Posts

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: 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

Product Review: Nutrition Drink Comparison

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. He has just recovered from a broken foot suffered during the Snowbowl 15k, but it up and at it again. Grady is a RErun Ambassador for 2017/18 and we asked him to review the 2XU Compression Socks for us….

In the last month, I haven’t had many reasons for consuming recovery drinks. I broke a bone in my foot while running the Snowbowl 15k, and most of the month was spent crying, consuming large amounts of adult beverages, dancing in a boot, then crying again. Just recently have I been running again, and my life has improved dramatically. So, I probably won’t be able to tell you how drastic the recovery changes are between these drinks, but I can definitely give you some pointers on a drink that tastes good, goes down smooth, and works best for certain situations because when you’re training at your peak, the little things really do matter.

For me recovery drinks have always consisted of two things…chocolate milk and Gatorade. I was a chocolate milk fan from day one so that was an easy bandwagon to jump on. There’s nothing better than getting back from a killer workout and downing a half a gallon of chocolate milk and inducing unbelievable stomach pain for the rest of the day. This scenario was all too familiar to me in college, and I bet if I would’ve sought out some other recovery/energy drinks my running, and stomach, may have fared much better.

Forewarning: most of this review is focused on taste and natural reaction to the drinks. I tested products from Gu, Hammer, Skratch, and Tailwind. Each have a different goal and definitely a different taste…here’s the low down!

Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel

I tested the Endurance Fuel drinks from Tailwind Nutrition. The slogan on the front reads: “All you need, all day, really.” Well, I didn’t quite test this slogan as I ate 3 hardy meals throughout the day, with some occasional Oreos and ice cream, but I’d assume if you drank 10 of these powdered drinks to reach 2000 calories for the day you’d survive…for a little while. I enjoyed the consistency of this drink because it really feels like you’re just drinking some flavored water, but looking closer at the ingredients, I see that this little powder packs a punch. Sugars and salts and lots of words such as “Non-GMO” and “Organic” made me think that this would be a great drink while on the go, or in a race, because of the easiness to drink, and nice sugar boost. I see on the back it says: “Complete Fuel, No Gut Bombs, and Tasty All Day.” Anyhow, the two flavors I was so lucky to try were Mandarin Orange and Lemon.

Mandarin Orange: Pouring the orange powder into a glass of cold water and mixing it for a healthy amount of time reminded me of drinking Emergen-C packets that my mom always force fed me at the first hint of sickness. And I’m going to be honest. The Mandarin Orange flavor is oddly similar to the orange-flavored cold remedy. Actually now that I say that, there’s definitely a small hint of zinc aftertaste with these things, which could be enjoyable if you’re a big zinc fan I suppose. 

Lemon: The lemon flavor has similar traits to its Mandarin Orange sibling. I feel like I’m drinking a lemon-flavored Emergen-C with a solid zinc aftertaste. These drinks are an acquired taste, and I would say make sure you give them a taste test before you try it in your next big race!

HAMMER Nutrition

Hammer Nutrition has a variety of recovery drinks that are growing more and more popular in the sport. The coolest part of Hammer drinks is that they’re based out of Whitefish, MT so you’re keeping it pretty local when you buy Hammer products. I tried three different drinks from Hammer, and I’ll tell you they’re definitely a wild ride!

Chocolate: The chocolate flavored drink from Hammer was a “trip” as some of those hip young kids would say. I love chocolate, and I was all excited to try a recovery drink which resembled chocolate milk, but when I read the directions I was sad to see that this mix was supposed to be mixed with…water. I wasn’t completely turned off, but I will say it made the whole experience a little less enjoyable after I had already compared it to drinking a glass of perfectly chilled chocolate milk. The chocolate flavor was not my favorite, but chocolate is a great source of energy and is definitely a fan favorite as far as flavors go. I’d say this drink was the middle ground for consistency. I little thicker than the Tailwind, and a little smoother than the GU. So once again, I think preference is everything in these drinks.

GU Recovery

GU has been a name in distance running for a long time now, and for good reason. They truly are a go-to brand for anything recovery. I’ve been experimenting with their drink mix, and feel like they’re playing to a little different crowd than the other recovery drinks. Their drink mix claims to have 5200mg of Amino Acids, 250mg of Sodium, and 10g of Protein. These science terms mean nothing to me, but I definitely agree that these things are hardy! I tried the Vanilla Cream flavor and it’s literally like drinking a milkshake, or probably more like a protein shake (I’ve never actually tried one of those before) if you ever drink those. These things are thick and creamy and I’ve got to say…pretty delicious. It was an eye-opening experience and I literally felt my muscles grow as it went down my gullet.

