Sunday, January 31, 2016

f3 lake half marathon 2016 recap

Disclaimer: I received entry into F3 Lake Half Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review, find, and write race reviews!

Some shots from the race.

I was excited to be able to race F3 Lake Half Marathon for my second year. I really enjoyed it last year and was happy to see that they listened to runner feedback about some things that could have been better in 2015 and were applying it to 2016 (i.e. more water and food at the finish). They had sent out a survey the day after the race (and did the same this year). I'm happy to fill them out, so they can see where their strengths and weaknesses are. Usually, I don't have many negative things to say about a race, and they same went for this one both years. 

Flat Heather ready to go!

The race was being held on Saturday, January 23 with a half marathon start of 10am and 5k start of 10:20. I like doing winter races, because why should race season only be a few months out of the year? It's all year for me! It's a good way to stay motivated throughout the winter (I know some people get a bit depressed about winter weather, but I'm a big fan of running in the cold, as long as I have the necessary gear. Even running in the snow and ice on the trails is fun for me!). 

They had multiple days and locations for packet pickup, which I always give races props to on this. I know it isn't easy to organize such a thing, but really appreciate the ability to be able to pick up my packet when it's most convenient for me during the week rather than having to leave work early to make it on time on a Friday evening (and when a lot are in the city, it is no easy task). Pickup was available from Saturday, January 16–Friday, January 22 (only day not available was on Wednesday), at locations ranging from Dick Pond Lisle, Road Runner Sports Willamette and Downtown Chicago, and RunningExcels Frankfort. Time frames ranged from 10–5, 10–6, 4–8, and 10–8, so you had a lot of options to make it work with your schedule. You were able to pick up other people's packets as long as you had a copy of their confirmation email or photo id (they even stressed not to print, but to show on your phone). New this year was Will Call Race Day Pickup, which was an extra $20 fee when registering.

Was able to meet up with the BibRave ladies - Julia and Cass!

I went to Road Runner Sports in Chicago on January the 17th – received a 10% off coupon for RRS (which I used on some running necessities), and got to see my twitter pal Shawna in person! So awesome that she helped me out, even though at first we didn't even recognize each other. She saw my name for registration and then it clicked. I generally miss people unless their handle is written on their shirt or something haha. Anyway, super easy pickup.

This year at packet pickup, you received your drawstring bag and bib, and then the shirt and beanie were to be picked up post-race inside the United Club. There was a bit of a snafu with the shirts – there was a problem with shipping and the shirts were held up at customs. They had a few boxes to hand out after the race, but they requested that if possible, runners not grab theirs until later in the week when the rest arrived so that out of town runners could grab theirs after the race. Also, for anyone doing the 5k, they could get a beanie instead of a shirt, since those must have been more plentiful and were readily available. They planned on having shirts at RRS Chicago, Killdeer, Willamette, and Naperville, and Running Excels (both locations) during the week, and sent out plenty of emails to update the runners on what the situation was, when shirts could be picked up, etc.

A super awesome perk to this winter race is that pre- and post-race are inside Soldier Field's United Club! So, you can stay in the nice, warm indoors about 10 minutes prior to race and then right back inside when you are done. Great way to warm back up, too. Parking was a special event fee of $19 at the North Garage, and then you don't even have to go outside to get into the United Club – just enter at Level 3. You can use inside bathrooms, or there is a line of port-o-potties outside by the start. I went to the bathroom before the race, maybe 20 minutes before the start, and I almost missed it. There was a long line of men waiting, but no women's line anywhere to be seen. I couldn't figure it out where the ladies room was... turned out, same area, there just wasn't a wait. So strange to see the men have to wait in a line and not have to wait in one myself. What a pleasant surprise! haha.

They had Gear Check (though I didn't use it) which opened at 8am and closed at 1:40. Photographers were at the start (and I imagine finish - I don't remember seeing them though) and maybe at two points on course. Downloads were free. The course had 4 aid stations, each you hit twice, since the course was mostly an out and back. Gatorade first and then water. There was also first aid and bathroom(s). Even though I'm slower than most, still plenty of water and Gatorade until the finish. I remember last year not being able to get water towards the end, so glad this wasn't an issue this year (though I did bring my own hydration, because if you know me, I'm a thirsty lass and like to drink whenever the mood strikes haha).

