, keeps van organized & clean

 

Without further ado…  THE LIST!

Clothing

  • Running shirts – 3 at most and remember, you will be getting a tech (short sleeve) Ragnar shirt at the starting line, so you could count it as one shirt that you don’t have to pack
  • Running bottoms – 3
  • Running shoes – 1 or 2 pair
  • Running socks – 3 pair
  • Sports Bra/Undies – at least 3 pairs each
  • Hat/visor for rain or sun (the bill of the hat/visor also helps keep the headlamp from falling down) – 1 or 2 hats, depending on how much you sweat
  • Non-running shirt to wear in-between runs in the van – 1 or 2 comfy shirts (can always wear the next running shirt, too)
  • Non-running bottoms to wear in-between runs in the van – something comfy like sweats or yoga pants
  • Non-running shoes – something to air out your feet and that you can be comfortable in and shower in
  • Warm jacket or sweatshirt – it will be cool at night
  • Rain jacket/windbreaker
  • Costume items – anything fun you want to run in or cheer in!

Safety Gear (required) – check that all work and batteries are good

Running Accessories – Keep in one separate ziplock bag with night safety gear for easy of finding in van before each run

  • Handheld water bottle/water belt/Camelbak/SPI belt – whatever you normally use when running
  • Watch or GPS
  • Road ID – for your shoe, in case of emergency
  • Sunglasses
  • Hair ties/hairbands
  • Ipod & headphones
  • Phone numbers of all teammates & maps of your legs of the run – in a small ziplock bag, a “must carry” when running (other people sometimes remove course markings and runners get lost, so reviewing your segments and having little maps to carry with you are an excellent idea)
  • Cell Phone – see above – you should pre-program your teammates numbers into the phone, and you can photograph or screenshot the legs of your run – but hard copies are advised in case your phone dies
  • Cash – small bills (in general people said to have a decent amount of cash in small bills for food and drinks and random stuff you’ll want to buy at kiosks and stuff along and at the end of the course)

Miscellaneous

  • Cell phone – yeah, don’t forget this
  • Cell phone car charger & cords
  • Water bottle – something you can refill from the van’s large water supply (so you don’t have a million empty bottles floating around) – this is my favorite water bottle for refilling and tossing in my purse as the locking mechanism is very secure, but it also pops open easily and has an easy drinking spout (no wide mouth to splash you, no straw to get dirty).
  • Camera – can have one “team camera”
  • Body Glide/anti-chafe – I like Blue Steel Sports
  • Toiletries – your standard travel toiletries, pared down to a minimum (toothbrush & paste, small soap & small shampoo, etc.)
  • Sunblock – see my post for more on sunblocks
  • Chapstick with SPF
  • Deodorant – deserves its own line-item because of the whole “36 sweaty hours in a van” thing
  • Towel – for showering and also to sit on in van (so the seats aren’t gross)
  • Ear plugs & Sleeping Mask – highly recommended if you want to get any sleep at all
  • Small pillow – inflatable camping pillow?
  • Small blanket or compressed sleeping bag
  • Any medicine you need
  • Any prescription glasses/contacts you need
  • Food & Drinks – specific stuff you’ll need, e.g. GUs/gels/sport chews, special snacks, special protein powders or electrolyte tabs, etc. and any special snacks you’ll want (e.g. for me it’s Pop Tarts & Bonk Breaker bars)

Optional

Kit for Van – One Kit per Van (so everyone doesn’t have to bring everything, also helps with organization – amounts below are per van)

  • Race bible in binder – 1 per van required
  • GPS unit – another tip I heard was to pre-program all the exchange points into the GPS so you can just select them when it’s time to find your runner (could be very helpful when you’re tired at night) – the locations can be found at the Ragnar website under each leg
  • First Aid Kit for blisters, cuts, etc. (include Vaseline, rubber gloves, bandaids and antibacterial cream/spray, ibuprofen, aspirin, Tylenol, tums, immodium, , tweezers, scissors, day time cold medicine, cough drops, moleskin, tampons/pads)
  • Safety pins – several
  • Flashlight – 2 handheld
  • Colgate Whisp one-time use toothbrushes (no water required)
  • Hand sanitizer – 1 large pump bottle
  • Toilet paper – 1 roll
  • Kleenex – 1 box (especially handy if it might be cold outside and warm inside, which always makes my nose runny)
  • Trash bags – 1 box (for trash, ground cover, emergency poncho, etc.)
  • Zip lock bags – 1 box quart & 1 box gallon
  • Sharpie marker
  • Duct tape – 1 roll
  • Shoe anti-odor and drying spray – 1 can (optional)
  • Baking soda – 1 box
  • Baby wipes – at least 2 tubs per van, unscented – for on-the-go “showers” and general freshening up, cleaning hands, etc.
  • Bug spray – 1 bottle
  • Febreeze – 1 bottle (optional)
  • Van window markers/decorations/sidewalk chalk
  • The Stick (massage stick)/Foam roller
  • Snacks for the group – bananas, apples, nuts, pretzels, Twizzlers, granola bars, PB and J, etc. & gum
  • Drinks – powdered sports drink mix, water (purchase water on the road)
  • Soft-sided cooler – for semi-perishable foods (optional)
  • Water cooler – very optional, if someone already has one you can fill with ice and water and use it to refill bottles (otherwise can just pour from gallon jugs)
  • Cups & paper towels – 1 roll towels, a few cups

