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!

 

2017 Pi Day River Rotation Half + 5K

Let’s talk about Pie Day, err, Pi Day. I mentioned before that we had all signed up to do the Pi Day River Rotational as a family. As we neared the race date, the weather forecast began calling for high winds and snow. Which, for some is awesome, but for me, notsomuch. I also felt really uncomfortable sending a just-turned-10-year-old out on the trails, in the snow and wind. The course markings for the loops are confusing, and I would feel horrible if he got lost. Also, Tatum was running the 5K with Steven, yet I knew he would dash ahead probably get lost. Scary.

I left it up to Bowie. I explained the weather forecast, and he asked how long the half would take to run. He decided himself to drop to the 5K, which I think was a really mature decision. There will be more half marathons to run.

So we got to the trailhead and mingled a bit. The heaters were quite welcome as we stayed warm before the race.

We were called up to line up at the gate. I helped Bowie get his Garmin ready to go, and kept Tatum warm. I explained to Tatum about pacing and told him to stick with me. He had woken up with a really bad cough, so I wanted to be sure running wasn’t too much for him. Soon, we were off! And with that, Tatum went out like a lightning bolt. Which meant I was chasing him, yeliing, “Tatum! Wait!!!!” like a crazy person. I caught up and kept reeling him back in, but he kept trying to pull away. After about half a mile, he was breathing hard and ready to walk. Tatum learned about going out too fast… Had he listened to mom, he would have done 2 miles before needing a walk. But to be fair, I always go out too fast, too.

So the rest of the race, we were run-walking. Because Tatum tended to dawdle on the walk breaks, it gave Steven a bit of an opportunity to reel Tatum in a bit. Once Tatum would spot Steven behind us, he would take off running again. We kept this up the entire first loop. We went out to do the “mini loop” and Tatum floored it for that part. He pushed pretty hard across the finish line with everyone cheering him in. Bowie was at the finish cheering really hard. Super cute!

Once Steven finished, we headed over and sampled pie! And donuts! And!!!! The race directors even made sure there was a gluten free coconut cream pie for me! Now that is customer service!

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While we were munching pie, we checked out the results. Bowie had an 11 second PR over his last road race! In the 19 and Under group, Bowie took 2nd, and Tatum took 3rd. (I didn’t mention to Tatum there were only 3 runners.) The first place runner was 18 years old, so Bowie can’t feel too bad about 2nd place. Bowie was 14th overall and 10th male. So he actually did really well. Proud of that kid!

So… Race Thoughts?
The Pi Day River Rotational continues to be an excellent first half marathon for any runner.  The trail is easy on the legs, and gentle (non-technical)  for the smallest of runners. The course is well-marked and volunteers are amazing at keeping you on-course and well-motivated. We even had charming wood finisher medals this year, but the pie at the end was the best award of all. If you are into big expos, this race is not for you. But if you want bang-for-the-buck and low key fun? Lawrence Trail Hawk races are a good bet.

Kick it.

I must say that although my “torture” sessions with the chiropractor to work on my calves and quads are quite painful, I am making progress. After lots of ART stretching and Graston, and lots of teeth gritting, my legs felt better. I was able to sit with my legs folded under me, and my butt touched my heels. That is the benchmark of progress for me. My weekly visits will continue until I can get all this autoimmune under control. All the inflammation in my system is wreaking havoc on my muscles.

In keeping with my goal to always run right when I get home (because if I sit down, my fatigue will catch up and I won’t be able to get moving again), I got ready for a shorter / speedier run with Bowie. Since we needed a 3 miler, I decided the stretch of Flint Hills that runs out of Ottawa toward Rantul would be a good spot. The segment is exactly 3 miles and we’d hit a trailhead that we could be picked up at.

It was pitch black when we started but weather-wise, it felt great. We have been running in shorts all week! (Just in time for snow for our race on Saturday. Grr). Bowie was a little nervous about running in the dark. And to be fair, the Flint Hills trail is creepy at night. We picked up the pace a bit each mile. When we were at 2.5 miles, we could see the headlights in the distance. I started kicking at .25 to go and actually surprised myself that I passed Bowie and stayed out front. That never happens anymore. At the trailhead, I asked Bowie how he managed to get out-kicked by his old mom, and he told me he was just extra tired today. Fair enough.

Bowie has soccer practice on Thursday night, so I will do a last run by myself. We will take Friday off to rest our legs a bit, then come up with our race plan for Saturday morning’s half. Yay!

Going hard Couer for pie.

Back from a break. We had a death in the family, so we took some time to travel, visit relatives, say goodbye. All of the travelling certainly has cut into training time, so we will definitely be going into our Pi Day race undertrained. But hey. That is how we roll. We will pull it out. We have been getting running and riding in here and there. (Bowie’s club soccer started back up, so we have to factor those practices in as well).

Saturday, Bowie and I will be running the half marathon trail race. Steven and Tatum will be running the 5K. It will be Bowie’s first half, and Tatum’s first 5K. They are so excited! It is looking like cooler weather, so they will be rocking new running tights and jackets. Also! NEW TRAIL SHOES! Bowie has Altra Lone Peaks and Tatum got new Merrills.

I have run the Pi Day half twice before (blog reviews for 2015 and 2016 here, BibRave review here.) It is a well-run race, as all Lawrence Trail Hawk races are. But this one is special because of the variety of delicious pies at the finish line. (I have requested a gluten free one!)

Beyond that, I have some new races on the calendar. I will do a post on that next week once I have Pi Day out of the way.