The start was right outside Soldier Field, and then you ran towards the west, ran north around Soldier Field, headed east, and then got on the Lakefront Path heading south. Turn around was around mile 7.5ish (before hitting 63rd Street). The path was clear of snow/ice and you only had to avoid a few small puddles. The path is definitely not as crowded during winter with cyclists or other runners training, so congestion wasn't much of an issue (for me at least - not sure how it was for those faster folks). Once on your way back, the Finish Line was on the FLP, so you didn't circle SF again. 

After the Start, the first turn to head North. Soldier Field to left.

Race day was a beautiful winter day - about 30 degrees, mostly cloudy, with winds at about 8mph. I warmed up pretty quickly, ended up taking off my Buff, but then on the way back towards SF (headed North), the wind was worse and I had to put it back on haha. I had a great time hanging with my mom and we talked briefly with another woman who was walking most of it due to coming back from illness who was super nice. She had just done Goofy, so we talked runDisney for a bit too :)

Mom and I kept a pretty good pace, and we were pleased with our finish time. We have been slowly getting better times, so I'm happy with our progress. This wasn't necessarily a goal race, so I was happy to stay with her and we kept each other company. The time always passes faster when there's someone to talk to (or just be with - I still listen to music for those times we have nothing to say).

We were able to cheer on runners on their way back, and I got to high-five my goal Jake as well as get some photos of the adorable Julia.

Look at that smile! Julia's having a great time.

At the Finish Line there were bananas, bagels, Skinny Pop popcorn, bottled water, and apparently hot chocolate (I missed that stop, but that's ok - definitely wanted that bottled water more). We popped back inside, and since we were some of the last runners out there, and usually with at least a 2 hour drive roundtrip to get to any of the locations to get our shirts, we grabbed our shirts. I did see an email later in the day that the only shirt sizes that weren't available were women's XS and XL, and men's L, XL, and XXL, none of which were the two shirts we grabbed, so I felt less guilty.

Lake Michigan was a little icy - very pretty.

Post-Race party was at Reggie's in the South Loop. They had a free shuttle to bring people there from Soldier Field, which was a nice race perk. We ended up heading home, but it seemed like a lot of people were going there.

I really appreciated how they sent out surveys after the race so they can improve every year. I also love that they actually listen to what the runners have to say and do improve upon any major (and sometimes minor) problems.

Post-race SWAG for half marathoners:
bottle opener medal, beanie, and long sleeve tech shirt.

I'll definitely be looking into doing this race again in 2017 (there's also a 5k for anyone that doesn't want to for the half in winter time).

My friend and fellow BibRave Pro Cass interviewed the Founder of the race - read it here. Learning what F3 stands for makes the race even better! I also loved learning about how the race got its start - super interested read. Also love that she says the race is for people who like to run and drink beer {raises hand - that's me!}.

You can read a short/less personal review of my F3 Lake Half Marathon experience over on BibRave.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

2016: my miles. my gear. my year.

Disclaimer: I received a pair of 2XU Mid-Rise Compression Tights and a pair of 2XU Recovery Tights to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review, find, and write race reviews!

Hello and welcome to Day 3 of BibRave series about New Year's Resolutions sponsored by 2XU! I was so excited to be a part of this campaign, as I have fallen in love with everything 2XU. If you have read my post on the MCS Elite Compression Tights or the Hyoptik Thermal Compression Tights, I think you've noticed already. If not, well I'll be telling you more about my new obsession.

2015 was a great year for me. I completed my first marathon as part of the Dopey Challenge, and then a few days later did the Castaway 5k to add two more medals to my collection since it was part of the Castaway Challenge. After only about 2.5 weeks, I had already ran 51.7 miles and earned 8 medals. 

I went on to do about 30 more races in 2015, one of which was my second marathon in October (Chicago), which didn't go so well. My training went great for the most part (I had to take a week off early on due to some knee pain, but came back the next week feeling great). I felt ready to go. Unfortunately, race day came, and with it so did 80 degree weather and full on sun. There wasn't a ton of shade on course, and I am a person that doesn't do well in heat, even if I train in it. I felt sick about half way through the race and never recovered. I made it to the finish line, but was very disappointed in my performance. VERY disappointed.

