Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Review of Vega Sport Sugar Free Energizer

   In the past I reviewed Vega Sport's Pre-Workout Energizer here.  If you don't feel like reading it, the jist of it was that I took it before any workout and race where I knew I had to get my body up and feeling good, and really liked how it performed.  But, it tasted like demon snot.  I really had to force it down.  Vega has now introduced a new "sugar-free" version of the energizer, and they solved the issue of terrible taste...  mostly.  BUT, this is not a replacement to the Pre-Workout Energizer, it's actually a seperate product. 
  Vega recommends taking the product 20 minutes prior to a workout to "Provide immediate and sustained energy Increase endurance, aerobic and anaerobic capacity and to Enhance mental focus and physical recovery".  I bought into it and it has become a staple of my fluid intake. It includes the same main ingredients as before: 
Coconut seed, yerba mate, green tea, rhodiola, ginseng, turmeric, and ginger.  The only thing I found missing from the "medicinal ingredients" that was previously in the non sugar-free version is Kombucha.  Then Vega lists new non-medical ingredients is the sugar-free version such as beet powder and natural fruit flavors.  The taste is much better and very palatable.
  So what's the difference?  It seems that depending on the duration of the activity you are going to be doing, Vega recommends either the sugar free (for activities up to 30 mins) or the original (for activities that last longer than 30 minutes).  Here's a table:
Pre-Workout EnergizerSugar-Free Energizer
Running for more than 30 minutesRunning for up to 30 minutes
Cycling for more than 30 minutesCycling for up to 30 minutes
Swimming for more than 30 minutesSwimming for up to 30 minutes
Walking for more than 60 minutesWalking for up to 60 minutes
Intense yoga for more than 60 minutesYoga (depending on intensity) for up for 90 minutes
Hockey, soccer or basketball games/practices  of more than 30 minutes
Pilates for up to 60 minutes
Intense strength training for more than 30 minutesStrength training up to 30 minutes (depending on intensity)
High intensity intervals or Crossfit-style training for more than 30 minutesHigh intensity intervals or Crossfit-style training for less than 30 minutes

The Intention of Sugar-Free Energizer
  • Provides a low carb and low cal option for those who want a boost for their workout or day.
  • Intended for lower intensity or less than 30-60 minute duration workouts where additional calories or carbohydrates are not required. Perfect fit for yoga, barre fitness, pilates, or HIIT (high intensity interval training).
  • Healthier alternative to coffee during their day! The sugar-free now gives a closer option, relative to the calorie consumption.
   I'll be honest, I never noticed the original Pre-Workout Energizer having any effect on me after 30 minutes, and I am feeling the same good effects from the sugar free version except I actually enjoy the taste now.  As my current tub of the original runs down, I'll be placing an order for another tub of the sugar free version. I really do enjoy the product and will continue to use it before races and hard workouts. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

REVIEW: Pearl Izumi Men's Ultra Split Short

(My new review site is here, check it out:
Hot diggity dog!  I found them, I found them, I found them!!!!  The perfect short.  I've worn countless pairs of shorts in countless lengths in countless materials.  And I finally found them.
  As you can tell from my previous posts, I'm a bit of a PI and Salomon fanboy.  They're both making high quality technical apparel.  The fabircs, cuts, technology...  it's just not being done in a regular $15 pair of shorts.  You may ask, "But do I really need to spend $70 on a pair of shorts?".  Nope.  But it does make a difference: not in adding miles to your runs physically and not by quickening your pace, but YES.
  I'll explain.  When I'm going out for a quick 8 mile run that will take less than an hour, I'm not concerned with what shorts I'm wearing.  I'll be back in an hour.  When I go out for a 2-3 hour run, I DO care.  What PI has done with this is solved my basic needs:  A place to hold valuables that won't go bouncing away, and a place to store water and/or gels.
     For gels, PI has "our proprietary 1:1 Gel Flask Pocketing System which secures nutrition in an anatomic position on body" and it works wonderfully.  The stretch pockets are at an angle and sit right behind your hip.  I also found that they are the absolute best size to store 5 oz Salomon Soft Flasks.  I've been running with a flask on either side and using the zippered main pocket to store 2 gels and a key.  Everything fits snug, but that's obviously a lot of weight to be supported by shorts, right?  Nothing bounces.  Nothing moves.  The shorts have a unique waistband that sits comfotably.