Skratch

These drinks are awesome! I really like the consistency and little seeds that make you think you’re actually drinking part of the fruit that makes up the flavor. I think as far as fruit tastes go these guys have it down. The strawberry flavor is reminiscent of drinking raspberry lemonade. I’m a big fan of this drink and would potentially use this next time I race. The passion fruit was a bit much for me, but to each their own. (I’ve never been much of a passion fruit guy. I don’t even know what that fruit would look like.)

Recovery Drinks:

-GU Vanilla Cream
-Hammer Chocolate Recoverite
-Hammer Orange Vanilla Recoverite

Fuel Drinks:

-Tailwind Mandarin
-Tailwind Melon
-Skratch Strawberry
-Scratch Passion Fruit

 

 

Product Review: 2XU Compression Socks

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. Grady is a RErun Ambassador for 2017/18 and we asked him to review the 2XU Compression Socks for us….

2XU has many different color options. I have red ones because I get lost a lot.

For most running addicts there comes a time when life follows this simple pattern of Run. Eat Sleep. Repeat. This slogan is popular, and true in many instances. There’s been stages of my life where the only thing on my mind is the next run, or more frequently…the next sleep. But that makes sense. These basic building blocks of running are the simplest, and honestly the most enjoyable activities for many of us on any given day. But one thing I’d like to add to the slogan is the word…Recovery.

Recovery is a bit harder than simply going out for a run, stuffing our faces full of food, or hitting the snooze alarm 10-20 times in the morning. It takes discipline, and it takes time. To do preventative maintenance on yourself seems like a burden for most people. Foam rolling, ice bathing, and stretching can be strenuous and downright painful! (Whoever invented the art of bathing in ice is an absolute sadist) So we are in this pickle right? We love to run, we love to eat, we definitely love to sleep, yet to keep this lifestyle constantly churning we need to recover, and recover fast! So this month I’ve spent my days and nights testing out the 2XU compression sock, because if I can’t get in a session of stretching, foam rolling, or dip in the ice bath, I’d better do something to recover!

First off I want to give a little precursor, I’ve never really worn compression socks before. Sure, I’ve tried them on, and entertained the thought of buying a pair over the years, but always come to the conclusion of…eh, I can do without. And it’s true. I think most of us can do without them, but wow, what you can do with them is what blew me away.

Shackleton the cat modeling the 2XU compression sock as a scarf. Prrrrfect!

My first impression of compression socks culminated in two words…too small. The 2XU seems to have a pretty backwards view of sizing. I wear a size 10 and have always thought of my calves as being a umm…healthy size. But somehow, when trying on the socks I was a size Small, which was surprising as I feel like I’m the most average built person in the world. Just a very Medium dude. But then again, maybe it’s like the Sisterhood of Traveling Pants with the pair I’m wearing. (In that case, the answer is no. You still can’t wear them just because they’re going to fit you). Anyhow, the socks miraculously fit after some struggling to get them on (which seems to be a good sign that they’re fitting correctly), and I felt the Power Surge Through My Veins…not quite. Actually, at first, they were a bit uncomfortable. I wasn’t used to something squeezing my calves so tight, and though the compression felt good, I was constantly worried about it being too aggressive and losing circulation. The first night I wore them, I actually had to take them off at some point because it felt like my calf was being squeezed into a raisin. But over time the socks wore in and I could sleep through the night or wear them running without pain.

The thing I like most about the 2XU compression socks is their streamlined fit. They aren’t bulky, or thick like some styles. They’re fairly easy to get on after some practice, and they even have a L and an R so you know which foot to put them on! (This still poses a potential issue for those who are learning the difference between left and right) They’ve got pretty cool color schemes, always vital, and I really enjoy running in them. I think for long runs and easy recovery days they’re perfect. I’m still used to the free-flowing calf muscles in workouts so I don’t think I’d use them on high intensity days.

I think with compression socks the biggest kicker is not what you notice, but what you don’t notice. I didn’t notice what the sock was necessarily doing for me, other than I felt like I had a lot of good training days in a row, without ever feeling really sluggish or drained. Obviously, it’s a mental trigger too. Simply the compression feels wonderful on the legs. You just feel extra stable or something. It’s kind of a nice boost that gives you a bit more “pop” on the days when you need it. For me, the coolest thing about compression socks is just the ability to change things up. Running is wonderful, but the monotony during certain seasons or stages of training can be hard to push through. Slapping on compression socks once in a while is one of those changes that helps a lot in the fight against injury and the fight for recovery. The absolute best part about compression socks is their versatility and time consumption. They take no time to put on, and you can literally wear them whenever you please. Now I can Run. Eat. Sleep. All while Recovering! Which is good, because I wouldn’t want anyone to have to change their t-shirt slogans.

-Grady