Friday, February 26, 2016

Proviz REFLECT360 Running Jacket Review


You should never expect for cars to see you.  I always run defensively because you never know when there will be someone texting instead of looking where they are driving.  I reviewed the Proviz REFLECT360 Gillet (vest) in January.  It is extremely visible and I could tell that the drivers saw me.  I finished the review and Proviz told me that they were just coming out with a jacket for runners and asked if I would like to review it as well.

Proviz was started in London by two brothers who worked corporate jobs and commuted by bicycle.  They used equipment to help them be more visible but realized that there was a void in the market that they wanted to fill. The first device they invented was an electroluminescent light pack.  The company’s most popular products are in the REFLECT360 series which was introduced in 2014.  It is unique because it uses 100% reflective materials, which look grey in the daytime, but is highly reflective at night.  The REFLECT360 series includes jackets, gilets, vests, backpacks, helmet covers and more. 

The REFLECT360 Running Jacket uses most of the same materials that I really liked in the Gillet.   The reflective material covers the front of the jacket as well as the arms.  There is a soft mesh material under the arms and on the back to allow heat to escape.  One of the main things that Proviz was looking to do was to keep the weight of the jacket down.  The total weight of the jacket is just under 6 ounces.   I have included pictures with my flash on and off so you can see the difference.  The zipper sits under a zipper guard when fully zipped up so it doesn’t chafe your neck.  There is elastic around the waist so it doesn’t ride up.

I found the REFLECT360 Running Jacket to be extremely comfortable and fairly breathable.  I did test it when the temperature outside wasn’t very cold so I did overheat a little.  To be honest, I probably didn’t even need a jacket, I just wanted the reflectivity.  I found all of the features from the mesh, to the elastic waist, to the awesome reflective material to be of the best quality and it makes for a great product. 

Pros:
Light weight and breathable
Makes you very visible to traffic
Comfortable materials

Cons:
It is a little on the pricey side, but well worth it.

Proviz’s Media Links:

This REFLECT360 Running Jacket is comfortable, looks good, and most importantly it makes you extremely visible.  While you should still make sure to be a defensive runner and always pay attention to oncoming traffic, this is one product that could really help you to be safer.  You can pick yours up at the Proviz website.  If the $140 price tag is too much, look into the gillet or last years running jacket on amazon.  While it is missing some of the upgraded features of this year’s jacket, it is better than nothing.  Have fun and run safe my friends.

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Topo Athletic MT-2 Review

If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that I really like Topo Athletic shoes.  They offer shoes with a low heel drop and wide toe box.  This allows your toes to spread out instead of feeling claustrophobic like in most shoes.  The durability of the materials that they use is excellent as well.  The MT is one of the first shoes that I tested out on my blog.  It is still one of my favorite trail shoes because it is so light, comfortable, and really flexes with your foot.  I was really curious about how the MT-2 would compare, considering I had such high expectations.

If you are not familiar with Topo Athletic shoes, they fit snug in the heel and midfoot, while it they are loose in the toe box.  That way your toes can be free without your feel slipping around in the shoes.  As I stated above, the wide toe box allows your toes to spread out, which has several benefits.  This will not only help you be more stable, but will also reduce foot injuries commonly caused by shoes that compress your toes.  I am currently dealing with pain in both of my feet due to testing out shoes that compressed my toes. 

I have tested 7 shoes from Topo Athletic and have been impressed with every one.  Here are some of my past reviews.








The MT-2 has a 3mm heel drop as opposed to the MT, which is a zero heel drop shoe.  The difference was not noticeable to me.  It still had the low heel drop feeling, which I prefer.  The lower heel drop allows your body to be in a better alignment, which will help reduce injuries.

The weight of the MT-2 is about 8.5 ounces, which is slightly heavier than the MT, at about 8 ounces.  Again, there wasn’t much of a difference.  I really like running in a lighter weight shoe.  It isn’t a highly cushioned shoe like Hoka One One or Altra shoes, but it does offer the ability to feel the ground (ground contact) without leaving your feet unprotected.  I think that they used just the right amount of cushion with the MT-2. 

