Category Archives: Review

My favorite fall running gear

The temperatures are dropping and the November winds are gusting. Yes, it’s not yet November. But it’s the U.P. And that means, gusts of up to 50mph.

Oh yes, I will miss this place when I move. But until then, I am really excited about doing some serious trail running. I absolutely love the sound of leaves crunching under my feet. I love the smell of the dirt, the clear, cool air, the everything that comes with a late October run in northern Michigan.

But, of course, autumn running means I can no longer run in just a sports bra and shorts, unless I am confined to the treadmill. And although that can be fun, I’m just not ready for that yet. Where I live, there is really no shot in heck that the weather is going to deliver any sort of Indian Summer-like awesomeness. And that’s ok. I’m ready for the cold.

Of course, my excitement has something to do with some new additions to my wardrobe and gear stack.

For starters, I am getting by (both running and every-day) with my new favorite long-sleeve top: the lucy Distance 1/2 zip. The bright color matches the awesome Northern sky, and it brightens up my day now that all the leaves have fallen from the trees. Not only that, but the shirt comes equipped with so many cool features, it’s hard not to notice. For example, the sleeves have thumbholes, which I’ve come to the conclusion make for awesome cool-weather tops. The fit is perfect; it is the longest top that I own for running, but its not baggy whatsoever. The Distance Zip has the classic lucy fit, which for me is like a glove. This top also has a stash pocket and venting, so my temperature stays pretty well regulated. It even has a hood, something “bonus” that I’m digging after coming off my previous fave, the Propel jacket. All in all, this is another hit for lucy activewear.

lucy Distance 1/2 Zip

While I’m on the subject, I’ll point out my love for layering, too. My favorite base layers are the Icebreaker GT Dash crew and the lucy seamless Motion top. Not to mention, I’m proud of my friends in Team Mega Tough for rockin’ their Icebreaker tops in their ultras this season. The Dash crew has yet to get stinky, and it is washed a lot less than anything else I own. In fact, I think the last time it was washed was in August, and that was at least four long runs ago. And yes, at this exact moment, it is sitting in the bottom of my locker…

The Icebreaker Dash Crew makes 50miles look gooooood

Another new fave of mine are the Saucony Kinvaras. Yes, they are hunter orange. Yes, this was a strategic color choice. I love running on the ORV trails around the Keweenaw, but unfortunately these trails are often used by hunters. So, I went with the obvious choice: Hunter’s orange. Actually, Saucony dubs this ViZi-PRO, which is good for road running, too- keeps the cars alert of your whereabouts. I’m looking forward to owning a pair of the ViZi-PRO Elite arm warmers, just in time for rifle season, of course. Anyway, the shoes are rad; lightweight, minimalist shoe, but I don’t feel like I’m barefooting it whatsoever. My feet feel happy and comfortable, and I can rock these shoes without socks (and without blisters!). I use them mostly for shorter runs and intervals, since my body likes a more stable shoe for the long haul; but I have taken them out on a few long runs to see how they fly (and boy, do they fly). I’m tempted to try them in a marathon next year… they’ll at least make a debut on my feet for a half marathon sometime in 2011.

Saucony Kinvara... in hunter's orange

And lastly, I am digging my new Nathan handheld, the Sprint. This little darling is perfect for longer races. For long training runs, I’m going to stick with my Nathan Quickdraw Elite and Nathan Storm waist pack, but the Sprint is my go-to race gear. I had some issues earlier this summer with lugging around my number belt, my Trail Mix belt, and having stuff in my jersey pockets… so I simplified things for Rev3 FullRev in Cedar Point to now only carrying a handheld. For fall running, it’s going to be great, because I’m building back up with a lot of 1-2hr runs where I don’t always use all the hydration that can be carried with¬† my waist belt.

So that’s that. What are some of your favorite things to use while fall running?

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To and fro

In case you haven’t caught on yet, I really like riding my bike. Although I don’t think I could ever like it “too much”- I definitely have spent more money/thoughts/time with my bike than the average joe (but not the average triathlete- some of those suckers spend five times as much as I have on their bikes… and still get pwnd on the uphills).

