Product Review: New Balance Reflective Lite Jacket

Grady Anderson is relatively new to the Missoula running scene, but is quickly making his mark. As a former standout runner at North Dakota State (don’t hold that against him), he can be easily spotted at the front of most races in town and just finished 5th overall in the Treasure State Trail Series. Grady recently tested the wind and water resistant New Balance Reflective Lite Jacket

Elk Ramble 15k

By Grady Anderson

The first signs of winter have finally hit Missoula. It’s time to curl up around the fire, drink some hot chocolate, read a good book, and of course…RUN! Last week was a wild day up on Mt. Jumbo for everyone who got to experience the Elk Ramble 15K. Snowy, slippery, hilly terrain with a beautiful view of wintery Missoula to top it all off. With the cold weather approaching and the relentless rain and snow I was relieved to demo New Balance’s Running Jacket which blends simplicity, reliability, weight, and style all in one. I have hardly taken it off in the last month. It’s great in almost any temperature and strong enough to take on the rain, wind, snow, or just the wintery chill that comes through town this time of year. In the running world, New Balance is stepping up their game across the board. As a young buck, I remember my coach wearing New Balance shoes that looked like this…

Nowadays, New Balance is the coolest of the cool. They’re the only large shoe company that has an American-made shoe, they sponsor some of the greatest athletes in the sport, and their gear just keeps getting better and better. This renovation shines through in their new Reflective Lite Running Jacket, and this month I was lucky enough to zip it up and give it a go!

As I said earlier, I’ve worn this jacket almost every day since the beginning of October, so let’s just say it’s been really good to me. First of all, I look great in blue, so I was beyond excited to have a new blue piece to add to my wardrobe. The jacket is nice fitting. I wear a medium for pretty much everything, and this jacket was true to fit. It’s not too small or too large. I can throw a long-sleeve on underneath for the colder days or just bring it along as an extra layer for those classic Montana weather days that can’t seem to make up their mind. I think the ease and versatility of this jacket is what makes it such a vital for any runner. I’ve honestly never had such a light jacket that provides so much warmth. Honestly, that may be my biggest complaint about it…I get too hot. Most rain jackets are known for their lack of breathability, and this one is no exception, it gets hot in there! But, when you need that added wind block it’s as solid as they come. And, if you do get hot I have another piece of advice for you…take it off! It rolls up into a tiny ball that weighs approximately as much as a leaf. An awesome piece of gear for those weight-conscious runners, or just someone who looks good in blue.

  

As I mentioned before, the force of versatility is strong with this jacket. I’ve worn it hiking, running, mountain biking, and grocery shopping (it gets cold in the frozen isle). I will remind you that it’s thin, so it may not be the best in bushwhacking scenarios as I feel it could tear easily on branches or god-forsaken prickers. All in all, it’s a sound jacket that just does the job, and looks good doing it!

Talking about looks, I need to reiterate the statement that this jacket is just plain cool. I’m not one to wear running stuff around in public, but I’ve succumbed recently thanks to this awesome layer. The hood is a great bonus for those nasty rain days, or just a little added warmth. As someone who’s never owned a running jacket with hood, I have to say, it’s wonderful! With this section of praise, I need to mention what a great piece of reflective gear this is. I remember a girl in college making the whole team wear fluorescent construction vests on morning runs in Fargo (This is a true story). I hope she’s realized that New Balance has her covered now, as I was blown away at how fluorescent this jacket is. It literally glows! Because of this amazing technology (I’m guessing it’s made of fireflies), it’s become my jacket of choice with the days getting shorter and the runs getting darker. It’s relieving to know that cars, and Missoula deer, can see you coming from a ways away!

Overall, I really have enjoyed the New Balance Lite Running Jacket. It’s great for the all-weather runner, the city cruiser, the ultra-running fiend, or an athletic grocery shopper. The balance of good looks, lightweight, and reflectivity makes it one of the most versatile jackets I’ve ever worn with the ability to keep you warm when you really need it. But don’t take my word for it. Stop in the store to check it out yourself, and be happy you’re not wearing those terrible shoes!

Until next time. Happy Trails!

 

-Grady

Product Review: Feetures Merino Wool Socks

Jenna Lyons is part of the 2017/18 RErun Ambassador team. This year Jenna competed in the US Skyrunning Series including the Rut and the championship race in Flagstaff. You can follow all her adventures at @littleyoness. With winter rapidly approaching/already here we asked Jenna to try out the Feetures Merino socks.