One thing that I really liked about the MT was that it used multi-directional lugs on the outsole and had groves to allow your feet to flex.  I find that the MT-2’s outsole is equally as good and Topo Athletic has incorporated a mud release feature to the outsole as well.  I have read concerns by other reviewers that in really muddy situations the MT-2 can slip a little.  I have run in wet, but not extremely muddy conditions and I found that they performed well.  I also felt that there was a decent amount of protection under your foot so if you step on a sharp rock, it shouldn’t leave you with a bone bruise.  The traction was great on gravel, packed trails, and granite outcroppings. 

The upper material has a breathable mesh and has more midfoot overlays which make for a great fitting and durable shoe.  The tongue is fully gusseted, meaning it is attached to the sides of the shoe.  That will keep more rocks and debris out of your shoes.  Nothing sucks more than having to stop to get a tiny rock out from under the ball of your foot.

Pros:
Light weight (8.5 ounces)
Wide toe box allows toes to spread out
3mm drop allows for better form and posture
Great price ($100 at the Topo Athletic website)
Fully gusseted tongue

Topo Athletic’s Social Media Links:

Once again, Topo Athletic has put out a great shoe that should be considered if you are looking for an awesome trail shoe.  This feather light shoe comes with a low heel drop, breathable mesh upper, flexible outsole, and is just a pleasure to run in.  It is hard to beat the $100 price tag either.  You can get a pair at the Topo Athletic website, or check the Topo Athletic Store Locator for a store near you. 

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tailwind Endurance Drink Mix Review

There are tons of drinks out there that help you recover some electrolytes that are lost during your runs.  Many people will not only carry their electrolyte drink, but energy gels or gummies as well.  I have read several articles about how mixing electrolyte drinks and energy (gels or gummies) can lead to upset stomachs and have even experienced it in some of my runs.  Tailwind Nutrition has a solution to that problem.

Tailwind was started by endurance athletes that were competing in ultra events.  The athletes were able to perform well for the first couple of hours, but about 4-6 hours into the race, they would start to develop stomach issues and leg cramping.   The drinks that they were taking were too sweet to drink for any extended amount of time.  The people at Tailwind did tons of research and combined fuel, hydration, and electrolytes into one convenient drink.

Say goodbye to sticky gels, bars, and chews and say hello to an easier way. Tailwind uses a glucose/sucrose blend of fuel that takes advantage of how our bodies absorb nutrients so your body can absorb everything easier. 

Tailwind drink mix dissolves completely when it comes into contact with water and is easy to clean up.  Some electrolyte drinks out there will leave a film or taste in your favorite bottle that will never go away.  With Tailwind, there is no film, lingering aftertaste or gooey mess.  Just a side note, if you leave warm drink mix in your bottle, it will smell funky after about a day.  It is easy to clean out though and there is no residual funky smell. 

So you may look at the packaging and see that there is no protein.  After tons of research, testing, and consulting with experts, it was determined that taking protein during exercise does not improve endurance, but it does increase the risk of GI distress.  Not only that, but the addition of protein can slow the absorption of carbohydrates that you need to rebuild your fuel (glycogen) supply.  That is why Tailwind left out the protein.  Tailwind is wheat, gluten, soy and dairy free too.

I got 5 single serve samples to test out.  I have had plenty of other drink mixes from other companies that are too sweet.  Tailwind was slightly sweet and refreshing.  The flavor was not overpowering, but wasn’t non-existent either.  I liked every flavor that I tried but my favorite was the Lemon.  They have an unflavored version and several caffeinated versions as well.  Using Tailwind is actually cheaper than gels too. 

You can get 7 single serve packs for $16.05 or get their bags.  The medium bags come with 30 servings (uncaffinated bags are $24.99 or $26.99 for the caffeinated).  The large bags come with 50 servings (uncaffinated bags are $34.99 or $37.99 for the caffeinated).  Each serving is 100 calories, 25 grams Carbs, and 25 grams of sugar.

Pros:
Great tasting
Don’t need electrolyte drinks and gels/gummies
Cheaper than buying everything separately
Easy to mix and clean up.

Tailwind’s Social Media Links:



I really liked the taste and convenience of the Tailwind drink mix.  It did supply me with plenty of fuel for my long runs without having to take electrolyte drinks and gels with me.  Having to take less with me is a great thing, especially on longer runs where I would have had to take 5+ gels with me.  I plan in using Tailwind drink mixes in my future races and found it useful in my trainings at various distances.  Give it a try and you will probably be a fan too.  Go to the Tailwinds website to purchase yours today.

