Gear Review: Stunt Puppy collar

Disclaimer: I received an Go Dog Glow collar to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!”

Atlas really does do all his own stunts. And now his usual happy face has some ouchies to heal up, but that I what happens when you are a StuntPuppy.

Let me back up a bit… Those who follow my running antics on Instagram or Twitter might have caught all the pictures I post of my trail buddies over the years. My distance and cold weather run buddy is Atlas. Atlas is a Great Pyrenees / black lab mix. He is a fluffy, curly-tailed bundle of energy. His long legs enable him to keep up with me effortlessly, and his double coat makes him #TeamWinter.

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Not one for conversation, but great company!

Since I run trails, I always use a hands-free leash. I like to be able to catch myself if I fall. (Rather than use my face.) When I learned about StuntPuppy leashes, I ordered one. We LOVED it. I got so much use out of it. And then our dog, Maggie, chewed up the buckle. Not cool, Maggie! I ordered another one right away.

A couple things I love about the StuntPuppy leash is that the bungee is long enough to give us some space. Atlas isn’t tripping me up at all. Yet, the leash isn’t too long so if I need to step off the side of the trail for a bike, he is in arms reach.

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He is a ladies man! Behaved dogs on leashes welcome!

I appreciate dog owners who keep their dogs on a leash. Not only is it the law here, it is just being a good trail steward. I don’t like being surprised by off-leash dogs who run up on me. Yeah, sure. Of course, your dog “doesn’t bite.” Until he does. Or he jumps on me in excitement and knocks me down on a pile of rocks. Or he doesn’t like other dogs and goes after my dog, who tries to run away and drags me along behind him

But I digress… I love StuntPuppy and have purchased a few leashes. When I was asked if I wanted to try out a collar, I jumped at the chance. The Go Dog Glo comes in a variety of collars, but we chose Orange. (Matches my Orange Mud hydration gear!) The Dry Collar matches Atlas’s leash perfectly. It even has a reflective strip to keep him very visible on the trail to other runners and cyclists.

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Busy trail? Dog under control!

Atlas has a big head and fluffy, thick fur. The collar sized right down for a snug fit that didn’t tug on his fur. The buckle was easy to fasten without catching all his fur. The Duraflex buckles are rated to 225 pounds of dog-pulling-fury! I have had problems with collars popping off with a strong tug, but this one stayed put through our 4 weeks of test runs.

Just like the leash bungee, the collar was always strong enough to keep him from escaping. The collar was great at not slipping over his head if he made a sudden stop. Sometimes collars start to loosen over time, but this one stayed true-to-size so I didn’t have to stop and adjust it mid-run. The collars adjust from 14 – 21” inches, so there is a range to fit most large and medium-sized dogs.

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Photo Courtesy of LivingLifeTruth.com

There is plenty of space on the collar to add tags. I don’t put them on a running collar since I don’t care to hear the jingle-jangle, but just know that there is space if you choose. I am really confident that Atlas would return to me if he got loose, so dog tags are not much of a concern for me.

Finally, the collar is stinkproof and waterproof. When he got thec ollar muddy from rolling around , a quick rinse and it was as good as new. It even held out to a surprise thunderstorm. The collar didn’t lose shape, become too loose, or fall apart.

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Photo Courtesy of StuntPuppy

Sound good? Use BIBRAVE917 for 20% your own StuntPuppy gear at stuntpuppy.com!

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Awww… You will be better soon, Atlas!

So why did I say Atlas does his own stunts? At the end of our test window (the weekend to do the up-close pictures of him collar), Atlas decided to try to escape from his kennel. He got his head stuck and roughed up is snout pretty good. Poor Atlas. He will be on the mend and back to running again soon. In the meantime, Auggie Doggie has been keeping me company.

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August is on standby!

Atlas loves to run. StuntPuppy products make running with him so much more enjoyable when I don’t have to worry about equipment failure!

Gear Review: XX2i Optics

In my Beat the Heat post, I mentioned that I received a pair of XX2i sunglasses. These are a total change for me since they have polarized lenses and I have always had regular lenses. It is like a 3D surprise every time I put them on! The colors change and it takes my eyes a second to adjust. This isn’t a bad thing at all, though, and I am sure once I am wearing them on a consistent basis, I won’t even notice.