Anyway, I digress. The point of this post is to discuss how to get to-and-fro, with the bike. Whether its rubber-side-down or in a box, having your bike with you where you’re going is important. For example, in early June, I traveled to Middlebury, Connecticut for the Rev3Quassy race. It might have been a little challenging (and slow) to not have my bike when I got there.

Bike transport options:

Check your bike:

Fly Southwest, WestJet, or AirCanada— Southwest just seems to love everyone under the sun. They only charge $50 to check a bike, and they allow two checked bags for free. Practically every airline charges a fee to check a box that is oversized (eg. one that holds a bike), and some charge more than others. Slowtwitch has a great forum feed that discusses airline fees, and you can check it out here.

My favorite: “Not Good: United”- which is the only airline I can fly without having to drive 100miles. My other options (with the 100mile drive)? The “The WORSE: Delta”. So it goes in the UP.

When you check your bike– remember the importance of properly stowing the bike. You spent HOW much money on that thing? I’d hate for it to get dinged up and damaged by the ground crew. Some sweet bike bags and boxes can be found here. Depending on the bike and its size, it should be stored a particular way. For example, my Scott Plasma Contessa has a seat mast (read: cannot adjust seat height without permanently altering geometry) and an integrated fork. So, I need to be careful about how I stow my bike.

Some more tips? When you’re checking your bike, avoid any containment that screams “BIKE”. Since many airlines have bike policies, if they find out you are checking a bike they’ll be sure to charge you. American Airlines has a special policy of charging at least $100 on top of the normal baggage charges if you check a bike. So, try to be as subtle as you can. And even though it looks cool, avoid putting huge labels all over your bike box that might implicate you…

Unfortunately- not everyone can fly SW or any of the cool airlines that don’t charge an arm and a leg for checking a bike (myself included). Unless I drive to a bigger city that’s >7hours away, I am looking at spending at least $150 each way (plus any extra charges that the airline might decide I owe) to take my bike with me on the plane. And since my checked bag full of clothes didn’t make it to Connecticut when I arrived, there’s the risk that the bike might not make it either.

So what are some other options?

FedEx it– I got my local bike shop to disassemble my bike and put it in its original box with the wheels and everything, and then I sent it via FedEx to Bicycle Works, the bike shop in Connecticut right by the race location. FedEx is sweet, because stuff moves even on the weekends, and I could track my bike and I knew where it was practically all the time. It was also very convenient because the bike was assembled by Bicycle Works when it arrived (and it got tuned up, too) before I even got to town, and after the race I just dropped it off and they literally took care of everything for me. It did cost a little more money than I wanted to spend ($75 to send it from Michigan to CT, $100 to have Bicycle Works receive, assemble, and disassemble it, and $110 for them to ship it back to me) but it was still cheaper than checking it on the plane (I flew United).

TriBikeTransport I’ve never used them, because I don’t live anywhere near where a drop off would be, but dang, do I wish I did. Here’s how it works: Drop your bike off at one of the Partner Bike Shops by the drop-off date for your race (listed on their website here) and they get your bike to your race site three days before the event. They even bring it to the athlete village. Depending on the race and where you are traveling from, it can cost anywhere between $290 and $340USD with $1000 value insured (you can get additional insurance for $6/$1000value). Without having to disassemble your bike, go back to the airport later to pick it up because it didn’t make the connecting flight, or worry about it going missing off a UPS truck, you can have that much more peace-of-mind as you prepare for your big race. Again, a downside of this service is that if you don’t have a TBT anywhere near you, well- you’re S.O.L. Another downside? They don’t do a huge amount of races, mostly just M-Dot ones. But, in 2011, they will be transporting to Lavaman in Hawaii, Wildflower, and Escape from Alcatraz.

My favorite means of transporting my bike?

My trusty steed, the Chevy HHR. This 2009 station wagon can fit my bike in the back without even taking the wheels off, and the bike is protected from the weather and bugs on the drive. I even took this bad boy all the way to Knoxville from the UP, which was a much longer drive than I ever wish to do for a race again (22hours). If you’ve traveled with your bike to a race, though, you know how convenient it is to have a car that has enough room so that you don’t have to worry about whether-or-not your bike will fit. Is it bad that one of the major reasons I bought a car last summer what because I wanted to have a means for transporting my bike to and fro? … Nah.