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Level Up Virtual Runs


Have you ever done a virtual run?  Do you even know what a virtual run is?  Don’t worry, I didn’t know until recently. 

So what is a virtual run anyway?  It is a race that you can run anywhere at anytime.  Most events have a window of time (i.e. 2 weeks) to complete your race.  It can be a training run, during a race, or even on a treadmill.  You can break up the race into several runs, walk the required distance, run by yourself or with friends.  It is more about getting out there than anything else.

People like virtual runs because they allow you to be more flexible with when you do your race, it keeps you working toward a goal, and they are less expensive than normal races because there isn’t the overhead cost of putting a race on.  If you successfully complete a virtual run, you typically get a race medal and sometimes there are even prizes.  There are no age limits and anyone can participate. 

Level Up Virtual Runs is a company that was started by runners who wanted to create alternative ways for runners to complete races without getting up at the crack of dawn.  The proceeds from their runs go to help schools that can’t afford sports uniforms.  What a good cause.

There next virtual is “The Runner Awakens” and takes place from February 15th until February 29th.  You get a cool medal with BB-8 from the new Star Wars movie.  It costs $25 + a $1 processing fee.  You can save 15% by using code “Save15” at checkout (That makes it $21.25 + $1 processing fee).  Sunday is the last day to enter though, so sign up while you can.  Go to https://levelup.redpodium.com/the-runner-awakens to sign up.

Level Up Virtual Runs’ Social Media Links

Level Up is a great company that is trying to make a difference for school kids by raising money for their school uniforms.  Why not sign up for one of their virtuals and do your part.  You get a great medal as well. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Grayl Ultralight Purifier + Filter Bottle Review


Have you ever been out on a trail run or on a hike and run out of water?  I have and it was terrible.  I had a long way back to the car and I didn’t want to drink from a questionable stream.  The water looked clean, but you never know what could be lurking in that water.  I have seen tons of water filtration devices on the market, but many of them are either not portable, weigh a lot, or require special lights/batteries to work.  There is a new water filtration device that not only filters water, but purifies it as well.  Meet the Grayl Ultralight Purifier + Filter Bottle.

The Grayl Ultralight bottle is currently part of a Kickstarter campaign that will be running until March 4th.   Grayl was founded by Nancie Weston in 2012 and is based out of Seattle, Washington.  Nancie was concerned about plastic pollution and the poor quality and taste of water that she experienced when traveling.  She wanted to create a personal water filtration system that actually worked, was easy to use, and could be taken wherever her travels might take her. 

The first two products that were produced by Grayl were the Quest and Legend purifiers.  While they are both great products, Grayl wanted to make a more streamlined product for adventure enthusiasts that want the filtration capabilities without the extra weight.  “We stripped away every unnecessary ounce and element.  So all that’s left is the perfect tool” says Travis Merrigan, the companies COO and co-founder.

The Ultralight is not designed to replace your Camelbak.  You would want to still have something to carry your water.  This also isn’t going to be something you take on your 5k or half marathons.  The Ultralight is great for long trail runs or hiking where you want to refill your hydration pack on the go.  You could even fill up hydration packs for all of your buddies, if you feel like they deserve it. 

The Ultralight would also be ideal for camping, traveling, or even in your disaster preparation kit.  Just imagine going to Mexico or some other destination where the water isn’t safe to drink out of the tap.  The Ultralight could make the difference between enjoying your vacation and spending days in bed or on the toilet.  With just one press of the Ultralight, you remove 99.999% of viruses, bacteria, and protozoan cysts.  It also filters particulates, chemicals like chlorine and benzene, and heavy metals including lead and arsenic.  With several major cities having problems with their drinking water, this could really be beneficial. 

The Ultralight is so simple product to use that anyone can use it.  You just fill up the bottle with water (to the line), insert the inner press, and push down.  You have clean, purified water in less than 15 seconds.  How awesome is that. 

