Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Joys of Presbyopia! ThinOptics Review

So... what is presbyopia?  Don't worry about Googling it...  it is simply that lame thing that happens to most of us sometime after age 40.  Regardless of your other vision issues, you start reaching a point where your arm will not stretch far enough away from your face to read the small print!  Ok.. if you want all the technical details, click HERE  :-)

So...  why am I bringing this up?  Well, I was recently asked to review a great new product to help those visually challenged folks like myself.  And what does this have to do with things I normally review (like running gear etc)?  I get a lot of requests to review a lot of interesting products, and I turn down quite a few just because they aren't a good fit for this blog.  And this might have been one of them, if it wasn't for the amazing timing.

I got an email about reviewing Thinoptics shortly after a long training run.  On that run, I received a text from my wife, and for the life of me I could not read it!  Up to this point I was using reading glasses while working, or for reading menus etc, but never took them with me running.  But that day it was a combination of the light, wind, and my short arms that prevented me from being able to decipher the text!  It could be an emergency for all I knew! I have a fairly strong prescription for nearsightedness which compounds the presbyopia issue, so I resorted to taking out my contact to be able to read the text.  Then of course I had to put it back in all dirty etc...  talk about frustrating!  Oh.. and no, the text wasn't an emergency :-)

So, needless to say, when I heard of an opportunity to review a solution to my frustration, I said "heck yes!" So, what are Thinoptics?  I call them the new age monocle!  They are the lightest, thinnest reading "glasses" I have ever encountered.  And not really glasses as they are designed to perch on your nose when you need them.

Besides just being super thin and lightweight, they are also really easy to carry.  Thinoptics come in a universal case, or they are available in a mobile phone case that will fit most iPhone/Android phones! This is ingenious, because it is your phone that you'll end up needing to use these on the most.  Plus, if they are attached to your phone, you'll always have them, rather than running around trying to figure out where you put your reading glasses last.

I use the universal case the most... primarily because I don't have a smart phone (yet), and it is super easy to carry.  About the thickness of several credit cards, I can tuck it into my handheld, or shoulder pouches (on the Hydraquiver), along with my phone.  I take them with me on every run now, and no more text reading frustration!

And, although they are seemingly so fragile, they have held up really well. I've dropped them a few times, and have worn them a lot, and they are still like new.

Also, they are comfortable and easy to wear. Initially I didn't think they would be comfortable, because you have to spread them apart and then pinch them to your nose.  But surprisingly, that didn't bother me much at all. The nose pads have a little grippy texture to them so they stay in place, but they are so amazing lightweight that you soon forget they are there.

Anyway, I'm much happier having my Thinoptics around.  Forget buying the $15 Foster Grant reading glasses at Walgreen's only to lose them, or try to figure out where to carry them.  I'm done with that, and am stoked my new age monocles! Or.. maybe bionicles?   :-)

Check Thinoptics out at their website to learn more by clicking HERE and get 15% off and free shipping!

As always, thanks for tuning in...  hope it's a good week.  If you have any questions/comments/feedback etc, feel free to leave a comment here or on Facebook!

Happy trails!


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Hands Free Hydration: Orange Mud Hydraquiver Review and Giveaway!

Phew... ok, now that I got my first 50K out of the way, back to more reviews and giveaways!  You may or may not have heard of Orange Mud, but they make a really slick hydration pack.  No, not like a bulky vest with a bladder, but one that replaces your handheld, called the HydraQuiver.  Check out the review, and be sure to enter to win one!
HydraQuiver Single Barrel $84.95

Now, up until the time I tried the HydraQuiver, I would run with either my Nathan Quickdraw handheld, or for longer runs I would use a Nathan Endurance vest.  I do have a couple of waist belts from REI and Nathan, but I just don't find those as comfortable.  The HydraQuiver is designed to be a handheld replacement.  At first I was a little leery of it because I just loved my handheld.  But, keeping an open mind, I gave this a go.

Greenland Trail 50K 5/3/14

So.. I ran with it for 3-4 weeks leading up to my 50K this last Saturday.  As you can tell, I have since let go of my handheld!  I was worried about how comfortable the pack would be, and honestly it was barely noticeable the entire race.  What I love about it is that it doesn't bounce, the bottle stays in and is handy, and there are terrific shoulder pouches for gels, keys, phone etc... same as a handheld, only with more storage room.   Also, the footprint is relatively small, so I didn't experience nearly as much heat build up as I would with a full hydration pack.   Granted, this only carries one bottle, so you are limited, but for a race it worked out well between aid stations.