I partially attribute my poor performance to not having enough endurance for the longer distance. Though I made it through the training cycle without much trouble, I felt that maybe if I began training the longer miles more frequently, I wouldn't have suffered so badly. So maybe longer training plans for the next marathon so I can get those longer runs in more often. For me, I think practice is everything, and the more I do something, the better I get at it. Take half marathons, for example: I didn't do so hot my first few, as nerves and newbie-ness played a huge role. A few years later, I'm doing much better. I don't get nervous much, and my time has improved. I'm hoping that with more knowledge and practice at distances over 13 miles, I'll be able to conquer the shorter time requirements for marathons.

Let me add in that I was pretty sore post-Chicago Marathon (hips were sore, as well as my calves), but I tossed on my MCS Elite Compression Tights right after my shower, and wore them out of the town to hang with other running friends, and kept them on when I went to bed. I woke up and felt amazing. As if I hadn't just done a marathon the previous day. The only problem I had walking was due to a giant blister on the bottom of my foot. So for me, yeah, 2XU compression tights are MAGICAL.

Chicago Half Marathon followed by 5 more miles.
MCS Elite Compression Tights helping with recovery.

At Goose Island with fellow BibRave pals after the Chicago Marathon.
MCS Elite Compression Tights for the win!

And so with the first month almost complete for 2016, I share with you my goals. I am upping my mileage. 2015 saw a total of 584.24 miles. I'm gunning for 1200 in 2016 (so, 100 miles a month is the goal). Yes, that's quite the leap, I know. I am on track for my first month, and am extremely happy and proud. My legs and body are feeling good, so I think this goal is extremely attainable.

Part of how I am reaching this goal currently is through a running streak. I started the Runner's World winter streak, which was Thanksgiving through New Years - 37 days. I've kept it going and hit 60 on Sunday. Today will be day 63. 60 is the amount of days I made it on my last streak, which was in the summer of 2014, so I'm really happy to have passed that this year. 

Now, I am a smart lady, and I listen to my body. If eventually I start to feel injuries coming on, or my legs are too sore/tired to continue, I will stop the streak. And that's ok. I'll still be able to hit the 100 mile goal even if I don't run everyday. I know that rest days can be key to staying injury free, so I listen closely to what my body is telling me. Obviously I'm not going full out every day, and some days I'm only doing a mile at an easy pace, so they are sort of recovery days, right? ;) Seriously though, I want to be able to run for a long long time, so I won't risk major injury which can take me out of the this amazing runner's life I've been enjoying.

Thanks to my 2XU compression tights, I've been recovering much much quicker than I used to. In years past, I would take a few days off of running after a half marathon, because my legs were too sore and I thought rest was the best way to get them back to where they needed to be. I run a marathon (couldn't wear tights since it was so hot), put on my tights for recovery, and feel ready to run the next day. It's pretty amazing.

Have I mentioned that I also joined the 2016 in 2016 challenge as well? No? Well, I did. I am combining walking and running miles to reach this goal. This is also going well so far. I know it's early in the year, but starting it off with a bang is really motivational for me. 

Another way that 2XU is helping me crush my goals is that I can still run outside in the winter. Their Hyoptik Thermal Compression Tights are warm enough to allow me to get in long runs (which for a slow runner can be 3+ hours!). Plus, they are just so comfy to wear around the house for some extra leg love. I've worn them in 40–10 degree temps, but prefer them on their own at about 15/20–35 max. In 40 degrees I was too warm (don't worry, I have other 2XU tights to wear on warmer days now), and on the cold, windy days they are my base layer.

2XU Hyoptik Thermal Compression Tights letting me run outside during winter.

I've also been lucky enough to try out their Recovery Compression Tights (linking to the men's because the women's are currently off the site). They feel oh so good after a long run or when my legs are feeling a bit tired from all the miles. They are made with extra powerful PWX Weight fabric that stabilizes muscles, while graduated compression enhances blood flow for faster muscle repair. I've even slept in them. I wake up and my legs feel refreshed and ready to pound some more pavement (or the treadmill). Another awesome feature? I can wear them under my work pants to get all day compression and relief. 

Pardon all of the dog hair.
It's impossible not to have some on every article of clothing I own.

This is my favorite kind of recovery.
Recovery Compression Tights and puppy snuggles.