Pros:
Very lightweight at only 10.9 ounces
One cartridge replaces 300 single-use water bottles (great for the environment)
Great price, starting at $49
Can be used for travel, sports, or during natural disasters
Removes/filters viruses, bacteria, chemicals, heavy metals and more

Grayl’s Media Links:





Blog 

The only way to get your Grayl Ultralight bottle at this time is through their Kickstarter campaign that is currently running through March 4th.  A Kickstarter pledge of $49 or more gets you the Ultralight bottle (Estimated retail price is over $60 + taxes and shipping) or for $69 or more will get you the Ultralight bottle and a replacement filter (Estimated retail price is over $85 + taxes and shipping).  The estimated delivery for the Ultralight is in June 2016.  You can purchase the Quest or Legend at the Grayl website if you just can’t wait that long, although it isn’t quite as light as the Ultralight.  I have been in situations where the Grayl Ultralight would have really come in handy.  If you like to trail run, hike, or travel, give the Ultralight a try.  I love mine and I am sure you will too. 

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Opedix Dual-Tech 2.0 ¾ Length Tights Review


Bad Joint Alignment
Opedix is a company that makes athletic wear that is scientifically engineered to activate your kinetic chain.  What is your kinetic chain you might ask?  It is another term for how your body moves. Opedix products are made to promote dynamic alignment and keep everything lined up so your joints function as they should.  By helping keep your joints in better alignment, you should be able to participate in your favorite activities better, for a longer amount of time, with less pain.  Opedix calls their products “Kinetic Health Gear.”

Opedix claims that their gear can help reduce wear and tear on your joints and decrease the rate that your body fatigues, it also can be used to come back from a joint injury or reduce the amount of pain that you are in when you run.  They even claim that their products can help you improve your performance.   Opedix didn’t just throw some material together, they partnered with renowned orthopedic surgeons and biomechanical scientists to come up with products that would really make a difference.

Good Joint Alignment
I tested the Dual-Tec 2.0 ¾ Length Tights.  They are made with 23-panels for optimal fit and function.  There is a draw cord that unlike many cords out there didn’t cut into my mid-section.  It has a gusseted crotch to allow freedom of movement and comfort. The material wicks moisture really well.  Even after my really hard 14 mile run, they were relatively dry, which would not be the case for most of my running gear.  The Dual-Tec has an anti-odor treatment and the whole thing is made in the USA.

I got the Dual-Tec tights in the mail and the packaging looked great.  It comes in a mesh wash bag and the material looked really cool.  The instructions said that you might hear some popping the first time that you put them on.  They said that the tight is customizing itself to your body.  I put them on and the popping began.  While the packaging said it was normal, all I could think of was that my big butt was splitting the seams.  Did I order the wrong size?  No, and I couldn’t see any seams that had split. 

The Dual-Tec tights felt really good once I put them on.  I decided to take them out for a long run to see how they would perform.  Usually I am able to keep “good running form” for about 8 miles.  After that, depending on the intensity of my runs, my form starts to fall apart.  That is where the knees and lower back pain would normally start.  I ran 13 miles in good form, not just one time, but both of the long runs that I tested the tights out on.  Not too bad.  The other thing that I noticed was that because I was able to stay in good form, it took significantly less time than usually to recover from the runs. 

The claims that Opedix makes about improving mobility and stability during training is not new in the industry.  Many companies claim big things, but many products don’t stand up to their claims.  I did some research and found this article from Outside Online called “Debunking the (Often Phony) Science Behind Performance-Enhancing Apparel.”  The author did debunk several companies claims, but didn’t with Opedix.  He appreciated their science explainer page, which I did as well.  It made it easier to understand the technology.

Opedix realizes that their products aren’t going to be found in the dollar section at your local store.  The Dual-Tec 2.0 ¾ Length Tights cost $225.  If you are spending that kind of money, you would want some sort of warrantee.  Opedix stands behind the products that they make.  If you are not completely satisfied with your product, just return it to Opedix within 30 days and you will get a replacement or full refund, no questions asked.  You can’t beat that.

Pros:
Light weight and breathable
Provides tons of support to aid in joint pain
Improves your form by supporting your muscles
Reduces recovery time
Great guarantee

Cons:
Priced for serious athletes at $225.

Opedix Media Links:




Blog 

I was extremely impressed with the materials, construction, and feeling of the Dual-Tec 2.0 ¾ Length Tights.  While the price will be too much for most runners, it would be great for racers and people who have been dealing with serious knee pain, but still want to run.  You can get a pair at the Opedix website.  I really felt the difference on my longer runs when my body typically would get tired.  The Dual-Tec tights really did help me keep my running form longer and I felt like it reduced the amount of time it took to recover from those hard runs.  If you are willing to spend the money, it is a product that I would recommend to you.