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Polarized lenses are coated with a special chemical film that helps reduce glare when sunlight is reflected off of water or a solid surface. By neutralizing glare, polarized lenses help you see objects more clearly, Polarized lenses also help reduce the harmful effects of UV light which can help prevent cataracts!

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The xx2i sunglasses came with a few frame options, and I chose the BAHAMAS1 tortoiseshell because I am kind of retro like that. I find them to be a very flattering shape for my face and I like the subtle brown tones.

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While they are billed as a “lifestyle” product, meaning most people probably use them for leisure and every day, I went ahead and put them thru the paces on the running, biking, softball, and every-day mom stuff.

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First, I didn’t have any issues with them sliding down my nose when I got sweaty. This is a big win because as someone who wears glasses all day, I am really annoyed if I keep having to push them up.

The frame shape and size worked out well for running. I felt I had good eye protection. I am really not a fan of over-sized frames, so these were a good style-fit for me.

For biking, I think most would prefer a slightly larger lenses to keep bugs out of the eyes. When I ride trails, I have found that I need a bigger lens to keep out the bugs or I have to stop frequently to squirt water in my eyes to flush out gnats. That is no fun at all because it burns to get bugs in your eyes! I think these sunglasses would do a great job for recreational riding, but if you are planning to hit the trail for hours, that might be an issue for you.

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The polarization did come in very handy for softball. I think I could pick up on the ball against the sky faster. I also got less glare for the sun hitting my eyes. I really did like them for fielding and batting.

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Finally, I spent some time doing mom stuff in them. I wore them to afternoon-long soccer tryouts and baseball games. Eye protection is so very important (and hey, who wants premature wrinkles from squinting!), so I always have a pair of sunglasses handy.

I was recently diagnosed with a “freckle” in the back of my left eye. I have go back every few months to make sure it doesn’t turn into something scary, so I am really vigilant about trying to protect my eyes. Sunglasses are just one thing you can do!

You can score your own pair at a discount courtesy of Bibrave Pro! Use xx2irocks to get 50% off your purchases at xx2i.com!

 

Disclaimer: I received a pair of XX2i sunglasses as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Beating the heat.

The heat index is over 100 today in my neck of the woods, so it is the time to start talking about safely training in the heat. Many people, understandably, will resort to treadmill, indoor track, or indoor crosstraining like swimming or rowing… But those stubborn folks who continue to run and ride outside need to take special precautions. Running early in the morning or late at night might help a little, but it is still pretty miserable (and dangerous) then.

There are lots of graphics that talk about how much to slow the pace based on temperature and heat index, so I won’t even go into that. Instead, I will talk about a few ways that I try to train as safely as possible. Since I have autoimmune, I really have to be careful and listen to my body. My heating and cooling systems are just not as efficient. Also, if I am in the sun for any length of time, I get horrible itchy sun blisters. (Lupus is just the gift that keeps on giving).

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First, we all know hydration is key. For track workouts, we fill a giant insulated jug with ice and water, and try to keep it in a shady spot. (Bowie has evening track practices twice a week – so I am sure to make sure he always has water available). For runs and rides, I fill up all my insulated bottles as well as my hydration vest. (Shameless pitch for Orange Mud here because they are just the best!)

If you will have an extended workout, you might consider something a bit more than just plain water. I like to use Nuun Hydration tabs. One bottle of Nuun, another bottle of cold water, and I am good to go. (They even make a new “performance” product that can be used for nutrition /fuel.)

Next, apply sunscreen before you even go outside, and be vigilant about re-applying once you are on the go. Make sure you apply under the edges of your clothes. (I recently reminded myself of this after I got a super-bad burn from where my shorts slid up while sitting in a lawn chair. I had a 4” bright red band around my thighs were supposed to be.) Be sure to hit the backs of your ears and back of your neck! There are a billion sunscreens out there, and everyone has a favorite… but as someone with lupus, I need one with Zinc.
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For clothes, I like light, breezy layers. I like to feel like my skin is breathing and the sweat is being wicked away from me. Wrestling my way out of a tight, sweaty top isn’t much fun. Right now, I am liking Rabbit Race-her Back and Bunny Hop tops with Hopper and Catch Me If You Can shorts.
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(I just joined their running team, but I am not selling anything! I swear!) And like, all the Body Glide I can possibly apply on my thighs and armpits to fend off sweaty-chafing issues.