 

Whew!  It seems like a lot, and my pile of supplies is already taking over a lot of my living room, even though I haven’t finished gathering everything yet.  It will be an endurance packing relay as well!

 

Have you run Ragnar?  What packing tips do you have?  Share in the comments!

Sunblock is a runner’s best friend

Lots of good sunblocks here.

Lots of good sunblocks here.  From left to right, Coppertone Sensitive Skin, Banana Boat Baby, Supergoop, and Neutrogena Beach Defense.

The one thing I wear no matter the season, no matter the distance, is sunblock.  I have sensitive skin and had one pre-cancer removed despite my shunning the sun, so it’s especially important to me, but it should be important to you, too.  Marathon runners are more at risk for skin cancer, not only because of their increased exposure to sun but also because of their “depleted immunity from all the high-intensity exercise.”  Yikes.  I’ll admit I don’t reapply during my long-runs or races, but now that they have these sunscreen towelettes, I think I’ll start stashing one with my gels to use on the go.

 

But before I head out the door (and even before I put on my running clothes, to avoid any spots I might miss from shifting clothing), I always slather on the sunscreen.  I used to use spray sunblocks but have switched back to creams because I think they last longer on my skin, don’t force me to hold my breath during application, and aren’t as sticky.  My favorites are pictured above and reviewed below.

  • Coppertone Sensitive Skin SPF 50 – I first bought this because it was listed as one of the chemically “safe” sunblocks out there, but kept using it because it works so well.  I use it on my face, neck, and ears.  It doesn’t sting and gives excellent coverage, but it will give you a white face until you rub it in (and sometimes even after, especially spots around your hair that don’t quite get rubbed in).
  • Banana Boat Baby SPF 50 – It’s labeled as tear-free and sting-free, and for me it is.  Much like the Coppertone, it takes a bit of effort to rub in (and when I sweat a lot it “re-emerges” as white streaks on my skin), but it seems to last longer than some other formulas, and in a pinch I can use it on my face, too, so it’s multipurpose.  Also, since it’s for babies it makes me think it’ll work better because if a product doesn’t work on babies, those parents will cause a ruckus.  I’ll use this on my upper body and sometimes legs.
  • Supergoop SPF 30 – Supergoop is one of the few chemical sunblocks that doesn’t sting even when my skin is sensitive (from heat or salt or a bad mood).  It rubs in easily, doesn’t smell like much of anything, and doesn’t leave my skin sticky or shiny.  While the big pump is initially expensive, it’s actually not much more ounce-for-ounce than regular drugstore brands, and the pump is very convenient, making application that much simpler.  I’ll use this on my legs and arms, especially when I’m going for a short run or when I’m not running at all.
  • Neutrogena Beach Defense SPF 70 – These yellow bottles cropped up in stores earlier this year and I couldn’t resist trying them.  They are not a “wet skin” formulation but rather a standard sunblock, but I like how easily it rubs in and I actually enjoy the beachy/fruity scent it has (but I don’t wear it when I know that fragrance would be irritating to others, and I don’t use it all over my body because then I think the smell would be overwhelming).

 

Whatever your distance, if you’re running outside, don’t forget to slop on the block!

 

What sunblock(s) do you use?  Share in the comments!

This is what I wear when I run

It's like I've been raptured on a run.

It’s like I’ve been raptured on a run while carrying an extra pair of shoes.

I’m a creature of habit.  When I find something that works, I stick with it… unless something is really pretty or on sale.  I wear almost exactly the same thing every time I run.  Here’s my outfit for summer (or anytime it’s over 60 degrees).  Items are listed clockwise from the top. [These are my own opinions based on what I actually wear – nothing was given to me promotionally or otherwise.]