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Ampla Fly Review

I am always interested in new technologies in running.  I read about the Ampla Fly in an article from Competitor.com “The Ampla Fly – The World’s Most Innovative Running Shoe – Is Back on Track.” This is truly a shoe that will stretch your current ideas of what a running shoe should do for you.

Rob Colby is one of two former Quiksilver Inc. executives who acquired the assets of Ampla out of Quiksilver bankruptcy proceedings in October of 2015.  The small start-up company got off the ground a few years back as a Brand X innovation project (under the banner of Quiksilver), but it wasn’t highly publicized.  Dr.  Marcus Elliott, a noted sports scientist, developed prototypes of the Ampla Fly, which has a unique carbon-fiber platform.  It looks really weird, but is made to compress when you land and give you a little boost when you push off. 


Dr. Elliott is a Harvard-trained physician who specializes in performance enhancement and injury prevention of pro athletes at the P3 Applied Sports Science in Santa Barbara, California.  The Ampla Fly was designed to guide your foot to a better ground contact position, gather force during your foot’s contact with the ground, and give you a return of energy during the toe-off phase of your running gait. The claim is that the Ampla Fly can help improve running mechanics, cadence, and posture. 

So now that you know the story and the claims, let’s look at my tests.  I have run on both paved roads and at the local track.  The results were the same in both situations.  First I want to discuss the Ampla Fly and how it feels.  Most shoes have somewhat flexible soles.  They bend and flex throughout your gait cycle.  The Ampla Fly does not flex due to the fact that it has a carbon fiber force plate that is supposed to guide your foot into a better ground contact position.  I thought this lack of flex would be an issue because I am used to very flexible shoes.  It wasn’t an issue at all.  In fact, I feel that the force plate does exactly what it was designed to do.  My foot strike was more natural and it made me want to put more emphasis on the toe off part of my gait, which I have never really been good at.  I was able to keep a quicker cadence with less effort and my running form seemed to be easier to hold, even at the hardest parts of my workout.

I also wasn’t sure what to expect from the springboard part of the shoe.  It looks like it would feel weird or that you would notice a huge spring with each step.  While it did feel kind of different walking out to the track, once I started running, it just felt natural.    

So how did this translate into my pace during my testing?  You need to take into account that I have been training hard and have lost weight recently when looking at my times.  I went out to the track to do my 4x1 mile intervals, which my half marathon training plan called for.  My fastest mile to date was 7:32 min/mile.  Here are my splits for my intervals:

4 x 1 Mile Intervals
Mile 1: 7:53
Mile 2: 7:07
Mile 3: 7:36
Mile 4: 6:45 (new PR)

While I may be a little faster due to my training and weight loss.  There is no way that beating my mile PR by 47 seconds (on my last interval) and having 2 of my 4 intervals faster than my PR didn’t at least have a little to do with the Ampla Fly’s though. 

The top of the Ampla Fly’s is breathable and the way your foot sits in the shoe feels great.  Does this shoe make you feel faster? Not for me.  I do feel like it takes less of an effort to go fast though.  I am able to keep my cadence up and stay in better running form longer.  I am looking forward to testing them out on some of my longer runs and very well could use them in my half marathon in 2 weeks. 

Here are some testimonials from a demo run.  I felt the same way as these people did.


Pros:
Decent cushion
Great for short or long runs
Feels natural, but provides energy at toe off

Cons:
A little pricey at $180

Ampla’s Social Media Links:



I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t a little skeptical when I first got the Ampla Fly’s in the mail.  I have tried unique shoe designs in the past and most of them were terrible.  I am shocked to discover how natural and comfortable these felt.  You don’t feel like you are getting help, but my tests have shown that I was definitely faster.  I know there are a lot of other variables like training hard, but beating my previous mile PR by 47 seconds cannot just be my training.  The Ampla Fly is the real deal.  They might be a little pricey, but they are worth testing out.  You can buy them from Ampla’s website for $180.  Welcome to the future of running! 

Note:  I received this product in exchange for a review.  The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it.  I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.