And for days that aren't below 30 degrees? You'll catch me in my full length mid-rise compression tights. I have a pair in Black/Cerise Pink , provided by 2XU, and also purchased a pair in the Slate/Lime Light. I love them both. Mid-rise = wider waistband than the regular compression tights. If you plan on doing a lot of bending, I'd recommend wearing underwear that's a similar color. I did find that my bright, colorful patterned ones peeked through a bit if the fabric stretched at all (like if you were doing yoga or bending down to tie a shoe, for example). Wearing black or grey undies to match the tights will help save some embarrassment. They are totally ok though when I'm just standing or running (yes, I had someone else check for me). I did the testing for you so you'd know ahead of time ;) 

Black/Cerise Pink

A view from all angles.
Slate/Lime Light

Some other favorites? Their socks! They are super soft, but offer enough support on my arches to help with my PF. I like both the performance low-rise sock (currently a New Year Bundle sale 3 for $40) and the Race VECTR sock (same deal - 3 for $40). The VECTR offer a little more support, so I prefer those on my long runs.

Pairing my Hyoptik tights with the performance low-rise sock.

I also bought a pair of shorts that I'll bust out once the weather allows for it (anything 50 and up, in my book!). I know, sounds like I bought a lot. I did. But during Thanksgiving week that had an AMAZING sale and I went a little crazy (seriously, with those deals, how could you not?).

I also recently purchased the Element Sport Jacket. It sounded like it would be a good late fall/winter/early spring kind of jacket. It's engineered with a 5:10 STRETCH membrane for complete flexibly and comfort while VAPOR+ SHINE technology maintains maximum protection from the elements. Light weight and breathable, it includes adjustable Velcro sleeve tabs, rear and two from side zip pockets, and shaped upper back panel. There's also a cinch collar toggle for a customized, secure fit.

Attempting to show you the back of the jacket.

It is nice and warm, and I love having some extra pockets to stuff my handful of kleenex. Yes, I'm a kleenex person (I'm a lady after all hehe), and in the winter go through a ton of them on my runs, with my runny nose...

I am so excited for this year of new challenges. What are you doing to challenge yourself in 2016? I would love to hear about it!

PS! 2XU Has offered us a 20% discount code to share with you all so you can gear up for winter—or whatever weather you need gear for... for me, that's all seasons ;) — RUN20 is valid until 2/29/16. Hop to it!

Check out the rest of the BibRave New Year's Resolution posts from my fellow friends and BibRave Pros:
Day 1: Katherine
Day 2: Emily
Day 4: Chadd
Day 5: Jeremy

Sunday, January 24, 2016

stay visible and warm during winter runs: 2xu hyoptik review

Disclaimer: I received a pair of 2XU Hyoptik Mid-Rise Thermal Compression Tights to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review, find, and write race reviews!

Out on the trails on a light snowy day.

I've had a problem running in the winter that I haven't been able to cure, until this year. My legs (mainly thighs) always get so dang cold and then never warm up! No tights I've tried have kept me warm enough in the Chicago winter. Any tights that might have worked, were too uncomfortable for me to wear for too long a time (most I've tried I have adjust frequently at the crotch, because they ride down, and then my thigh skin is actually touching, chaffing, driving me insane).

When asked to try out 2XU Hyoptik Mid-Rise Thermal Compression Tights I jumped at the chance. Thermal tights were just what I needed. And really, I have become obsessed with 2XU, so knew I would love them. After trying out (and never taking off) the MCS Elite Compression Tights, I bought myself a few other pairs of compression tights (capris), socks, calf sleeves... you know, just a few essential items.

Some 2XU socks to go with my 2XU Hyoptik Thermal Compression Tights.

Originally, I was hoping to receive them in time for Santa Hustle Indy Half Marathon. I figured a mid-December race would require thermal tights. I didn't receive them in time (they came shortly after the race), but turns out, the Midwest was getting some weird weather, and race day temps were upper 50s-mid 60s, and I wore shorts haha.

My 2XU Hyoptik Thermal Compression Tights
came just in time for my long run!

When I received the 2XU Hyoptik Thermal Compression Tights, I could tell they were a bit thicker than the MCS and other regular compression tights I had from 2XU. This was due to the soft brushed thermal inner layer. They aren't super thick, like you might think when thermal inner layer comes to mind, and it helps retain warmth in cold climates. Still pretty thin and easy to move in, but much warmer than other tights I've tried. The compression is a little less noticeable than the MCS, but I personally still loved the Hyoptik compression, and had no complaints. My legs felt great wearing them for running and when I wore them for post-runs as recovery. "With coverage over the knee, powerful compression support and protect upper leg muscles to help prevent soreness and fatigue and long term overuse injuries."

