As promised, I have two reviews of new running gear, and one kudos to something I already own. For the new gear, I'll give it away up front and say if it ain't broke, don't fix it. On race day, I always stick to the tried and true and what works for me - race day is never, ever, a time to try anything new. But on training runs, that's the time to experiment. I decided to give a try to a handheld water bottle instead of my fuel belt (around my waist) and compression calf sleeves on a long run. But first a huge shout out to something that I already own -- my headlamp! I'll start with that.
Black Diamond Sprinter Headlamp
Last week, I blogged about my recommended gear for running in the dark. One of my top picks is my headlamp: the Black Diamond Sprinter headlamp. I really love it because it's stretchy and I truly cannot feel it on my head. It has pretty good battery power and it's bright and lights my way so that I can see where I am going and so that cars can see me. It's an all around win win. Anyway, late last week, I was doing a morning run in the dark and had on my headlamp. I got to my favorite trail, which is a 1.3 mile loop around a lovely little park, and immediately relaxed because it's totally closed to traffic. I looked like this. Except I was running.
Right after I got on the trail, I saw an older couple holding hands and walking on the path coming toward me. I immediately thought, "Oh ... how cute is that." As I got closer, the woman was holding her arm up to her eyes. I figured it was my light. It was, after all, pitch dark out and my light is pretty bright. So I kept running and neared the end of the path. As I got to the top of the hill, I saw the old couple again. This time, both of them were stopped and holding their arms up over their eyes in a very dramatic fashion. This time, I got it. Ok, it's my headlamp. I kept going and the woman pulled down her arm and yelled, "THAT LAMP IS TERRIBLE!!!!!". I was stunned. But my first reaction was to laugh, and so laugh I did. And I continued to laugh, out loud, all the way home. I've never seen these people before on the trail, but if i do, and if they complain again, I will absolutely stop, stop my watch (which is akin to a girl getting ready to fight in a bar and asking her friends to "here, hold my earrings") and tell her that she's rude and my light may be bright but it is designed to be that way so that I don't get hit by a car and die.
In any event, I came away from the encounter at least reassured that my headlamp is nice and bright. Good job headlamp.
I have been wearing a fuel belt (pictured at no. 4 below) on my long runs and long races (i.e., half marathon and above), ever since 2002. They don't even make this type of fuel belt anymore. I love it: it has enough holsters for my water and gatorade and a front pocket for Gu, a phone, a key, etc. I clip my iPod onto the belt and run. I feel a little like a tool using it, but it works great for me and I like that on a race I don't have to count on hydration stations.
I've been seeing a lot of runners use these nifty looking handheld water bottles. So the last time I was at the running store, I decided to give it a shot and try the Amphipod Hydraform Handheld Pocket. This guy, right here.
It was about $20 and holds 20 ounces of fluid. It also has a nice sized pocket on the side for Gu or keys or whatever. I loved how it felt in my hand - it wrapped around with a strap so I didn't feel like I was carrying anything. The guy at the running store was confused why I wanted to try it if the fuel belt worked for me, but he sold it to me anyway. And, at the end of the day, the handheld didn't work for me. I really missed my belt and I knew after about 3 miles that this wasn't going to work. I like having my hands free, and this was the opposite of that. I also missed the convenience of having both diluted Gatorade and water. So needless to say, this was a miss for me. But I am glad I tried it because I could rule it out for me ... and it made me love my dorky fuel belt all the more.
CEP Compression Calf Sleeves
I'd been dying to try out compression calf sleeves since I heard about them. Compression socks and sleeves are supposedly great for runners: they aid in recovery and purportedly help you run faster. I have a pair of compression socks and don't really like them but I saw the sleeves at a race expo (warning: race expos are danger) and decided to give them a whirl. The sleeves are like leg warmers: they don't go over the foot, and you can wear your regular socks, which is a huge bonus for someone like me who has struggled with foot issues in distance running. I got the CEP Compression Calf Sleeves in pink. You can see them in the picture above at no. 5 and below (those are not my legs).
I wore the sleeves for a 15 mile run and loved them for the first 11 or so miles. After that, no. I did not feel right and I wanted them off. It was just too much compression. However, I *love* them on recovery runs and I *love* them after a long run. After I've finished a long run and have cleaned up, I put on the sleeves to help my legs recover. It really does help. And if I am training for a marathon, I always run a short 3-4 mile recovery run the day after a long run. I love to wear the sleeves on that recovery run: it helps my sore legs feel better. So, while the sleeves are a no-go for me for a long run, they are kick butt for recovery.
There you go! My unsolicited thoughts on various and sundry running gear. Now that we've set the clocks back, I can probably let my TERRIBLE LIGHT take a little rest, but soon enough it will be dark again in the mornings and the horrible, offensive bright light that keeps me safe will be back. Oh the horror. Good times.