  I don't know what else to say about a pair of shorts.  Good length with a 5" inseam though I do prefer 4".  And the ability to run more miles (because you can bring more water and gels) and run faster (because of the ease of access).  These shorts are incredible. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

RE-REVIEW of the Pearl Izumi N2

(My new review site is here, check it out:
Welcome back folks.  Back in late November, I was lucky enough to review the "pre-production" Pearl Izumi E:Motion N2 road running shoe.  You can see that review here.  I left that post with an update that PI had offered to send me out a post-production pair when they became available.  
Arriving at my doorstep a few days ago are the shoes pictured above, featuring the obvious new colors but more importantly a promised less firm midsole.  Let me say up front I'm not opposed to a "firm" midsole, my current marathon shoe is a the firm midsoled Boston 3s by Adidas.  PI listened to the opinions coming in from all their beta tests and decided that the midsole was just a little too firm for a trainer, and I agreed with my experience in them.

PERFORMANCE:  Thank you, Pearl Izumi.  Thank you so much.  You have to feel this upper on your foot, you really do.  It feels like a compression sock with areas of stiffness in all the right places.  So go to a store and put these shoes on and you'll understand.  I won't even spend any more time on the upper, and I hate to use the phrase as it's so overused but screw it, it fits like a glove.  I'll skip down to the outsole, which is unchanged as far as I could tell other than the color.  Still has that sweet curvey line running through the spine, still does exactly what it is supposed to.  Finally, the new midsole is exactly what I want in a trainer when you're race shoe features a firm ride.  It's noticable less firm, but not to the point of losing feel or responsiveness.  I ran twice in them in the last couple days, a slow recovery run of 8 miles, and a medium pace 12 miler, a typical workout for me where I would be using trainers and not a racing shoe.  I'm a shoe nerd.  I have shoes for every single specific run you could thank of, from a 5k to a marathon, from a recovery run to a speed workout, to shoes that I will only wear if there's snow and others that I'll wear if it's raining.  I rotate about 12-14 shoes at a given time.  Based on my recovery run and my medium pace 12 miler, a bunch of those shoes are getting the boot.  Pun intended.  The shoes are trainers.  The shoes are perfect trainers.  Comfortable, cushioned, that oh so sweet upper, and just the right weight.  

LOOKS:  My original review used the phrase "jelly bean colors" to describe the pre-release model.  I've got these new cherry/lime flavored ones, and I can't say I'm disappointed, but can't say they're my favorite color combination.  I'd rather the lime be the color that runs through the mesh upper, with the symbol and accents colored in grey.  But I want POW, and I applaud PI for making the choice to be a tad more subtle.  

RECOMMENDED RUNNING:  Training.  Recovery runs, medium pace runs, your long run, and I'm sure some people will want these for marathons.  I'm going to need more time to find out if I could use to race in a marathon, but I feel like if I needed just a little less weight I'd have to get my hands on the N1s.  (which is something I'm considering)

NOT RECOMMENDED RUNNING:  Races shorter than half marathon.   

Overall:  9 out of 10.  Based on what they are:  trainers.  

Final additional note: Pearl Izumi is my new favorite company.  First, they had the best demo night I've ever been to, with a ton of swag, a great rep, and plenty of shoes to try.  When I wasn't 100% satisifed with a pre-production model (which should be "wear at your own risk, deal with it, homeboy") they offered to replace them with the finished model, which was shipped to me with no expense coming my way.  They listened to their customers feedback and adjusted accordingly.  My training begins after my 3/24/13 marathon for the USATF Mountain Running Series again, so I'm even eyeing the Trail N1s, and as mentioned, thinking about picking up a pair of N1s for the road.  Based on the quality of their products and customer service, they are now the first running company I'll be looking towards for shoes and apparel before I look elsewhere.   

The N2s are currently available for purchase at Running Warehouse:  Here  

Friday, January 18, 2013

REVIEW: Salomon Swift Hoodie

   The Salomon Swift Hoodie, or as I call it, "the best damn looking hoodie on the trails."  I searched and searched looking for a jacket/layer that I could use for winter temps in New England.  I typically layer and use different weight Patagonia Capilene layers and hope I don't need something heavier.  I didn't have that piece of attire I could count on when temps hit 20-30 degrees and I wanted to stay light.  Enter the Swift Hoodie.  
  All the features in a paragraph:  Thumbholes, a stretch knit fabric that bends and shapes with you, half zip for ventilation, a "watch viewing" slit in the left wrist, HIDDEN mittens!, zippered chest pocket, a hood that actually stays on AND lays flat, and cut for an active body shape.  
  If there is one criticism to Salomon, is that they over-design.  Older school runners are going to think, "there's features on a sweatshirt???"  I on the other hand, love when companies do stuff like this.  This is a not a piece of attire, this is equipment for running.  
  To go quickly though each of the features:  Thumbholes are my new favorite add-on to long sleeve shirts.  It's a brilliant little idea to keep the sleeves from riding up and also to give you just a little more warmth, covering all but your digitis.  BUT WAIT!  What if you're fingers do get cold.  For that there's fold out mittens sewn into the wrist, just enough to cover your fingers, though it still leaves your thumb exposed.  Sure beats carrying a seperate set of gloves on the in between days, and a great addition if you realize after you started you should have brought gloves.  
  It's cut for a slender runner's body.  If you've got that body, this thing looks like it was tailored for you.  It's really good looking, with the back longer than the front to cover your butt a little and keep it warmer and prevent snow kick up from going down the back of your pants.  There's a zippered chest pocket and also a zippered lower back pocket that's large enough to carry an extra pair of socks or gloves or stuff your winter hat if it warms up.  And finally the hood on this thing is over-designed, again in a good way.  It stays up when you're running, and if you're not using it, folds flat.  We've all had that hood that won't stay on your head and is constantly falling off, so we push it back only for it to be bouncing around on your back.  This won't do either.  