  1. Hat – I always wear a hat, even at night, or in the rain, or in the winter (then I’ll supplement with a buff or half buff around my ears).  It helps keep sun, rain, bangs, or copious amounts sweat out of my eyes.  This is my favorite hat because it’s super lightweight and fits perfectly, but Nike doesn’t make it anymore so I’m always searching for another hat like it before this one disintegrates.
  2. Hair elastics – Since I have long thin hair that loves to tangle the second a light breeze travels though it, I put my hair into a ponytail, braid it, then use a third elastic to double up the braid before I poke it through the hole in the hat.  Yes, it looks like a horse, but it stops the braid from bouncing around or hitting me in the face.  Streamlined!
  3. Headphones and iPod nano 6th generation – I trained for and ran my first marathon without music, but at some point I started training with it, and eventually started wearing them during marathons, too (first time was at my 5th marathon, Portland).  Only until recently have I started leaving the headphones at home again.  It’s nice to have the option either way, and I never listen to music very loudly, so I can always hear everything around me.  The headphones are Sony’s ultra lightweight vertical in-ear headphones (which for years were about $12 with shipping from Amazon, but are now listed at $40, so I don’t know what happened there).  Other styles fall off or hurt my ears, but these work perfectly for me.  I clip the nano onto my sports bra and tuck the cord down my shirt.  Streamlined!
  4. T-Shirt (North Face Velocitee Shirt) – I have a lot of tech t-shirts, but my new favorite is the Velocitee.  Supposedly it only weighs one ounce, and while I haven’t weighed it to check, it is extremely lightweight but not tissue thin, so I feel properly covered while wearing it.  This is my go-to shirt now on the frequent hot and muggy days we get here.  Fortunately it looks like it’s on sale at most places online that carry it – unfortunately it’s in limited sizes and colors.
  5. Sports Bras (2) – I don’t know why they don’t make super-supportive sports bras for us less-endowed ladies.  It’s as if they think anyone with less than a C cup doesn’t mind bouncing around.  I want that stuff locked down tight.  So, I wear two.  It also creates a perfect pocket for cash, tissues, or even a gel or two.  Most of my sports bras are the seamless compression kind from Target, Costco, or Old Navy.  I would happily switch to one single super-bra, but have yet to find one.
  6. Snack-size ziploc baggie – These are perfect to hold some cash tucked away between my two bras so it doesn’t get wet, sweaty, and gross.  My neighborhood bodega appreciates it.
  7. SPI Belt – I actually only wear this when I’m in a race and need to carry my phone or extra gummies or something.  Sometimes I even wear two – one in the front and one in the back.  I always wear them under my shirt but over my tights.
  8. CW-X 3/4 Length Stabilyx Tights – If CW-X ever goes out of business, I’m in big trouble.  I have worn the brand ever since I ran my first 1/2 mile in regular shorts and nearly wore away the skin between my thighs.  I used to wear the over-the-knee shorts version but switched to the 3/4 length because it seems to give my knee (or my psychoses) a little extra support.  It also compresses everything to the dickens, locking and loading all your jiggly bits before you run.  Streamlined!
  9. Saucony Hurricane 14 – I wore these for about the past year before buying the Omni’s pictured above them.  I really liked the Hurricanes but switched because the video from my running test in Jackrabbit’s store showed I was pronating too much in the Hurricanes.  Since the Omnis felt a lot like the Hurricanes, I made the switch.
  10. Velcro ID (on shoes) – For those with eagle-eyes, that is a little shoe ID I have on my old shoes.  I have one RoadID but recently got a pack of 2 cheap write-on ID tags for kids – infuriatingly branded “WHO’S SHOES” which is so wrong that I blacked out the giant brand name on one side and also wear them upside-down so people don’t think I’m a grammar idjiat (which I am, but I don’t want everyone to know).
  11. Thorlo Experia Mini Socks – I used to be a Wrightsock devotee, but when I switched my gait from heel-strike to forefoot/mid-strike, I started getting horrible new calluses on the inner side of the ball of my foot, which would develop blood blisters underneath them (gross, I know).  I battled them with metal callus scrapers, blister band-aids, and anti-chafe cream, and eventually they started calming down, but when I discovered these Thorlo socks with additional padding on the ball of the foot, I felt like I discovered a new friend.  A new friend who cares about my feet, and not in a creepy way.  So now I wear Thorlo Experias.
  12. Saucony Omni 12 – I just got these shoes last week so I can’t speak much on them, but they seem okay so far and I hope I can stick with this model for a few years.
  13. Blue Steel Sports Anti-Chafe Cream – I used to only need anti-chafe cream when running very long distances, but now I use it on my feet on every run.  It’s a little spendy at $17 for 3.3 ounces on Amazon, but it works well for me, lasts a long time, doesn’t stain my clothes, isn’t sticky, has tea tree oil in it, and is from Australia, so I assume it’s made from koalas and platypuses, and thus is totally worth it.
  14. Garmin Forerunner 110 GPS-Enabled Sport Watch – I didn’t wear a running watch for years, preferring to run by feel (and by what my Nike+ account from my nano would tell me later).  But when I tried my brother’s GPS watch I was intrigued, so when this model went on sale on Amazon I snapped it up.  Now I wear it for every run, and while I try not to look at it too much (failing miserably), I do like having a record of my runs online, and it’s fun to see the map it creates (especially if you run lots of different routes – collect them all!).
  15. Oakley Flak Jacket Sunglasses – Since I clearly value function over fashion, I wear sunglasses that, while they may look cool on other people, make me look like Geordi La Forge.  I can wear these in everything from rain to full sun and they protect my eyes from dust and bugs (because I run that fast).  They also stick to my face even when I’m melting like the wicked witch.  Streamlined!

