Saturday, January 11, 2014

@Marathoner Gear Review: ASICS Cold Weather Combo

Last week I reviewed the new ASICS Storm Shelter Jacket during one of the harshest running days of the past decade at Central Park. On Friday morning, I completed the whole package with the addition of the new Storm Shelter Pant, plus the Thermopolis LT Half Zip and PR Tights as base layers.

It was Week 4 of my 12-week ASICS LA Marathon training plan laid out by Andrew Kastor, who is coaching our ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Challenge team. It was our latest snowy and rugged day here in the NYC area, and I was headed for my regular trail that goes up the Hudson River through Nyack.

Interestingly enough, it was Coach Kastor's wife, the renowned Olympian Deena Kastor, who gave me the only inspiration I needed to get out the door on this morning:

That was enough for me. All I needed was the right gear and I was off.

Let's start with the base layers:

Thermopolis LT Half Zip

I will wear this on its own from time to time going forward, but it was just right for me on this run. This half zip feels silky-soft against your skin, and it is practical as well. There's a sleeve zip pocket for your media with a cord loop, although I did not need it on this day as I was wearing the Storm Shelter Jacket. My favorite part was actually the thumb hole on both sleeves. I used that feature the entire run, making it easier for my sleeve to go inside of my gloves to avoid exposed skin. One note: If you use the thumb hole, make sure you wear your watch OVER the sleeve (lesson learned), so you can check your time as needed.

PR Tights

I am running with new ASICS tights after having gone six years rotating the same three pairs of tights. If I can pass on anything to newer runners, one thing would be to take good care of your gear. Since I started running in December 2006, I have never used a dryer and only use cold water and delicate cycle to wash. I used to wash all my gear by hand for the first few years, but delicate cycle is fine -- with a regular detergent gel, not the stinky running wash detergent that they still sell some places. And never use softener. I lay all my socks on the dryer to air dry, and I hang up everything else to dry. That's why my tights lasted so long.

The PR Tights, however, are a definite step up for me. They lock down on me perfectly, and my favorite feature is the elastic grip tape leg opening. The bottoms won't ride up on my ankle, again meaning no exposed skin. These tights also have flatlock stitching to minimize chafing, ideal for cold long runs.

Storm Shelter Pant

The last time I was this excited to pull on a pair of bottoms for the snow was those waterproof overall pants mom would give you to go sledding on a snow day with no school. You know that insulated feeling you got, knowing you could make snow angels and do anything and feel warm inside? Well, welcome to the Storm Shelter Pant.

This truly completes the best combo in cold weather running today. If you don't have these and know you are going to deal with snow and ice for part of your running calendar, then you are missing out. I pulled these on over my PR Tights and was pleasantly surprised by the almost tailored cut. They aren't big and bulky. They look good. They let me freely stretch out my legs, the only worry I had had.

From a functionality standpoint, the bottoms are an extension of the jacket I previously reviewed. It features zip-open vents and mesh-lined gusset to help you cool down when you heat up. I love the 360-degree 3M reflectivity, as I tend to run in the dark or dusk often. The waterproof zippers are another reason they bottoms are going to last a long time in my running future.

The Test

It didn't take me long to truly test out the Storm Shelter Pant. My trail was completely white.

I had no tracks on my soles so I was expecting adventurous footing. I looked for exposed vegetation -- the stuff I would avoid in the summer -- as that would give me a grip. Some areas covered solid ice. I hit one of those patches during my run, and went airborne for a complete wipeout. No problem, though. I was even tempted to do a quick snow angel before resuming. Just brush off the snow.

I ran five miles in an hour. I am supposed to take Friday off in advance of Saturday's long run, but have had to juggle my schedule this week for a few reasons. It was one of those #beastmode days where everything felt white, even the Hudson River as you can see here from my view atop the Palisades cliffs:

I'm inside the Storm Shelter combo and like I said before it feels like a fortress, but with the breathability and flexibility that lets you know you are training and pushing the limits unhampered. It makes you feel like:

How do YOU get through those cold-weather runs when there is no way you are staying inside?

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