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I do like to wear a visor to keep my hair out of my face and sun out of my eyes. (I find a hat holds in the heat too much). I really like my Orange Mud visor. I just received a BOCO visor, so I will give some feedback on that once I have a chance to test it out.
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I am sort of hit and miss on wearing sunglasses. My prescription sunglasses broke, but I do have several pairs of regular sunglasses. Sometimes I have issues with glasses pinching behind my ears, so I end up stuffing them down the front of my sports bra. (Which makes for really gross glasses when I am back in my car!) I actually just received a pair of polarized sunglasses from XX2i. I will be taking them for a test “run” this weekend , but so far, for everyday use, I really like them (now that I am getting used the the “polarized” lenses). Review on that coming once I have really had a chance to train in them.

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Finally… a sort of girly topic. Hair. I have long hair, so I am always trying to keep my hair off my neck and out of my face. Putting hair in a ponytail all the time can cause breakage. (If you only put it up for training, you might be OK). I have been working on managing my hair without the ponytail pulling. Lately I have been twisting my hair up into a bun and securing it in place with a couple bobby pins. (And it actually stays put!) If I am feeling fancy, I even braid a little section before pulling it up. If I am feeling frisky, two little baby buns are kind of fun. I have done braids a few times, and that is actually easier to fit a visor or hat over. Just throwing that out there since my hair becomes a nasty curly rats nest if I don’t keep it under control in humid weather!

Notice: I am an ambassador for Nuun, Rabbit, and Orange Mud but I was not provided any free products or paid for my opinion. All opinions are my own!

Gear Review: RoadID Wrist ID Elite


Oh, it is that special time where Midwest weather turns from freezing cold to burning sweaty hot in the course of a week. Also, the time where we drive our kids around to soccer and baseball practices, games, and tournaments, like we don’t have anything else better to do.

The three youngest boys are all playing sports right now, so that means I have to get a bit creative with my time. My runs seem to be getting later and later (vampire runner!). That also means that Bowie’s running slacks off a bit to accommodate his soccer schedule. We do have one trail race in his calendar in the next couple weeks. Bowie will be running the Skyline Shuffle 5k again (last year’s review here).

IMG_2863I get asked quite a bit about running gear for kids. Bowie is now able to wear women’s running shoes, which makes it much easier to find him trail shoes now. Little Tatum is still in kiddo shoes, so that is a challenge for sure. The boys make good use of my hydration packs (I will post about that with pictures a bit later). But something that they like calling their very own are RoadIDs. Bowie was so excited to get to pick his band color, and so proud when he got to start wearing it for runs.

I have heard some parents say they have their kids wear RoadIDs whenever they go shopping and such. We don’t take it quite that far, but Bowie does have his own for training and racing. I like knowing that if he goes off-course, or is injured, someone will be able to call me for help.

I am getting ready to order one for Tatum, and had a bit of fun soliciting mantras for his band on Twitter. I mean, he is 5 — that is something to have fun with! (I think we settled on “Adventure is out there!” from the movie Up!)

Anyway… back to RoadIDs.  I had a good collection of them going (5 or so), when RoadID offered to make me a snazzy new Wrist ID Elite bands. (Yay for products that you already love!). I snatched up the offer and picked out one of the Black Edition bands. So sexy and rugged, yes? I also picked out a triathlon badge to go along with it.

I went with pretty standard engraving… I included my name and hometown. I included my husband’s name and cell. Next, I included my penicillFullSizeRender (1)in allergy. (Any other allergy twins out there?) And finally… I selected a mantra. Now, I couldn’t really get my REAL race mantra on there, because it includes curse words. And that sort of thing is frowned upon in a normal office setting. So I went with another mantra I like, that has an acronym that many cyclists recognize: HTFU. If you are unfamiliar with this manta, you can study all the rules of cycling here.