Trail running.

I was delaying making my post live because I wanted to wear them for my race yesterday (F3 Lake Half Marathon) and get back on my thoughts before posting. It was about 32 degrees yesterday, with a feel like temp of 25, 65% humidity, and 8mph winds. For the most part, it was cloudy, but oh when the sun came out did it feel good. Anyway, you know I'm a much slower runner than most, so I was out there for quite a while, giving these a good test of the elements (well, cold and minor wind haha - no rain or snow). 

My legs felt great the whole race. I was dealing with some minor calf and thigh pain in my right leg for most of the race (who knows where that came from), and I know that if I hadn't been wearing the compression tights my leg would have felt a lot worse during the run, and today. Today, my legs are feeling good. No calf or thigh pain. I was a tad cold when the wind was blowing, but mainly it was my face that felt it. Other tights, post-long run in the cold, my legs would be bright red from being cold. They were normal yesterday. Also, I never had to adjust the, um, upper thigh area. They stayed in place the whole race. I also never felt cold due to the tights being wet from sweat – they wick really well so that I was never uncomfortable or chafing.

Some photos from F3 Lake Half Marathon.

The one part I had some issues with during the race yesterday, however, was the waistband. I do prefer the mid-rise (thicker band) over the more narrow one that is in the MCS, but for whatever reason (read: my stomach is a little larger than it should be at the moment), the waist band kept rolling down and then pinching at my hips :( I really think this is an issue of my wide hips and overly large stomach at the moment, and not a problem with the tights themselves, but thought worth mentioning. I didn't have any rolling issue with the thinner band of the MCS Elite, though I did feel like they cut into my hips a bit more than the wide waist band – so pros and cons to each (for me... though I'd still take the wide band over the little one). 

Really, it's a wake up call to more closely watch what I'm eating and to do some more cross training. I'll also note that I am extremely high waisted, so I can't pull them up high enough where I think they'd stay put much better. If you have a more normal body ratio (not so high waist, so you can easily wear tights on them), I think it would sit more naturally and not roll down. I didn't have this problem so much on my other runs with them... so I'm thinking the holidays have really done me in haha. Time to get to work.

That was painful/embarrassing to write... honesty is a harsh reality :-/ But I gotta keep it real for my readers!

Trekking through some none-shoveled sidewalks on a chilly day.

For me personally, I would wear the 2XU Hyoptik Compression Tights on their own till around 15/20 degrees. Below that, I choose to wear them as a base layer. I know temperature is relative. Everyone is different and has a different take on weather. My friends over in AZ and on the west coast think 50 is cold, and so would wear their thermal tights on those days. I wore mine on a 40 degree day and regretted it, because I was too warm. So for me, ideal temps are around 35 and below, and then below 15 or 20 as a base layer. For me, it would come down to what the feel like temp is, and what the wind is like — these are good for keeping a light wind out, but over 10 (when it's below 20) I need some more protection. Again, that's me. Danielle said she wore hers in 8 degrees and felt fine. So there you go.

On a day at the trails that was 20 degrees with 14mph winds.
2XU Hyoptik Thermal Compression Tights were the base layer.
Sweat pants over them. I was perfectly comfortable.
Even though my ankles peek out a little, it doesn't bother me.
If they stick out because of your height or whatever, you can try longer socks.
I almost always just wear ankle socks.

You may ask why they are called Hyoptik (pronounced high optic)? Well, because of the reflective logo, of course! There's a big X on the side of one thigh, and then another on the other leg calf (the back). The reflective logos help you stay visible when training in low light conditions. Check out my pal Jeremy who loves wearing his tights for November Project workouts (getting it done BEFORE the sun is even out!).

Check out those muscles... and reflectivity!
Photo cred: Confessions of an Amateur Athlete

I don't run in the dark often, because my neighborhood doesn't have street lights, and I've seen the way people drive... I don't feel safe. Even when I wear the most reflective gear + a vest I have that is neon pink with lights that flash on the front and back + a headlamp or knuckle lights, if I weren't paying attention to drivers, I would have gotten hit already. People are oblivious... or on their phone. Either way, I tend to run in daylight hours or at the gym. I digress... the reflectivity aspect of these are still really cool, and I'd say definitely a pro if you are into running in the early morning or night hours. Every now and again, you might find me running in the dark, and I would definitely add these pants to my gear on those runs so that I'd have more visibility. It's quite important (as you can tell from my notes above haha).