Warm Feet = Warm Heart

I reviewed the Feetures! Merino wool socks in the crew length and the ankle length. I’ve been on the hunt for a good winter running sock for a long time now. I am happy to say that I have finally found true love…it was love at first sight/step.  Just like the other reviews I have done, I reviewed these socks for (1) Functionality; (2) Looks; and (3) Comfort.

1.  FUNCTIONALITY

I tested these socks out right as the snow and cold hit. If you want your feet to stay warm, I am here to tell you that these are the socks for you. I wore them on an hour and a half trail run and my feet were toasty warm the entire time. As someone who has Raynaud’s Syndrome (condition where you have reduced blood flow to your extremities), this was really a delight to discover. I may never wear another pair of socks this winter. The crew length is perfect for keeping ankles warm as well.

2.  LOOKS

These socks don’t really win the looks department compared to other socks like Stance and Vim & Vigr or Smartwool. The socks I wore are black and grey, so not really anything to write home about (like this thing). But, who cares when your feet are so warm?

3.  COMFORT

These are the most comfortable winter running socks I have ever owned. Sometimes wool is hard to get used to, itchy, or just generally rubs all over. But that was not the case with these socks. The merino is soft and feels like a cloud. I compared the softness of the socks to the softness of my Australian shepherd, Susan, and it was a really close call, with Susan’s fur ultimately being softer in the end.

Whether you run on the roads or the trails, I would highly recommend these socks if you love to run outside and feel the warmth of Christmas in your heart. They are a must have for Missoula running!

Product Review: Nike Structure 21

Grady Anderson is relatively new to the Missoula running scene, but is quickly making his mark. As a former standout runner at North Dakota State (don’t hold that against him), he can be easily spotted at the front of most races in town and just finished 5th overall in the Treasure State Trail Series. With the number of miles Grady runs we figured he would be a good guy to test out the Nike Structure 21….

This month was spent getting some much-needed fitness back. Runner’s Edge was so kind to speed things up with a pair of sleek-looking Nike Structures that not only look fast, they feel fast too! I’ve gone through a love/hate relationship with Nike Shoes over my running career. I absolutely love their racing spikes and flats, but have never found a training shoe that stole my heart quite as much. That being said, this was a great chance to put my trainer quest to the test, and the Nike Structure did not disappoint!

First off, I need to compliment Nike on making such an aesthetically appealing shoe. I honestly have never run in such a stylish trainer. I’ve worn Mizuno’s forever, but something about that iconic swoosh is just so dang cool! I had to start separating them on the shoe rack so my other trainers wouldn’t become self-conscious of their looks. That being said, looks aren’t everything for most serious runners, so after many hours I decided to stop wearing them in front of the mirror and actually bring them out for a jog.

My first run in the Nike Structures was a total journey. They’re more cushioned than most pronation shoes, so that first run was literally like running on clouds (Just really small, stylish clouds with a Nike Swoosh on the side). The first thing I noticed about the Structures is that you HAVE to double tie them. The laces just aren’t going to hold unless you do it. As someone who has enough trouble with a single knot, this was a disappointment to me, but after some finagling and google-searching I finally was able to have a tight-fitting shoe with a double-tied knot beautiful enough to be deemed commercial-worthy. Honestly, I did feel like I was in a commercial those first few days of running in the Structures. That whole mindset of “look good, feel good, run good” is real. I can honestly say, I felt great wearing my shiny new Nike shoes, and cruising the streets (The trails would’ve dirtied them up) at a pace that would’ve made Prefontaine say, “Huh, nice shoes.”

For as fast as I was going those first few days, I paid dearly a week later when my feet starting acting up after being jolted into this new shoe that didn’t’ seem to have pacing as a mindset. I had to learn to split my time with my shiny new Nikes and my tried and true Mizunos. I think Nike’s have always been a bit narrow for my Midwestern foot, and after relentless pounding things always seem to take a funny turn. I still rock my Nike Structures every few days, but if I’ve learned anything from these shoes it’s that sometimes looks aren’t everything…sometimes.