Check out the video below to give you a better idea of what the HydraQuiver is all about, and more importantly.. how to properly put it on!

Now, I certainly would have been better off if I had watched this BEFORE trying the HydraQuiver, or reading the stuff that came with it... BUT... you know how it is...  I just wanted to give it a go...  and nearly dislocated my shoulder trying to put it on like a jacket or a back pack!  I learned the hard way to point one arm straight up to start putting it on, and then later I saw this video, which of course shows how incredibly simple (and pain free) it is to put on!

Another concern I had was about the sloshing of the bottle in the holster.  A handheld will slosh as well, and it was the same sounds, just moved behind your head!  An in actuality, after a few runs I didn't even notice it anymore.  If you had a real problem with it, you could also just switch out the bottle with a Flexr bottle that I reviewed last month :-).

My only complaint about this pack?  It sometimes covers up the cool graphics on my INKnBURN shirts!  Ha.. I know.   So seriously, I am sold on the HydraQuiver as a superior alternative to a handheld.  But, as always, find what works for you... and this works for me!

HydraQuiver Double Barrel $109.95
I would really love to get the Double Barrel version as it would be ideal for those unsupported runs that could use more hydration, but that a full on hydration vest might be overkill.  Anyway, if you want to check these out, go to the Orange Mud website by clicking HERE to check out what they have.  And, be sure to get some entries via the Rafflecopter widget below for your chance to win one!

I'll run this contest until Thursday May 15th, 2014 10PM MST.  Contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada...    Good luck!  And as always, if you have questions/comments/feedback, just let me know in a comment below, or feel free to post on my Facebook page or email me :-)  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy trails!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the Hydraquiver for free from Orange Mud as coordinated by Deep Creek PR an Outdoor Retailer Public Relations Company in consideration for review publication.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

I AM ULTRAMAN! Greenland Trail 50K Race Report!

Ok.. you'll have to forgive me as I am still in my post ultra-marathon giddiness.... I knew I had trained for it, and I set good goals, but there was a part of me that just wasn't sure.  And there is the other part of me that still can't believe it!  I just finished a trail ultra marathon!  31 miles (50K) and just over 7.5 hours of blood, sweat, and tears. Ok, no actual blood.. that was a good thing :-)

And if you thought the title was a reference to Iron Man, it is not.  Ultraman is a childhood hero of mine. I spent a few years in Japan (my dad was in the Navy) and it was there I enjoyed watching re-runs of a classic superhero Japanese TV series from the late 60's.   Anyway, during those hours of running, and realizing that I was going to make the leap to ultra running, Ultraman kept popping into my head...  I miss that show!

Sunrise as I was arriving at the race start

But as usual, I'm digressing from what is supposed to be my race report :-).  I ran the Greenland Trail 50K up in Greenland CO (Between Colorado Springs and Denver).  The race consists of a 4 lap single/double track through the Greenland open space (rolling hills, meadows/grass etc).  The trail was not technical, but had some good uphill grinds and nice easy downhills.

Here is a great shot of the open space. You can see part of the trail on the left, and Pikes Peak. The loop runs through these rolling hills, reaching its peak about halfway through the 7.5 mile lap.  It was a beautiful day... in the high 40's I'm guessing at race start at 7am.  The breeze was light, which was great because I had run this trail once before, spending the first half of the loop in a 20-30mph headwind!

This was taken back by the finish line which was about 1/4 mile away from the aid station at the looping point.  Such a beautiful day, but set to warm up for sure.  Just about all of my training, and especially my long runs, were all done at or below freezing temps.  Spent most of my training trying to stay warm, but today was going to be a different story!  Highs were expected to be in the low to mid 70's.  I know that sounds mild, but I had yet to run in anything above 60, and certainly not this distance!

I got so much great advice from runner friends, and the various Facebook running groups that I follow, that my head was full of thoughts when the race started.  First and foremost, I know that I should enjoy this and have fun more than anything, so I started off with a big grin on my face.  How could I not? The day was gorgeous, the views amazing, and I was running with a group of people that were out there for the same reasons.  The next thing I wanted to be sure to do was to pace myself early on, and did my best to walk up the steeper hills, even thought at first I didn't feel I needed to. I kept telling myself I needed my legs to finish this thing and not burn up early.  I crashed and burned in my first marathon (run at sea level) because I let the profusion of oxygen allow me to outrun my legs early on.  I had some nice conversations with folks during that first lap, which also made me slow enough to carry on comfortable chats.