Recovery post-long run.

For washing, you'll want to machine wash, inside out, in cold water with like colors on gentle cycle with mild detergent. Do NOT tumble dry, but hang to dry in a cool shady area away from the sun. Do not use bleach, fabric softeners, or dryer sheets and do not iron or dry clean. I hang all of my running clothes on a drying rack, so I don't have the issue of 'I forgot to separate and put it in the dryer on accident'.

Features of the 2XU Hyoptik Compression Tights:

• HYOPTIK reflective logos for visibility
• Brushed interior thermal layer for added warmth
• Compression support for greater protection to abductor, glue, quad, hamstring, and calf muscles
• Graduated compression for improved blood circulation
• Comfort power wide waistband with power mesh for smooth streamlined fit
• Flatlock seams to reduce chafe for greater comfort
• High filament yarns for dryness – wicks sweat from the skin to the fabric exterior
• Antibacterial and UPF50+ sun protection

Benefits of Compression:

• Greater oxygenation of blood for faster recovery
• Faster muscle warm up pre-exercise
• Reduced fatigue through less muscle oscillation
• Reduced muscle soreness
• Reduced long-term overuse injuries
• Greater power output
• Heightened proprioception – awareness of limb placement for agility.

Keeping my running streak alive.

I HIGHLY recommend these tights if you are looking for some gear for colder running weather (whatever that 'colder weather' might mean for YOU). And really, anything from 2XU is a good choice. I haven't tried anything yet that I haven't liked, and as I mentioned above, that were a few other items I've tried out. Great company, quality gear. The full tights will cost you $109.95, which for thermal AND compression I think is a good deal. The 3/4 length is $99.95. Plus, if you signup for 2XU emails, you can save 10% off your first order. Score!

Join BibRave, the BibRave Pros, and sponsor 2XU on Tuesday, January 26 at 8pm CT over on Twitter for #BibChat! There's always a lot of fun to be had, and I learn something new each week. Not to mention all of the motivation and inspiration I get from other runners! Hope to 'see' you there!

Connect with 2XU:

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What are the other BibRave Pros saying?

Frank | Mark | Cass | Jessica | Sarah | Chadd | Sarah | Erin | Jen | Abbie | Katherine | Megan | Gina | Josh | Jeremy | Amy | Angie | Christine | Allison | Jenny | Lisa

Thursday, January 21, 2016

buff sponsored bibchat q&a

You know I rarely miss #BibChat. I block out my schedule every Tuesday night 8pm until about 9:30. Sometimes, things come up... like you are forced {insert sarcasm} to go see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The concert was amazing. How a man of that age has the energy of 21 year old is beyond me. I need his secrets! He played for 3 hours and 20 minutes non-stop. Fantastic.

Anyway, since I missed the chat, I figured I'd catch up on my answers in a blog post (so now I'm not limited to 140 characters - boom!). Buff was the sponsor and the topic was Braving the Elements. You can grab the Qs here.

Q1: Mentally, how do you prepare or psych yourself up for a run that’s going to be tough weather-wise?

A1: Having the right gear is key to feeling prepared for any type of weather. For winter, I find having the right layers are key. This particular winter, I've found some great new items: 2XU Hyoptik Thermal Tights have been great at keeping my legs warm. Definitely the best (and warmest) winter tights I own. Keeping the wind out of the ears is also important for me, which is where the Buff Thermal Hoodie has been amazing. I love that I can cover my nose and mouth, get the air warmed up a bit before breathing, and if it gets a little warm (I heat up pretty easily when running), I just take off the hoodie, but it still keeps my neck warm.

Q2: What's one pice of cold weather gear that's saved you over and over (for running or other activities)?

A2: My Buff Hoodie! I wear it everyday. For running, to go to/from the gym, on errands. Seriously, everything. It's been so dang cold here in Chicago, and that thing has been working perfectly!

Q3: What, er, body parts seem to suffer the most in extreme temps? Cold hands? Sunburned nose? Blistery wet feet?

