Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “gear”

Gear Review: Inov-8 Debrisoc 38

My love for trail-running has grown considerably in the last two years, to the point where I’d prefer to be out on the trails for a majority of my weekly miles. Unfortunately, my options are a bit limited in the center of Iowa, so I work with what I have and enjoy the few very nice trails that I can access without hopping in the car for too long. As I’ve spent more and more time running down all variety of single-track, rail-bed, and other outdoor terrains, the need for gaiters has increased considerably. Nothing will stop you in your tracks quicker than a few tiny rocks grinding into your heel or bouncing between your toes. The temptation is to always let them be and hope they’ll work themselves out, but I know from experience that giving them more time to grind up your feet is never smart! This need made the Inov-8 Debrisoc 38 an exciting option, as they combine CoolMax moisture-wicking socks with a built-in gaiter that will fit around any pair of shoes you throw at them. After taking them for a spin a few times, they certainly have their place in my arsenal, but probably won’t become my all-around go-to gaiter choice. Let me provide a few more details, and you can decide for yourself if the DebriSoc is right for you!

Fit

The socks offer a snug fit, without constricting my circulation in any way. The CoolMax means they aren’t going to be the thickest socks, so you probably wouldn’t be slipping them on for a winter run, unless you were planning to wear an additional pair of socks underneath. The padded heal offers some additional comfort, although I’ve noticed that most running socks seem to claim a “padded heel” and I rarely notice any significant differences. They have a flat seam toe join, so you aren’t going to pick up any blisters from the seams rubbing on your toes. This is especially important since your feet may move around a bit more in your shoes when you are out on the trails. They pull on pretty easily, but the added elastic cuff to account for the built-in gaiter means they are a bit harder to get on initially. The gaiter does add some additional snugness around the ankle, but nothing noticeable once you’ve been wearing them for a while.

DebriSoc-1

Function

The gaiter is sewn into the sock around the ankle, so  it works best to flip it up while you are putting the sock itself on. Once you have the sock on, and have put on your shoe, you can adjust the gaiter to find the right fit. The integrated stretch apron can be easily pulled down over the laces, and a small metal hook is looped under one of your laces to hold the apron in place. There is enough stretch in the apron that it seems snug and will stay in place without much worry. On each side of the gaiter portion of the DebriSoc is a velcro loop that you can open and close. You use these loops to attach a custom band around the bottom of the heel, and back up to the other side. This band is basically a heavy rubber band that you can thread through the tread of your shoe so that it works into the heel and doesn’t disrupt the tread itself. The band is heavy enough and should last for a while, and the velcro on the velcro loops keeps the band in place very well. Just don’t misplace this band (although you can order replacements pretty easily). Additional stretch material then gets pulled down over the heel to keep the gaiter in place in the back. My go-to trail-running shoe is the Altra Lone Peak 1.5, which has a built-in velcro patch on the heel for gaiters, and the DebriSocs attack nicely to this velcro area. The elastic seems fairly strong, but I can imagine that you may encounter problems with the gaiter riding up off the heel as they stretch out if you don’t have anything keeping them in place. It would be easy enough to buy some cut-to-size velcro strips to add to the gaiters, however, which would prevent sliding. In terms of their intended purpose, they do an excellent job of keeping out all types of trail debris and I was never left wondering if a rogue rock found its way into my shoe.

DebriSoc-2

Overall, the most appealing feature of the DebriSoc is the convenience of having your gaiters built into the sock. When you are heading out the door for a quick run, or packing for a race, it’s nice to have one less item to find. However, I prefer running in SmartWool socks for shorter runs, and regularly slip on knee-high compression socks for longer runs (even on the trails, where the added coverage is an additional barrier from ticks and other bugs). The socks are functional and will get the job done, but aren’t quite as comfortable and durable as I would like in an everyday sock.