  This is another piece of perfect gear from Salomon.  The only issue, and this is nit-picky, is I don't find the watch window to be useful for using a GPS watch.  The window is just a bonus and is for viewing a normal watch, just pry it open and take a glance at the time.  For that, it does exactly what it seeks to.  Because I use a GPS watch, I still have to strap it to the outside of the hoodie. 

OVERALL:  9 out of 10.      I only knock one point off because it is really cut for an active runner's body, and if you have a larger frame, this isn't going to work out for you. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

SHOE REVIEW: Salomon Sense Mantra

(My new review site is here, check it out:    
If you read my last review, you would have noted that I mentioned that when Kilian Jornet lost the 2010 Western States, he challenged Salomon to come up with a new way of hydrating and a new set of shoes.  The new shoes they came up with were the Salomon Sense, a straight up racing shoe that cost you $200 and lasted you 200 miles.  A buck per mile of shoe.  From what I understand, you did get what you paid for, you got an incredible shoe, but not many people were biting.
  In 2013, Salomon is releasing 2 altered versions of the Sense:  The Sense Ultra, and here we have the Sense Mantra.  The quick specs on mine (size 9.5) are 9.2 oz and a 6mm drop.  These are marketed as a door to trail trainer, though you'll want these on your feet as often as possible.
  These are true Salomon quality and style.  I originally recieved a size 10 which is my normal size with this brand, but they were too big.  These are shoes that are made to be worn barefoot or with a small sock on, and I had plenty of extra space.  I swapped for a 9.5 and the fit was great, enough for a single pair of socks which is how I like to run.  The Mantras feature a Endofit system for a close to "socklike" feel while the shoe is on, and they used their Quicklace system to button them down.  They fit snug without feeling like you've got lacing digging into the top of your foot.
   You get dynamic traction and Salmon's Profeel Film in the forefoot acting as a rockplate. 

PERFORMANCE:  These are touted as "door to trail trainers" so I tested them as that, asking them to perform not only on the trails but also on the "door to" portion. The day I received them I put them on headed straight out for an 8 mile ROAD run.  Being winter in New England, I also had a little bit of ice and snow to deal with.  Now, I've run plenty of awful miles on the road in trail shoes before, and they can be painful and heavy.  With the Mantras, I still felt light, I was able to move at the pace I wanted to, and they acted no different than a straight up pair of road trainers.  I had no problem with foot landing, no hot spots, nothing.  I didn't have time for a trail run that same day so I only checked off the "door to" portion as PASSING.
  The next day I woke up early and headed out to for an 8 mile trail run.  The trail was 25% packed dirt, 25% rocky/rooty/loose singletrack, 25% flat traprock and 25% snow/ice.  Looking at the traction on these shoes I thought I would be for a long day.  Why I'm constantly surprised by Salomon I'm not sure anymore, but these only slipped on spots you expected them:  the ice and snow.  Unless I was wearing a cleated shoe, no shoe was going to grip on this stuff.  The Mantras, even at 9.2oz, still felt really light and I almost think that's because they fit so well, they don't feel bulky.  I intentionally made sure to put my foot down on sharp rocks, roots, hoping to be able to pass on some thoughts on the Profeel Film.  Truth is I didn't feel anything other than my foot wrapping over the root or rock.  Pain free.
  There's enough cushion in these that they fit their billing as trainers.  I could run mile after mile in these.