What other ways do you transport your bike?

In Motion- lucy style

I’ve never really thought of myself as a fashionable runner. I train in whatever is clean, and when I previously lived in an apartment that didn’t have a laundry facility, that would mean I was training in whatever was clean. Since Baberaham and I have moved to a house and I bought a washer and dryer, I get to cycle through my running clothes more frequently (and am notably less stinky because of it).

And since we’ve moved, I have started to put more thought into what I wear when I am training. And being more color-coordinating-conscious has become a part of my garment-selecting process. For example, I like to run in my Saucony meadow-colored Empress shirt and matching Run Lux shorts, but rarely reach for my bright yellow shorts from college and a mismatching tee.

So, obviously, I’ve become more and more into the gear from Lucy activewear. The really sweet PR folks sent me some apparel to preview before their June release, and I am loving it.

But what I really love, most of all, about this stuff is the comfort of the fabric and fit. The new print, In Motion (azure), is super-stellar too!

The new Propel line, which has just been released, has some really flashy looks. The In Motion block patterning on the Propel Tank camouflages my tube-shaped torso, and gives me a more feminine look. It even comes in a berry-color too! Sure, I really shouldn’t care about what I look like when I run, but what really impresses me about the lucy clothes is that I don’t have to wear them just-to-run. They are nice enough to wear anywhere, and I have been known to wear my spandex to work (and even out to the movies with B).

What’s even more impressive, is that the Propel tank is fitted just-so that, for a small-busted gal like myself, I can get away without wearing a bra. Seriously. There isn’t a built-in bra (which is often hit-or-miss with tank tops), but its fitted and seamed just right to provide support and comfort without any extra underwear. I dig that. Granted, when I wear the top for running only, I wear a sports bra out of habit…

I also dig the coordination of the tops and bottoms. I have a legit running outfit when I get some lucy stuff. The Color Blocked Propel Knee pants have a wide waistband that matched the tank, so I don’t have to worry about low-rise belly popping out when I am jogging along. The seams on the capris are both functional and fashionable, and the colors are bright but not obnoxious. The drawstrings are not chinsy, and won’t get eaten by my dryer after round one. Plus, reflective piping keeps me a little more visible by the cars at dawn or dusk.

The tank top has a slit in the back that aids in venting, and the capris have a stash pocket for keys, goo, or my ID. The capris don’t ride nor are they low rise, and I am not worried about looking good when I am running through downtown, I just run.

In one word, lucy clothes are FUN. They are well constructed and modest, and absolutely functional.

Check out lucy’s new summer line here.

Endurance Meg's Chamois Cream Review

I started biking about two and a half years ago. My friend, Ben, convinced me the day before to roll out on a long ride with him. He was signed up for the Copper Country Color Tour – a 50, 100, or 200K ride that cruised the leafy-tree-lined roads of the Keweenaw during peak color-change. Of course, I didn’t have a pair of padded shorts, or a road bike, so I borrowed my boyfriend’s spandex and rented a bike with clipless pedals and a pair of shoes from Downwind Sports. And, of course, we went big- signed up for the 200K – and had a sort of epic-fun day.

I discovered a lot from that one day of riding, including a passion for road riding and the way seven hours of riding can lead to an odd craving for pickles and Snickers. I also learned the importance of having a good pair of shorts and anti-chafing cream.

Known to the masses by many a name, chamois cream (or butt cream, butt lube, anti-chafe cream, butter, etc. etc) is an important staple for any newbie rider, but its also key for many riders in keeping comfortable (even when they’re on their 8000th mile of the season). Yes, you can get used to riding without chamois cream. But why not just use it and save yourself the pain and suffering? Saddle-soreness is mitigated with the use of chamois cream, and it can also provide anti-microbial and cooling effects. Besides, if reduced chafing on the inner thighs isn’t enough, chamois cream alleviates chafing on the, um, unmentionable areas, too.

I am a huge proponent of chamois cream use, but I know of a few tougher-than-nails people that don’t use it very often. If I am going out riding for more than half-hour, I am lubed up (ok, call me a wuss… I don’t care). But the truth is, I didn’t realize its importance until I started Ironman training, and I realized very quickly that comfort in my nether-regions wasn’t entirely due to having the wrong saddle or the wrong shorts. Using the right chamois cream made rides much more tolerable and now I don’t want to cry after every 100-mile ride (at least, not because of that).