DebriSoc-3

So, the DebriSoc 38 may not be my new go-to gaiter solution, but they do offer an excellent option for a shorter trail run, and are really easy to grab on your way out the door for a run. At around $20, the price is right as well. You probably aren’t going to wear them more than twice without washing them, which no doubt means they will wear out faster, but they are still a nice trail-running tool to have at your disposal!

“Tuning” Up For Kansas City

Do you remember when the Walkman came out? Can you believe it has been over 30 years? Odds are you are now having one of two conversations in your head. You are either a) making the “wow, I wasn’t even born yet!” comment or b) experiencing the “lord, I feel old!” internal monologue. Either way, I find it interesting and perhaps not surprising that the Walkman hit the market around the same time as running emerged as a popular recreational sport and running shoes found their way onto everyone’s feet. Thus, the marriage of music and running was born.

Did you own one? Do you still own one?

In the years that followed, portable music players found their way into seemingly every home in America and around the world, as mixed tapes (admit it, you still have one in a drawer somewhere, collecting dust) gave way to playlists. Although the technology has changed and advanced considerably since that first Walkman hit the scene in 1979, the desire for up-tempo music to work-out with and run with has remained strong. Whether you are more familiar with “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” or Zumba, there is no question that music is thoroughly entrenched in our exercise regimes. The result has been every type of exercise and running-themed music accessory imaginable. In fact, I’m sure many of you have piles of old music players and headphones you bought to use while you run or workout. Perhaps you used them a few times but they never felt right in your ears, or the weight of the device got in the way of your workout, or you just liked being on the cutting edge and you replaced your devices as fast as new devices were released (I hope you aren’t still doing that, or you have very deep pockets!).

No introduction needed?

The fascination with music as a distraction, a motivational trigger, or a tempo-counter has become quite intense in the running world, or so it seems. If the number of articles about running and ideal playlists at Runners World is any indication, then there is no question that everyone has the perfect solution. When I first started running, I was in the same boat. I used the “Couch to 5K” podcasts, and had plenty of other playlists to pump me up while I ran. However, for whatever reason, I never found a pair of headphones that fit my ears well and were comfortable. Thus, I’d end up taking them out mid-run, or they’d fall out. Eventually, I stopped running with any music at all. That’s when I felt my running really level up.

(As a Virginia Tech Alum, Enter Sandman truly is the ultimate intro song…for a crazy game @ Lane Stadium or a final psych-up before a marathon!)

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the appeal of having your favorite music playing as the miles fly by. However, when you unplug and take in everything around you, you gain a whole new perspective on that route you thought you knew like the back of your hand! As I have been squeezing in a few final runs before the Northface 50K this weekend, I’ve been thinking more about my overall routine. I still love some of my favorite songs for helping me gear up for a race, but I have no interest is plugging back in during the run itself. The crowds and the other runners are more than enough to keep me engaged and interested, and the miles still melt away. So, whether you unplug for a change, or unplug out of respect for the other runners on the course, I highly recommend giving it a try. Perhaps this will be the race you level up!

Review: The Clean Bottle & The Runner

Mother Nature’s attempt to bake me while I run this summer has meant I’ve been more than a little invested in efficient hydration. I’ve experimented with bottles and packs and runs broken up incessantly by the high number of city parks (with water fountains) in my area. I’ve also done my best to ween myself off of Gatorade and Powerade, along with the extremely high sugar content in both. Mixing them 1/2 and 1/2 with water certainly helps, but I’ve found electrolyte tablets, such as the Hammer Endurolytes Fizz, to be just as effective, if not more. The also happen to taste really good with a nice subtle flavor!

My latest hydration-related purchase, at the suggestion of a friend, was the Clean Bottle, which came with The Runner. There is no question that the market is saturated with water bottles. Many are specifically designed for running purposes as well. I may or may not own several varieties myself 🙂 The Clean Bottle sets itself apart with its dual-access system. Both the top and bottom lids screw off, allowing you to thoroughly clean the bottle without as much hassle. The 22 oz. bottle is also BPA free, which pleases me considering some of the research I’ve been reading lately on the negative effects of exposure to BPA. The silicone washers on the lids are also great at preventing leaks no matter how much I might beat it up out on a run.