Overall the Nike Structures are a great shoe for a pronator looking to get after it on any terrain. The tread is solid, the ride is smooth, the cushioning is fabulous, and the looks are almost unbeatable. The shoe runs about $120 and can definitely take on any mileage range for any type of runner. The Structure has my stamp of approval and will be a constant tool in my upcoming buildup. Just remember that each pair of shoes and each pair of feet are different so what works for me might not work for you. I would recommend anyone in the market for a new pair of shoes go to Runner’s Edge and get their feet looked at by the employees there. They’ll be able to narrow down what type of shoe you need, and from there you can really start gaining those style points. Until then, keep cranking (even when it’s snowing) and Happy Trails!

-Grady

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Product Review: Petzl Actik Headlamp

Angie Partain is very involved in the Missoula Running Community as both a runner and frequent volunteer despite being a busy mom. You can follow her adventures at @jnapartain. As a RErun Ambassador, and with more dark than light these days, we asked her to review Petzl Actik Headlamp and share her thoughts.

November is here and with it, darkness. I don’t know about you guys, but it can be hard for me to stay motivated this time of year. I can come up with a million reasons to stay in my warm comfy bed in the morning as well as why my afternoon should be spent sipping hot apple cider. But nothing keeps me from running like the dark–it’s my winter running nemesis. I tend to be a bit afraid (or as my 5 year old would say: “ascared”) of running alone in the dark and have been known to rack up to 5 miles looping though lit parking lots while waiting for the sun. Maybe the dark doesn’t bother you, but seeing and being seen is key to running safely in the dark. Alright, enough about me and my fears…let’s talk headlamps!

In the past I’ve used the PETZL TIKKA 2, which I purchased a few years ago and will use to compare with the ACTIK.  

Brightness:

The ACTIK has 3 unique lamps with 5 different modes. I’ve affectionately named them: ‘Glimmer Glow’ (5 lumens–single beam), ‘Holy Buckets’ (100 lumens–2 beams–bright and wide), ‘Pearly Gates’ (300 lumens–2 beams–brighter and wider–seriously find your eclipse glasses to look at this beam), ‘RED-y Steady’ (2 lumens–Fun fact: do you know what the red lamp is for? It retains your night vision! Eyes adjust rapidly to red light in the dark. In addition, it won’t blind your running buddy or attract bugs. Plus, it’s just fun and Christmassy!)  and ‘RED Strobe’ (for visibility–visible up to 700 meters). This is literally a night and day difference from my old lamp, which only ranged up to 40 lumens. I was impressed with how amazingly the light cut through thick fog and made a dark trail feel like daytime. Casting a wide beam up to 90 meters rather than a single focal point, rocks and roots were clearly visible instead of shadowed. I loved it for roads as well, and felt so much safer being highly visible to those around me as well as having more time to be prepared for what was ahead or in my peripheral. On a side note, I wore the ACTIK to the Runner’s Edge Brooks Levitate party (You can find me in the upper left corner of the “L” in the photo taken that night), set on ‘Pearly Gates’ it lit the trail for my whole family on our hike down.  

Features:

Lightweight design, coming it at 92 grams, it’s just a few grams more than my old lamp. The head band is reflective with a safety whistle built into the adjusting hardware.  What about burn time?  An impressive 240 hours on ‘Glimmer Glow’, 60 hours on ‘Holy Buckets’, ‘Pearly Gates’ and ‘RED-y Steady’ and 400 hours on strobe. It’s powered by 3 AAA’s, which are included or the CORE rechargeable battery pack can be purchased separately.

Comfort and Style:

The head band fits snugly and comfortably without bounce. Tightness and lamp angle can easily be adjusted while running. As far as color selection goes, I love all things white and chose the Blue/White version. It’s also available in Black/Black and Lime/Black. Here’s my practical plug for the white one: It’s prettier!  Haha, but seriously I worked the headlamp return table at the RUT. The headlamps were nicely sorted by color and the sea of black headlamps was ridiculous.  Finding one’s took forever!  (Also, have you ever tried to sharpie your name onto a black on black item–it’s impossible! My hubby ended up packing his black headlamp on the 50k for this reason alone!) But then there was a sweet little pile of blue and white head lamps–like 5 of them, those 5 RUT-ers were reunited with their bright buddy in a jiffy, instead of wasting valuable hot tub time looking for a headlamp!