RoadID made my new band and sent it to me in this really cool looking metal box. (My kids would call this “tight” or “dope.)

After getting over my initial fear of cutting down the band to fit my itty-bitty wrists, I was really happy with the fit. (My advice is just to snip off a bit at a time and keep test fitting it until you are happy.) Also, you do need to read the instructions. I couldn’t figure out how to get the gripper part that clenches down on the band at first. Once I read the instructions, I saw you need to use something to pry it open… Much easier when you actually do things the right way!

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One thing I liked right away was the clasp. So easy to take this on and off without having to stretch the band over my hand. I haven’t noticed the silicone bands stretching out over time, but I am always paranoid that repeatedly taking my RoadID off and on would stretch them out.

I put my RoadID to good use right away. I tend to run and ride solo. (Well, sometimes I take a dog. But he isn’t great with working a cell phone in case of emergency.) So I hit the trail to test out the new black leather band. I am happy to report that I didn’t have a black ring around my sweaty wrist. I did note that they don’t recommend wearing the leather band for swimming (good thing I have the silicone ones on back-up), and they do recommend using a leather conditioner on the band every 6 months or so.

IMG_1104So there you go… A little bit of piece of mind for when you are training and racing. If you don’t already own a RoadID, I highly recommend getting one. If you already have one, the new Elite bands are really nice.

Disclaimer: I received a RoadID as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

 

Gear Review: Reflective Brilliance safety strips

I have jokingly referred to myself as a “vampire runner” a few times. With all my health stuff, I am just not a morning person… all my running and riding tends to be at night. (And in the winter, that usually means running when it is pitch-black out).

IMG_2486I have a few items that I reach for when I head out for a night run. Definitely my headlamp (seeing where I am going is a priority). I have even started having my trail dog wear light-up vest. I like knowing that moutain bikers can see him if they ride up on us quickly. Atlas’ leash could easily “clothesline” someone, I think. It is also a nice thing to let people know I have a dog with me. He is a black dog, so he is hard to see at night.

When I received a set of Brilliant Reflective safety strips to try out, I immediately began thinking of where I could use them. I got a set of both stick-on and iron-on, but since my iron is missing, I started with the stick-ons.

 

Right off, I gave my Orange Mud Endurance Vest a set of bling-bling racing stripes. The adhesive on the reflective strips is seriously strong – so I made sure they were exactly where I wanted them before pressing them on.

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Next, I decided to try some on my shoes. Now… I could have stuck some on my road shoes… but I decided to put some on my trail shoes. Someone did ask me how many cars I encounter on the trail. Well… there was a method to my madness. My answer was this.

While I have only encountered one car on the trail (which was there illegally), I do run on gravel roads when the trails are too muddy for running. (We take trail maintenance and care seriously around here, and we do not run or ride on the trails while muddy). So when I am running (or riding) a gravel road, I like to be seen. Also, when I am on the trails, I like mountain bikers to be able to see me. Anything I can do to be seen is a good thing.

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I liked the reflective tape so much on my Altras, I added some to Bowie’s as well. I think it fits right in with the design of the shoe!

So far, none of the tape has peeled off my pack or my shoes. The adhesive is crazy-sticky! I will be giving the iron-on strips a go this weekend, so I will report back later on that. But as far as Brilliant Reflective goes, I highly recommend. It is a cheap and easy way to give yourself a little piece of mind when running (or riding) at night. You could easily add some “safety bling” to a bike saddle or helmet, or a running jacket, hat, etc.

Disclaimer: I received a package of safety strips to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

 

Gear Review: Aftershokz Sportz

As a trail runner, I don’t rely on music as much to run. I am really into my zen moment – listening to the birds, the winds in the leaves, all that good stuff. But at night, it is sometimes nice to have some music on to cover the noises that sound fine in the daylight, but are rather scary at night.