The only other thing not pictured that I always wear are the various sunblocks I use which I’ll cover in a separate post.  They are that important.

 

What gear can you not run without?  What do you wish someone would start making for runners (besides self-propelled shoes)?  Share in the comments!

Gear Review – Camelbak HydroBak Hydration Pack

Camelbak HydroBak (with water bottle for scale only)

Camelbak HydroBak (with water bottle for scale only)

I’ve been struggling to find a hydration solution since I first started running.  I trained for and ran my first marathon with a FuelBelt water belt, but it bounced unless I only kept 2 bottles in the front (which almost defeats the purpose).  I’ve tried the handheld bottle holders, but I found them uncomfortable and I felt unbalanced (and I didn’t want to run with bottles on both hands like Edward Waterhands).  I’ve even tucked a FuelBelt water bottle into a SPI belt, but I hated fumbling with the zipper when thirsty, and one little bottle is never enough.  Plus, for all of those tactics, the water sloshes in the bottles, reminding me of every step I take.

 

Now, I simply run without water, effectively tethering me to the Central Park water fountains (which are turned off for half the year, anyway).  I’m going to need water for my upcoming Ragnar Relay, plus I’d like to explore more routes and trails locally, but as a copious sweater I need to have a decent source of water at hand.  So when Camelbaks went on sale on Gilt a couple of weeks ago, I jumped on two of them (excessive, I know, but they were a relative steal at $25 for the HydroBak and $29 for the Classic).

 

Today I went on my first run with the HydroBak 50 oz pack (pictured above).  It’s a fairly small pack even for my 5’6″ frame and only holds the hydration bladder plus one small pocket that is JUST big enough to hold an iPhone 5 without a thick case and almost nothing else (it’s about 2.5″ x 5″, big enough to hold some money/credit cards and keys).  You could fit a Gu or two in the pocket, but you’d have to take off the pack to get to them.  You can see in the photo that there’s a clip on the front right strap that keeps the hose out-of-the-way but accessible for drinking.  The clip has a split at the back so you can switch it to the left side if preferred, and the hose itself can be snaked through the pack to come out on either the left or right side.

 

I kept the pack cinched almost all the way down so it rode high on my back.  There is no sternum strap on the HydroBak (unlike the 70 oz Classic) but I didn’t have a problem with it bouncing on my run.  I only filled it about half-way and noticed a little sloshing because I didn’t do a good enough job getting the air out (if there’s no air there’s no sloshing – one person recommended turning it upside-down to suck out the air but I forgot).  By the end of the run, when it was almost empty, I noticed the pack moved a little bit more on my shoulders – not bouncing exactly, but shifting around because there wasn’t any weight inside anymore.

 

It was a little warmer wearing the pack against my back, and I occasionally noticed the buckles bumping into my arms that could potentially cause chafing on a long run, but this first foray into hydration packs was relatively successful.  It’s not as free and easy as going without anything, but I’d feel comfortable using it when I don’t have easy access to water fountains.  It also saved me some time because I didn’t have to stop or go off path for a fountain, but I’m not supposed to care about those things on my slow easy runs…

 

Update August 20, 2013 – I’ve been wearing the HydroBak on almost every run now.  I like not having to stop for water and it hasn’t been irritating me (even on my 13 miler).  I still wish I could magically have cold water without having to carry anything, but until then, I like the HydroBak.  Also, the tip about filling the bag, closing it tightly, then flipping it upsidedown and sucking out the air is spot-on.  No air, no sloshing.