Earlier in the season, I contacted practically every butt cream company I could find. The mission: to test out chamois creams and provide my readers with a thorough review, a side-by-side comparison of the biggest names in the business. The tubes and jars started rolling in, and I must admit I was a little overwhelmed. I had a lot of biking ahead of me…

Here’s how the review worked.

Step 1. Read the ingredients. Is it something I would have bought anyway?

Step 2. Look up the price on Google Shopping. Write down the lowest price equivalent (not on eBay) listed. Again, is it something I would have bought anyway?

Step 3. Try out the chamois cream on a trainer ride that lasts between 45min – 1.5hours. Note the thickness, scent, feel, etc.

Step 4. Try it out on a longer ride (at least 2hours, but more like 3-4). How did it feel?

Other:

  • Wash the bike shorts in between rides.
  • Use the same pair of bike shorts for each comparison (Craft Active)
  • Use approximately the same amount (a dollop on the end of my index finger)
  • Apply directly to skin, not chamois pad.
  • If the trainer ride didn’t go well, I didn’t wear them on a long road ride

Note: I didn’t get every anti-chafe product out there, and although I have a few bottles, I’m not including the anti-chafe sprays or sticks in this review. There are some really slick (har, har) products out there, like SBR Sport’s Tri-Slide, that can be used as chamois lubes, but I wanted to (fairly) review products that were explicitly intended for the same use (that is, lubing up the crotch/chamois).

And the results? I made a table to describe each product in detail. See below for more information.

*becomes less viscous after application, as it warms up to body temp
DNW = did not wear

And to preface my review, I use a lot of the same words that have some weight-

Parabens – a common ingredient in chamois creams that fend off bacteria, but might be linked to breast cancer.

Chamois– (pronounced shammy) if you haven’t caught on yet, the chamois is the pad inside bike shorts that provides cushion and reduces friction between the saddle and your crotch.

Tingly– Yes, I mean tingly. Think Icy-Hot (only not *always* as strong).

My first chamois cream was Paceline Product’s Chamois Butt’r. Baberaham bought me a tube from the Bike Shop soon after I had major issues on a long ride. Although it was my first, it wasn’t my first love. Although it did the trick, I’d still complain after about two hours. Granted, it could have been because I was just a beginner biker, but at the end of rides I was not very happy. I also found it to be sticky. On longer rides, I felt like someone had put gum in my shorts. More recently, I used it on a hilly 30-mile ride, and must have missed a spot (by the way, blisters are rarely, if ever, good). Good news about Chamois Butt’r is that I can get it through my local bike shop and its not very expensive. Overall, I give this chamois cream a C.

My pops bought me a jar of Assos from Machinery Row in Madison the day before IMoo last year, mostly because I just wasn’t confident that the Chamois Butt’r would survive for 112 miles (or, rather, that I would). Assos has the reputation as one of, if not THE best chamois creams out there. I didn’t read the ingredients, but I tried it out while sitting in the hotel room to make sure I didn’t have any allergic reaction to it. I knew to expect a tingling sensation, but boy-o-boy did I experience one. It was a little exhilarating, to say the least. I really liked it, so I rolled the dice and used it on race day. I am very glad I did. For the entire 5hours and 49minutes in the saddle (not to mention the hour fifteen in the water beforehand…), the cream stayed put, and the tingling managed to keep things cool even though the temperature was busting into the 90s. The Assos cream has been my go-to cream, and I have set it as the gold standard of chamois creams in my little collection. It does contain parabens, which is a downside. And, of course, its on the more expensive side, which in part is why this awesome cream only gets an A- in my book.

The Century Riding Cream by Sportique is interesting, to say the least. It’s really thick, and somewhat difficult to squeeze out of the tube, but that might be a good thing. It is a little more tough to put on, but once its there, it stays put and doesn’t leave a nasty residue behind on my chamois pad. The scent is pretty strong and spicy. It lingers, too, and I could smell it even after a few hours in the saddle. A downside to this cream: B doesn’t like when I use it because of the smell. The cream isn’t tacky or sticky, though, and I love that the ingredient list has so many things that I can recognize, including olives. Also, it tingles (which I like). I’m a fan, indeed, but I still find myself reaching for the Assos instead (maybe because its easier to apply?). I give this cream an A-.