Maybe one day I’ll get comfortable with dark, but until then the PETZL ACTIK will get me through and help bring day to my night. It comes with a 5 year Guarantee and you can pick one up at the Runner’s Edge for $45. Seriously, you’ll love it–consider buying 2 of them! That way when your husband commandeers yours (ahem) you’ll still have yours!

-Angie

Product Review: Tim Mosbacher Gel Comparison

Tim Mosbacher is a staple in the Missoula running community. He is currently trying to run a marathon in every state and has experience with a variety of running products. As a RErun Ambassador we asked him to compare a variety of gel flavors and share his expert opinions. You can follow more of Tim’s adventures here.

Writing a review on gels is difficult.  What makes a good gel?  The answer is specific to each individual and presumably depends on what type of run you are eating the gel on.  Personally, there are some flavors that I prefer on leisure runs and others for races.  My standby flavors for races are Vanilla Bean and Mandarin Orange by GU.  Gels are a convenient way to get energy although it seems they are quite expensive for the amount of “food” you are getting.  The packaging, I assume, adds to the cost and this packaging is what makes the gel convenient in size.  Some manufactures do sell larger “bulk” containers but then you need a flask or something larger to distribute the gel material.  I have not had much luck with these large quantity containers in the past.  By the way, Runners Edge allows you to buy cases of gels for a reduced price, and you are able to mix the case with different flavors.

I decided to test a variety of flavors and brands during a recent marathon.  Having been injured much of the year, I was not expecting a fast time and was going to use the marathon as a long training run, but fast enough to still at least get a Boston Qualifier to satisfy another state in my 50 States Boston Qualifier goal. 

Since I was going to be “out there” a while longer than normal, I carried six different flavored gels in the Nathan Hipster Waist Belt (which I love, by the way).  I consumed the first gel a little over 5 miles in.  It was the GU Chocolate Coconut gel.  It’s not a flavor I would normally race with, and I will not in the future.  The flavor was good and it went down well, but it was a little thick tasting.  It would be a good trail run gel.

Before mile 9 I sucked down the Hammer Gel Montana Huckleberry.  This gel could become my new favorite for racing.  The taste was a little powerful, but the gel was runnier than what I normally eat, and it went down easily.  This gel would be a great gel near the end of a race, where it is sometimes difficult to get a gel down. 

Around mile 14 I started to take my third gel, Cliff Shot’s Citrus.  I like their packaging where it can attach to a belt, but the flavor was incredibly powerful.  It was not a super big deal, but I took my time eating it because it was so potent.  I grabbed two glasses of water, instead of the normal one, to wash it down.

Just after mile 18 I ate my second Hammer Gel.  This one was Apple Cinnamon and, as it was fruity, I was curious to see if would go down as easily as the Huckleberry flavor.  The consistency was not as runny, so it was a little more difficult, but I could see myself using this gel in future races.

I ate the last gel (I ended up not using all six) around mile 22.  It was the GU Strawberry Kiwi Roctane.  I did not receive any supernatural boost from the gel, and its taste was a little too powerful for this stage of the race.  I ate it slowly and it went down well, but it was just a little too intense.

Overall, it was good to try out a few gels.  I can definitely see myself using the Hammer Huckleberry at my next marathon in a few weeks due to its consistency.  I have since also tried the Honey Stingers.  It is much like squeezing down liquid honey:  a little powerful, but it flows well out of the package.  I will take one of these on my next marathon and see how it is during a race.  Ask me about it the next time you see me. 

On a side note, how should one dispose of the sticky gel wrappers?  When in a race, a runner should hang on to the wrapper and dispose of it with the cup at the aid station.  The best way is to consume your gel as follows: once you see an aid station, suck down the gel, grab your water and throw the cup and wrapper together into the garbage.   Aid stations usually have garbage cans about 100 feet past the station and that should be your farthest limit of disposal.  Race officials should not have to cover the entire course looking for gel wrappers or cups. 

Cairn Cartographics + Five Valleys Land Trust = TRAIL MAP LOVE

Have you checked out the Cairn Cartographics maps? They are made here in Missoula and is run by husband and wife team Jamie Robertson and Amelia Hagen-Dillon. And these maps are AWESOME!

We are running a promotion with Cairn Cartographics through the end of the year. For every map purchased, $1 goes back to Five Valleys Land Trust. If you love to play on our trails in and our Missoula, this is a great way to support these two companies! These maps make great gifts (for you or someone else).  Happy trails!