As I ran on into the second lap, I felt pretty good. I was also trying to stay ahead of refueling by ensuring to take an Electro-Bite packet or gel on a regular basis, and not when I felt like I needed one. By the second lap it was really getting warmer and I was sweating a lot.  I was finding that my 20oz bottle was just making it between aid stations (about 4 mi apart).  I know from past experience that if I am going to hit a "wall" it was going to get me between mile 16 and 20.  Where it hit me in this race was between miles 18 and 20 or so. Fortunately it hit during most of the uphill sections of the 3rd lap, so it coincided with the portions I was mostly walking.  But ugh, I hate that feeling...  total energy drain, stomach doesn't feel well, and mentally I got so negative.  This was the toughest mental battle, but I knew it was coming.. I knew ahead of time that lap 3 would be the challenge.  It was here that I stopped my self several times and literally forced myself to smile even though I wasn't feeling it, and to grasp that I was running an ultra marathon!  I would have NEVER believed it just a few years ago. That action, combined with basically "embracing the suck", or focusing on and relishing each new pain, rather than wishing them away, pushed me back into the game.

I know it sounds a bit crazy, but I've read that rather than hoping a pain goes away, or trying ignore them, it's better to just embrace them head on.  When a new pain popped up, I focused on it.. and literally said "oh hey.. that's a new one"..  grinned and accepted it as part of joy of ultra running.  Surprising how the impact of the pain faded to become manageable.

I made it to the 4th lap, and made the turn at the aid station much quicker than prior ones.  I knew I was on track to beat the cutoff and I didn't want to waste any time.  The volunteers at the aid stations (and all of ones running the race) were outstanding! So positive and helpful... at this station they grabbed my bottle quickly, refilled it and snapped it back into my Hydraquiver pack (review coming!) all while I was grabbing a few snacks and tossing cups of water on my head!  I was in and out like Richard Petty in the pits...  By this time it was really warm, and I was tossing ice water on my head at every station stop.  Even then, it seemed to evaporate in 10 minutes.  I was also running out of water before each aid station which was a struggle... worse than that, at this point I didn't need to pee, even after 60+ ounces of water...  must have been sweating like crazy.   I was fueling with hammer gels, Huma Chia gels, Electro-Bites, Mama Chias, and the occasional handful of chips or pretzels. The Electro-Bites were a life saver as I get so burned out on gels, I loved to offset them with something salty/sweet and packed with energy. I was also taking S Caps regularly, and increased them when I felt some cramping in my shins coming on.

The 4th lap was kind of cool...  being at the back of the pack (no I didn't DFL but sure was close), there were very few of us left on the trail in the last lap.  I ran the whole thing by myself.. just catching glimpses of those ahead of me, but really it was just me and the trail. On the one hand, it was really cool...  having the entire trail and space to myself... so quiet...  peaceful.  But also kind of lonely! I was anxious to finish at this point, and my confidence grew as I kept glancing at my overall pace on my Garmin.. .doing the math, and knowing that at the halfway point in the last lap, I could probably have shuffled in dragging one leg and still beat the cutoff time.  That's really when it set in that I was going to do this!

As I was coming down the last of the hills towards the finish, I could see it and I was still in shock that I was going to make it.  My feet hurt a lot, and I could feel several hot spots but I pushed on.  As I approached the finish I saw my wife standing off the trail, about 50 yards from the finish..   I know many people have said how emotional it can be to finish an ultra, and I could kind of understand that, but now I really understood it... seeing her there brought all these emotions rushing in out of nowhere it seemed... I teared up so much I couldn't see the trail... tears of joy and happiness....  She grabbed this pic right after...  where I realized I need to keep it together and finish this thing!  My wife ran with me from here... giving me a big boost!

At this point our 9 yo twin boys came running up to me and we crossed the finish line together...  I loved that so much...  no better way to finish a race!   And as I crossed the finish line... in my head I thought.. yeah, I could do 19 more miles...  if my feet weren't so sore..  my legs still had some juice in them...   hmm...

Happy guy
So there you have it... one more step in a crazy journey that started 3 years ago.. with the goal being to just be as healthy as I could be, and survive a 5K...   funny what happens when you become passionate about something!

I actually hate Bud Light.... but it was ice cold and I drained it in a couple sips!  Ahh... that's what running is all about... that and the 5 Guys burger/fries on the way home!  :-)

As always thanks for tuning in, and thank you to everyone for your kind words of support and inspiration... I truly appreciate it.

Happy trails!

Ultra Runner Jeff  :-)