Booty Balm is nice, but another tricky one to apply. The balm in the jar is solid, and I have to scrape to get to get it out. Like the Century cream, though, once its on, it stays put and isn’t tacky. It doesn’t transfer at all to my chamois pad, either. According to the website and rep, it’s designed to “work with the heat of your body” – and it does become much more compliant once its applied and worked in a little (otherwise, though, it can be sort of chunky if I don’t rub it in; but it doesn’t take long to rub in!). The scent is not overwhelming and quite pleasant (think lemon and summer), and there isn’t any tingling sensation (likely because its specific for women; the Ballocks cream is the men’s version). It’s a little on the expensive side, but a little goes a really long way. I give this an A- as well.

Beljum Budder is something I first became aware of because Selene Yeager talks about it in her Fit Chick section of Bicycling Magazine (My First Ironman, December 2008). I then saw it on Loopd.com, but I never did try it until Beljum sent me a tube per this review request. I was expecting it to be a step up from Chamois Butt’r, with some tingling like Assos, because it contains witch hazel. It didn’t tingle, though, but I was impressed with how smooth and silky it was. It literally sparkles, and it goes on thin without leaving a residue. It’s easy to apply, and it isn’t tacky either, so I didn’t stick to my chamois. It was moisturizing, too! The price-point is pretty pleasing. Since it’s probably ok to not ride every ride with the tingling sensation of menthol or wintergreen, this cream is pretty high on the list. I give it an A.

Dave Zabriskie’s brand, DZ Nuts, recently released a women’s specific version of their chamois cream called Bliss. The neutral scent and thick cream are pleasant to put on, and it’s nice to know that companies are taking notice of women’s needs. The cream was easy to apply and stayed put without transfering to my chamois, and I didn’t notice any hot spots after a few hours of riding. However, I wanted to reapply or wished I would have laid it on a little more thick, but I didn’t want to use too much because its so dang expensive. I think I’ll buy the regular DZ Nuts next time and leave the Bliss for women who don’t want the tingles. Bliss gets an A-.

Udderly Smooth makes a chamois cream, along with a plethora of other farm-hand products that are amazing at relubricating skin (…udder, get it?). Their line is creamy and thick, and really gets into and moisturizes dry skin.¬† Unfortunately also loaded with parabens. The chamois cream smells like baby powder, but it stuck to my chamois (and took a few washings and scrubs by hand to get it all out). It was also a pain to get off my skin because it was a little greasy. It is, however, the most economical (and readily available) chamois cream, because its stocked at stores like CVS and costs a quarter of the price of most other chamois creams. Because of the stickiness and the parabens, Udderly Smooth Chamois Cream gets a C-.

One of my new favorite creams is Friction Freedom, which is practically the same as Assos – only without the parabens. It feels the same, smells the same, but it costs a little less and is safer. I wore this in the half at Rev3 Quassy, and it worked like a charm. My only qualm is that I needed to reapply it to my bike shorts during a 70mile ride, but that could be because I was wearing bike shorts on my tri bike… But I now reach for the big Friction Freedom tub before I reach for Assos, which is really saying something. I give it an A.

So which one do I like best? Well, that doesn’t really matter. It’s important to remember that not everyone likes the same thing, and what works for me might not work for you. The intent of this review isn’t to tell you what chamois cream to buy next, but to give you my take on the side-by-side comparisons so you can make a more educated decision next time you try a new chamois cream. So take this review for what it is, my opinion and my analysis of a wide range of products. I tried to be systematic about it, but it’s hard for me to quantitatively assess something so qualitative as the happiness of my … well you get the point.

I’d like to thank the following companies for sending me their chamois creams (and other products) for free, so that they could be included in this review: Sportique, Chomper Body, Beljum Budder, Udderly Smooth, DZNuts, and Friction Freedom. Although they sent me their creams for free, they didn’t pay me to review their products, and the text written in this post are my own thoughts and assessments.