The Clean Bottle, w/ The Runner attached

The Runner, which can be purchased separately, but is marketed with the Clean Bottle, offers an alternative to armband iPhone holders. Sadly, my Garmin 405 has gotten to the point where it doesn’t hold a charge much over 4 hours of running or 5 hours of continuous use. Being the Virgo that I am, I NEED to track my stats, especially my really long training runs. This has meant bringing my iPhone with me on long runs. Wearing it on my arm tends to be a tad annoying, but I’ve put up with it. However, The Runner allows me to attach my iPhone to my water bottle and still have room for a few nutrition supplements as well.

The bottom cap comes off just as easily as the top.

At first, I was a bit concerned with the overall weight of a full bottle, along with my iPhone. However, now that I’ve taken it out on a few runs, I’ve found that I have gotten used to it pretty quickly. The elastic band that wraps around your hand as you hold it is mostly mesh, so it holds the bottle firmly to your hand while still being relatively breathable, which is great. I think the size of the bottle is about at the limit of what I’d like to carry in my hand, so others may find it a bit too large, depending on personal preference. Overall, I’ve been very pleased with my purchase and anticipate getting a great deal of use out of my new bottle system!

If you don’t have an iPhone, the pouch will hold several nutrition packets as well.

Marathon Sports: Checking Out the Best of Boston

During my most recent vacation with the beautiful epicurean, we spent the tail end of our trip in Boston. Now, I may have no delusions of being able to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but being in such an energetic and active city still takes on additional meaning as a runner. As we walked through the various neighborhoods, I couldn’t help but think about the history of the roads I was passing. Which world record-holders have trained on these very same stretches of pavement? What segments of the Boston Marathon have the eyes of these communities seen? Boston is a city filled with history, and I would certainly welcome the opportunity to sit down and chat with some of the fabled buildings, perhaps over a nice beer.

Our time in the city was short, but I just so happened to be nearing the end of the life cycle on my current pair of shoes, and it seemed only fitting that I stopped in at Boston’s favorite running store to pick up a new pair of trail ready shoes for my upcoming race. Marathon Sports was founded in 1975, and has been voted as Boston’s Best Running store for 12 straight years. They now have six locations around the city, and have become a running icon in the Boston community. So, I snagged my Dunkin Donuts coffee and headed off to check out just what they had to offer!

When I walked in, I was immediately greeted by one of the three employees working at the time. I explained my current situation and let him know that I was looking for a trail shoe for my upcoming race. Before pulling out a variety of shoes, he asked me to take off my shoes and walk/run so he could judge my stride and foot strike. They call this “The Right Fit” and it has become a staple of their business. I was thoroughly impressed with his ability to analyze my gate and found it matched up pretty darn well with what I had already known. He then went back and grabbed three different pairs of shoes for me to try on.

I was pleasantly surprised when I indicated that I should head outside and run up and down the block to get a better feel for each of the shoes. This was the first running store I had been in where I was allowed to actually take a pair of shoes out for a legitimate “test drive” and it certainly made all the difference. After trying on all three, it became clear that the Mizuno Wave Ascend was my clear favorite and felt the most comfortable. He agreed and indicated that it would hold up the best over the long distances I was going to be covering.

Now, I didn’t exactly have room in my suitcase for an extra pair of shoes but I wasn’t leaving the store without them, so I committed to making them fit. They were even on sale! All-in-all, it was a great experience and a wonderful way to end our time in Boston. In case I needed any further evidence that Marathon Sports had recommended the right shoe, I broke them in the next day with a 28 mile run, and they felt great. Now, if only I could say I would be going back there for all of my running needs!

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