Oh…other fun news! My team kit for Coeur Sports arrived this week! So flattering. I am really excited to represent such an awesome company, and be a teammate to such an amazing group of women. The motto Heart and Courage has meant a lot to me the last 2 years as I have been battling autoimmune. “Heart is about digging deep and being mentally tough. Heart is what gets you to the finish line when all the body wants to do is lay down.” Yup. That is me. I love it. Also something else to love? Kits are made in Los Angeles. California. Say what? Yeah. Made in the USA.

 

The things we do for our kids.

I had a rough week. It started OK, with running on Monday and Tuesday, but that gave way to a few days of extreme exhaustion, rendering me unable to push myself out the door for a run. I came home from work and went into a mini-coma.

On Saturday, the thought of running was still too much, so I did a spin on my bike trainer while watching a movie. I tolerate biking much more than running, so it felt like a decent compromise.

On Sunday, I knew I had to suck it up. I knew the effort would not be easy, but I knew that I had to make it happen. We have the half-marathon coming up, and at the very least, I needed to do this for Bowie. I wanted to give him every chance to have a good run that day. We headed out to the SLT Trail since I didn’t want to attempt technical trail. I ran Clinton on Tuesday and it was a hard effort. Nice flat pavement sounded really good. We picked up the trail at the arboretum and headed out to Clinton Lake. The sun was just beginning to set and it made for some really pretty views.

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Half a mile in, I knew it wasn’t going to be a good run. Yet… I didn’t want to let Bowie down. Decisions… I knew the trail had really good visibility, and I would be able to see Bowie for a good distance. I gave him my water bottle, which had the car key in it, and told him to run ahead. I would take a few walking breaks and catch up to him at Sander’s Mound. Bowie took off and was just a ways in front of me when he needed a potty break. I kept chugging along and eventually he caught back up to me. We ended up at Sander’s Mound at the same time. I asked if he wanted to do a hill repeat, but he declined, so we headed back toward the arboretum.

On the way back, as the sky grew dark, I started to regret having left my windbreaker in the car. I was getting cold in my shorts and tshirt, so that kept me motivated to keep moving. Bowie beat me to the car by a minute or two.

I am really hoping I will be on an up-swing soon. I am still having highs and lows, but am hopeful that my body is quietly repairing itself, and I will be on the right path soon.

Smelly skunky and cups of sugar.

When I got home yesterday, I felt OK. Normally, I am always super tired and if I even sit down for a moment, I will fall asleep and wake up a couple hours later wondering what the heck happened. It is always a struggle to convince myself to get dressed and head out for a run, and if I wait until after dinner, it is super late and I won’t get it done. So, because I felt pretty good, I decided to seize the opportunity and get a run in when I could.

I wanted to try something different, since I always run in Lawrence or on the Prairie Spirit trail, so I decided on the Flint Hills Trail. What I didn’t think about was that by the time I got there, it would be dark… and Flint Hills Trail is kind of scary after dark. The wildlife tends to be bigger and the timber is much deeper… not to mention the creepy Jason house where I am sure he is sharpening his machete and waiting for runners stupid enough to run at night.

I picked up the trail where in Ottawa. (I think pretty much where it joins with Prairie Spirit). Right away I noticed that it felt nice and cool – perfect running temp. I mean. I am running in February at night in shorts and a t-shirt. That is crazy! (I am Team Spring / Fall, by the way. I will gladly avoid crazy heat and cold if I can.)

Also, I need to mention how bad my allergies have been. I think because we didn’t have a horribly cold winter, all the bugs and such didn’t die off, so we are all already pulling ticks off. And the pollen has been really bad. I have had a miserable runny nose, sore throat and sinus pain the last few days. I neglected to take a wristband, so I had to keep wiping my nose on my shirt, which is kind of gross, and makes for a sore nose.

I trudged along and heard the usual rustlings in the timber so I cranked the music a little louder. Those are spooky sounds when you are solo! Eventually I came upon a skunk. Now, opossums and rabbits I will run right up on. Skunks, I yield the right of way. I want no part of that action, obviously. Once he cleared the trail, I was back in business.

After 3 miles, I was getting pretty thirsty, but I met up with my crew (aka person I could sucker into dropping me off at the trail and picking me up at the end) and chugged some water. It would have been easy to jump in the car and not do the last mile, but I told myself that I would be really angry at myself if I didn’t suck it up and get it done.

I headed out for my last mile and immediately could smell someone was burning their field. My allergies kicked into overdrive but I kept on chugging. By the time I finished, my eyes were watering so badly from all the smoke and particles in the air.

I think it is time for me to go and see an allergist because OTC medicine isn’t cutting it. I have tried them all and nothing is working. I haven’t ever been to an allergist but I think it might be time to start allergy shots. (I don’t know anyone who has had shots before and I don’t know what to expect with the tests or shots!)

Speaking of medicine… I started a new medicine for my insulin resistance. So far, I haven’t noticed any changes or adverse reactions. That’s actually a relief since the most commonly reported side effect is tummy distress. And I am really adverse to pooping my pants. Just saying.

In addition, I am supposed to be doing high protein meals. Apparently, I am not very good at this. Yesterday, I ate a ton of cheese, yogurt, and eggs. When I logged everything into My Fitness Pal, it yelled at me that I ate too much sugar. Apparently my yogurt is just a container full of sugar and carbs. Sigh. I will switch to Greek yogurt and see if that works a little better.

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!