A3: In the summer, I definitely burn. My long runs/races take me longer to finish than what sunscreen is good for (you know, apply every hour). I can't stop running to reapply (I'll miss cut off times lol), so my arms (and sometimes face, depending on where that sun is... I do wear sunglasses AND a visor to help with this) get a little burnt. I need to find some type of wipes or something that I can bring, but easily wash my hands afterwards (bc I rub my face/eyes a lot, and don't need my eyes to burn too! ha).

In the winter, I'm usually dealing with a chapped face from the harsh winds. That's where Buff has come in handy - the hoodie and the full version are great to protect your face against the winter weather.

Q4: What about warm weather gear - what's something that's saved you time and again on tough, steamy runs?

A4: I love Orange Mud hydration packs!! Having enough water and electrolytes on long/hot runs is something that can get tough - but OM makes some great products to help with that. I love all the pockets for storage, plus the double barrels or VP2 are perfect so you have enough of what you need. I've been known to use a loop, stop back at my car and refill with ice and water that have been in the cooler. I drink a TON when it's hot out.

Q5: Where do you draw the line - what's too hot/too cold for you to run? Is there a line??

A5: Usually - no line. Although, once it hits below 0, if it's a short run, I will run inside. Long runs I prefer to brave the cold so that I'm not so bored. Weather be damned. I think it's possible to run in just about any type of weather, just need the right gear on hand.

For the summer, I try to get out there early to avoid the highest temps, though on some of my longer runs (like for marathon training), since I'm slow, I get caught in anyway. I could manage running in 90 for 3 miles, but anything after that, I'll go inside (for safety!), or I will re arrange my schedule to do my long run on whatever day is nicer (if there is such a thing).

Q6: What was the worst weather conditions - of any kind - that you ever ran through? Share!

A6: Hmmm... well this winter I've run in some pretty hefty winds and cold weather, about 12 degrees. I will admit I much prefer the cold weather, so to me, that wasn't so bad since I dressed for it. 

The Rock N Roll half marathon the past two years have been pretty miserable - I think 70s and humid? They had to add misting machines, sponges, etc to help battle the heat. I suffer a lot in the heat, and so have to walk a lot so I don't pass out or get sick. 

Same for the Chicago Marathon (I think this was the worst for me, since it wasn't just getting through 13.1 miles, but 26.2). It was in the 80s by the time I got to mile 5ish, and by 13 I was dragging. There's not a whole lot of shade, and there were NO clouds in the sky, so being in the heat, humidity, AND sun made it almost unbearable for me. I honestly almost quit, but forced myself to keep moving forward. If they made me get off course because I wasn't meeting the requirements, fine, but I refused to stop on my own (stubborn much?). I did finish, though unofficially (over the time requirement), but there were tons of people still behind me, so I didn't feel too bad. I think the weather affected a lot of people that day.

Friday, January 15, 2016

winter must-have: buff thermal hoodie review

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

I'm a running gear junkie. When I find or hear about something new or a must-have item, I look into and usually want it. Chicago winter's can be BRUTAL. Below 0 brutal. However, I love to run outdoors in winter, so having the right gear is essential. Head gear that keeps out the harsh winds, sleet, snow, and keeps the head protected from the elements is important. In comes Buff to save the day.

The website mentioned that the 'Thermal Hoodie summons ultimate warmth to challenge heinous winter conditions.' Yep, thats sound like Chicago. 

When the opportunity to test out the new Buff Thermal Hoodie came along via the BibRave Pro program, I exclaimed 'Yes, please!', knowing that it would come in handy. And boy, has it.

We put it in for two different color options (probably in case one was sold out), so wasn't sure which would end up on my door. I was super ecstatic when it arrived. Winter was already here and I couldn't wait to put it to use.

I received the Fog color. It's a bit of a tannish neutral hood with a grey Buff part (neck/gaiter). It was my first choice, as I liked that it would pretty much match anything. There are two strings to cinch/tie it up, like you might a hooded sweatshirt hood. See photo for a visual, as I'm sure my description is lacking the proper terminology.

Lately, most of my short runs have been inside on a treadmill at the gym. With the shorter days, I'm unable to run while it's daylight. I don't like to run at night because we have no street lights, people block the sidewalks with cars, and it's just asking to either twist an ankle or get hit by a car, regardless of the amount of neon colors, reflective clothing, and flashing lights I am wearing. Soooo... I wear my Buff Thermal Hoodie to and from the gym! 