LOOKS:  Meh.  I think there's a huge group of people who are tired of the flashy colors and neon shoes, and these are your shoes.  They are great looking shoes, and I'm actually pretty happy with the blue/white, but if you take a look at the green offering, I'm just not digging it. 
RECOMMEDED FOR:  Use them as directed.  These are the best door to trail trainers on the market.
NOT RECOMMEDED FOR:  Racing.  I wish I could afford the Salomon Sense or the Sense Ultra, as they shave off the weight. 
OVERALL:  10 out of 10.  I'm giving that rating based solely on what they are marketed as.  A $120 door to trail trainer.  For that price you get above and beyond what you'd expect from a shoe at that price point.

UPDATE as of 1/18/2013:  I have a race in the middle of the year that combines a 1 mile uphill road run, then a mix of ski slope and fire road, finished with technical trail climb and a technical downhill trail run.  I said I wasn't going to recommend these for racing, but there's not another shoe I would want on my feet after putting some mroe miles on these.  I've got them dialed in right now and am almost to that point where I want to just lock them up in a box and not touch them for fear of "ruining" them.  The "weight" of the shoe is a non-issue, at less than 10oz they are still light enough for racing.  

Friday, January 4, 2013

REVIEW: Salomon Sense Hydro S-Lab Handheld

(My new review site is here, check it out:  

  Salomon hands down makes the best trail running specific apparel and accessories in my opinion.  Salomon also needs to work on their naming structure.  Say it with me:  Salomon Sense Hydro S-Lab Handheld Hydration Set.  I guess for short we could title it:  SSHS-LHHS?  Seashells?  
  Here's what it is:  In the set, you get 2 gloves that slip over your hands with a thin elastic that holds the included 8oz soft flask.  I'm going to talk about each individually.
  First, the flask.  Salomon is releasing 2 sizes of the soft flask, a 5 oz and an 8 oz.  If you've been reading anything lately about "too much water", then you'll know that 8 oz is a really great size to have for runs up to 2 hours, you don't really need more even on really hot days.  Remember when Kilian Jornet lost at the 2010 Western States?  Well, he challenged Salomon to do two things:  Make him better shoes, (the result of which are the $200 Sense shoes) and give him a better option for carrying water, as Kilian isn't a fan of handheld bottles.  Salomon gave him these for the next year, the year in which he cruised to victory.  The bladder is PVC free and BPA free as you would expect in the current year, and Salomon has put a bite valve on top.  To work it, give the flask a squeeze and the valve a bite.  Done.  Leak free, drip free hydration.  The bite valve eliminates the need for the "pull then suck then push back down".  I really, really like it and find it much easier.  One thing I really dislike about handhelds like the Nathan are that you need to use your hands to open and close the valve.  I know you're supposed to be able to do it with your teeth, but while running I find that very difficult and even more so once that bottle has some use on it.  
    The glove:  With the set you get a glove for each hand and can choose between a few different sizes to make sure you get the best possible fit.  Pictured is the outside of the glove, so the elastic that holds the flask is on the other side.  There's a terry cloth exterior for wiping snot and sweat on on the outside.  That loop of cordage you see is to go around the neck of the bite valve, keeping the flask secured at 2 points.  

  So how's it work?  Excellent.  I've used the gloves and was really happy with how the flask fit in there and it gave me that typical "handheld" experience, where you are gripping your hydration without having to actually apply pressure.  I had no problem running and supplying myself with water.  But I only found myself using the gloves half the time.  That's not a discredit to the glove, but a credit to the flask, which is the star of the this system.  I found that the perfect time for the glove was during the fall, when I still wanted my water to be cold, but didn't want the cold flask touching my skin.  Conversely, I found myself wanting to wear the glove when it was very hot and wanted to keep my body heat from spreading to the cold water.   
  The flask when full almost conforms to your hand and makes it very easy to carry with or without the glove.  As you use up your fluid, there's no sloshing around, the flask just collapses in on itself.  The only awkward moment comes when you empty the flask, and you have this flaccid flask with a floppy bite valve.  The first couple uses I found myself just running with it, letting the limp thing just bounce around, it was only a distraction for a minute or so.  From that point on I either tucked it into a pocket or waist band, (something you can't do with an empty handheld bottle comfortably) or blew air back into it, giving me something more solid to hold on to.  

IS IT WORTH IT?  You're looking at spending $40 or so for the gloves and one 8 oz flask.  I've seen individual flasks priced at $18.  Is it worth it?  Yes.  Yes, yes, yes.  If you're comfortable with a handheld, and I mean you actually really like how it feels, not just accept that it's the current way of doing things, then stick with what you're doing.  But even more so of a bonus of just how it feels and the ease of the bite valve, is that it collapses down on itself and is so incredibly light and compact after using it.  When you're empty out of your 16 oz plastic bottle, you're still stuck carrying a plastic bottle.  With this system you can just tuck the empty into a waist band or pocket or backpack and it's done, out of the way.  

OVERALL:  9 out of 10