As a road runner, I really like having my music on the run. Not only does it pump me up and help me push thru the hard spots, it also lets me block out the sound of the beeping Garmins around me… and especially the people that use Runkeeper and have it set to call out intervals and pace. Really?? Really people? “You have gone a quarter mile in four minutes and twenty five seconds” in that horrible computer voice! Just stop.

Anyway… back to music. One thing I can appreciate is the need to be able to hear my music, yet be able to hear the world around me. I need to hear bikes sneaking up on me at the trail. I need to hear course marshalls giving me direction at the race. The options usually are to keep the music at a low volume, or run with one earbud out.

Enter Aftershokz Sportz Titanium headphones.  Aftershokz headphones have a different sort of earpiece. Instead of an earbud that enters the ear canal or sits on top of the ear, it sits on the cheekbones. Little vibrations go thru the cheekbones into the ears to deliver the sound.

I received a pair of Aftershokz and have been dutifully testing and trying to make them work for me. Honestly, it has been a mixed bag and I feel I need to share the good and the bad with you.

On the plus, the headphones charge up using a USB connection, and I like not having to swap out batteries. You will get up to 6 hours out of a single charge. The down, the headphone have a pretty sizable fob that I struggled finding a good place to hide it. I am really picky about things bouncing around, so that might not be an issue for you.

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On the plus, the headset rested comfortably around me head, ears and cheekbones. The unit is sweat, dust and moisture proof. On the down, the wrap portion was really big on my head. It bounced against my neck when I ran.

On the plus, the headphones themselves did rest easily on my cheekbones. It didn’t bother me at all and the ear wrap bands kept them in place. On the downside, I really missed the sound quality of my usual headphones. I am a musician and an audiophile, so I have a pretty high quality bar for my headphones. When I really cranked them up to get some bass response, the buds were vibrating and rattling my head.

All that said… I know many people really loved them and give a glowing review. I guess I am more cynical as a musician so they just didn’t work for me. But I hope they work for you! 🙂

Disclaimer: I received a pair of headphones to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

Gear Review: Knuckle Lights

I have joked the last two years that I am a vampire runner. My energy level is generally much better at night, so I do pretty much all my running and biking at night. It actually works out for the most part because I miss the hot temps during the summer. In the winter, it is colder, but I have acclimated to it, I guess.

I have a variety of gear to help me run at night, including headlights (for my head and my bike) as well as handhelds. I bought a pair of Knuckle Lights years ago and liked them, so I was really excited to receive a new pair! They have gotten some really cool features and it is always fun to test out new gear.

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Right off the bat, I loved the new USB charger. I like not having to replace batteries all the time, and there is nothing worse than a battery running out mid-run and being caught in the dark. Since all my devices have USB chargers now, it can be a struggle to get them all plugged in. My husband added a new outlet by my nightstand that has USB ports in it! So handy! I have all the stuff plugged in now.

Next, I liked that they have a magnetic that keeps them together when not in use. It is tough keeping track of all my gear and I appreciate little features like that. (I always like help getting organized!)

I took a few runs with my Knuckle Lights, both with and without my headlamp. One thing that really stood out to me is when I used them in conjunction with my headlamp, things were much more 3D. I could see the rocks a lot better. Things were not so flat. I really find this helpful on the trail! Highly recommend a set in addition to just a headlamp for technical trail.

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While using Knuckle Lights alone, I found that it took me a bit of time to adjust to not having a constant spotlight. (Of course, I swing my arms when I run). But after 10 minutes or so, I adjusted and it didn’t really bother me.

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I have mentioned a few times that the boys are training for a March trail race with me. We have been going to the Baker U campus to run. It is a well-lit campus with security. Best of all, it has a well-maintained 1/3 mile paved loop with fun little bridges and such. We spend a lot of time at Baker campus walking and adventuring. So, I have been taking the boys there for runs. Everyone does loops at their own pace and no one really gets out of sight… but at night, it can be a bit more difficult to spot the boys while on the run. I decided to put the lights on Tatum, and they strapped right over his little gloves perfectly. We got our run in, and I was able to keep a better eye on him. It was so great! I am thinking of way to try attaching one to my dog just for fun!

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I definitely would love to hear about how you use your Knuckle Lights!

I received Knuckle Lights to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro, and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!