It's perfect to toss on post-workout because, while I am quite hot, the minute I get outside in that cold air, I freeze. The Buff Thermal Hoodie with the fantastic neck coverage really helps keep me warm and avoid that moment when you step out the door and start shivering. It's meant for an active person, as it's quick drying, so getting it sweaty isn't a big deal. It's also great because I'm weird and have a 'gym' fleece that I specifically wear to the gym, but it's hoodless. I used to just wear a winter hat, but I hated putting it on post-workout since I was all sweaty, and even if I did, my neck would get cold. Another pro to the hood is that I don't have to take my gross hair out of the ponytail like I do a winter hat, I just pull over my Buff Hood and it's all good (ha).

See - the same fleece jacket haha.

I wore it on quite a few of my short runs over the holiday, when I was able to get outside in the daytime and the sidewalks with clear of snow. It was great to help keep the wind out. I've also worn it on long runs at the trails: 15 degrees and snowy/icy/windy. It was awesome. I thought I might be really cold, so I tossed on another winter running hat underneath, but that ended up coming off pretty quickly, as the Buff Thermal Hoodie was enough to keep me warm. I also love that you can easily wear the gaiter or take it off while on the run. Not much of a fuss to do either. I haven't had to use that too much when running since I heat up pretty quickly once I'm moving, but when I have I've been grateful there's the option.

The only problem I sometimes had with is was if the strings weren't tied up, then they bounced and sometimes smacked me in the face. I solved this by tucking them in to either the hood itself, or the pockets of my Orange Mud HydraQuiver VP 1 pockets. I think the design of it is more for style than function. I do think it adds a lot to the look of the hoodie, and I think they're cute. Since I figured out a way to stop them from bothering me while wearing it for running, this wasn't a major deal for me.

Side view

I honestly haven't gone a day without wearing it. If not to the gym or on a run, then it's to the grocery store, gas station, and other errands. Not just great for athletic folks, but it's stylish enough to wear as an everyday outdoor item. Just be careful if you wear it driving - you don't want it too tight that it's blocking your peripheral vision!

It currently comes in fog, purple pennant, RT AP, or RT Xtra. There were a few other colors a week ago or so, so waiting on confirmation to see if those'll be back (it is likely, and you'll see some of the other Pros have colors not currently listed). I'll come back and edit this portion when I have an answer (it's in the works – just waiting on confirmation from the awesome folks at Buff who are looking into it).

Hat and Hoodie to keep warm at the start.

Some other details from the website:
• 100% natural merino wool
• Polartec® Thermal Pro® hood
• Thermal protection from cold & wind
• Cool in the summer, extra layer of warmth in the winter
• Quick drying
• One size fits all adults
• 40% merino wool, 60% polyester
• Moisture management
• Drawstring
• Odor resistant
• Wind resistant
• Semi-seamless
• Natural stretch

Using the gaiter to start my run. Buff calls it a collar.
No more hat underneath.

'A Polartec® Thermal Pro® hood fuels warmth and wind resistance while the 100% merino wool collar which fits over the mouth and chin and double-layer wool neck ensure both maximum thermal properties and natural moisture management. Designed to fit on you or over a helmet, wear this incredibly warm, feature-rich hoodie in a variety of ways.'

I also wear the same pink jacket often haha.
Yes, some of these are from the same day, but in winter
I'm usually wearing the pink jacket to run outside ;)
Creature of habit!

To wash, you'll want to hand wash in warm water with mild soap and lay flat to dry. Do no use fabric softeners or bleach, and do no iron.

Buff Thermal Hoodie came in super handy going to the gym on this
snowy, blustery day. Had to double up on jackets it was so cold!

I highly suggest adding this Buff Thermal Hoodie to your winter gear arsenal. It's been a fantastic addition to mine, and now I wonder how I got by last year without it. The cost for the Buff Thermal Hoodie is $50, which I think is quite reasonable for such a fantastic product.

Buff will be joining BibRave and the Pros for #BibChat on Tuesday, January 19 at 8pm CT. I'm sure there'll be an awesome giveaway for a participant or two. You should come join in on the conversation and meet some fellow, like-minded runners. We have a good time!

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What other Pros think:
Jen | Angie | Gina | Katherine | Andrew | Amy | Sarah M | Abbie | Christine