Thursday, June 5, 2014

My 'Favorite' Shirt From 100 Races

If you are like me, you always have go-to running tops even as you amass piles of race tech gear and new purchases from your favorite running shop. I have several go-tos that have survived the test of time since I started my road to 100 races back in late 2006, and the aptly named ASICS Favorite Short Sleeve is currently at the top of my own list. It is what I wore for the recent Brooklyn Half, my 100th race, and what I wore on National Running Day on Wednesday, and I'll start this Gear Review with this top.

The Favorite returned to ASICS shelves this year, lighter than ever. Highlights:
  • ASICS exclusive lightweight, quick-dry, anti-odor, permanent 50+UPF soft knit
  • Strategically-designed mesh construction for breathability
  • Flatlock stitch construction enhances comfort
  • Reflective elements for increased visibility including reflective dot "A" swirl

That's me in the Favorite at Art Cafe in Nyack, NY, after the National Running Day four-miler with Rachel. Even just sitting there postrace I felt swathed in silky-soft bliss, just like when I run. It's just so comfortable, and it's bone dry after I run my last step. The racing stripe on the back rocks. For Brooklyn, I put a tiger-stripe singlet over it because I wanted to make a little bit of a statement in that milestone race, harkening back to my "Monster Cat" nickname in my original Big Cat Runners group. I'll be breaking this Favorite out as a standard in my go-to drawer for a long time to come -- I love it.

ASICS PR Lyte Short Sleeve

This item is right at the top of the page when you search Men's and Running at I am so appreciative of Melinda at ASICS for sending me this in a big box of gear to help make sure I trained for, finished and celebrated my 100th in style. I still have the tag on this one and am just going to stare at it for a little bit before clipping off the ASICS tags and actually taking it out for a run.

Before running in it, I thought I would show you more detail of the fabric. Consider the nanotech that goes into these garments. It is routinely taken for granted by us as we circle parks and run roads, but look closely and you can see why breathability is so key here for elite and everyday runners alike.

ASICS Core Short Sleeve

This is the LA Marathon version of the Core Short Sleeve, one of a few short-sleeve shirts I was given during my training for that race in March as part of the first ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Challenge Team. I was going to run with it at the marathon but wound up buying another version that I wore from Stadium To The Sea that day. So now I am breaking this baby out and enjoying the heat. Hydrology mesh fabric cools the body and reduces moisture even as flatlock seams and self fabric binding reduce chafing. It is texturized mesh with inherent wicking technology. Self-fabric binding enhances comfort. Overlock seam detailing reduces chafing.

Below are a pair of ASICS Kayano Low-Cut Socks, part of a three-pack I was sent by ASICS during LA Marathon training. I was also sent a three-pack of an orange-and-black thicker version. These are wearing really well, and reliable every run with them. What I look for is lasting power in running socks, usually a hallmark of my vast Balega collection. I am pleasantly surprised by how new these stay, as I continue to only wash in cold and on delicate and then lay out my socks flat to dry. If you throw your running socks in the dryer, the seams can raise, and that caused a 10-mile blister for me during the 2010 Miami Marathon with a Nike pair that seamraised. These are bone-dry when I finish my run, great moisture management, cushiony and just the right feel for me. I highly recommend them whatever shoes you wear.

The FlipBelt - Great Concept With Promising Future
We all need to carry stuff while we run, and since I started running races in 2006, I have seen an interesting evolution of wearable organizers. In 2007 I tried using a Nathan's clip-on gadget that would hold some personal items and clip onto the top of my shorts. It was really uncomfortable, a major fail. then at the 2009 New Jersey Marathon Expo, I bought my first Spi-Belt. That has served me well for years, as I have bought various models including one this spring. There also have been the biceps bands for carrying music, ranging from my iPod in the old days to my iPhone recently. But the wearable-organizer sector is never a done deal. New things come along, and the newest is the FlipBelt. The maker was kind enough to send me a code to review it for myself, so I went to and picked out the Nuclear Yellow version in XL.

I was probably more wary of this gear-review item than any I had looked at recently. The main reason is because the FlipBelt website uses people who do not look like the running community. It is 100% hardbodies, like they did a casting call for fitness models. If you go to a typical New York Road Runners race at Central Park, 8,000 or so runners, you will see people in all shapes and sizes. The field does not stop at the front of the pack with the elites. It goes way back to corrals that are populated by a lot of people who look more like me. I crush cities and eat marathons for breakfast, I have run 100 races, I think I inspire others to run, and it is not because I have a six-pack. It is because I am strong mentally, and any real runner will tell you that mental is by far the majority of the game, far over mileage and core work. So I went into this with that preconceived notion, that I'm not their target audience, because I have some midsection issues as I like to be a normal dude. I honestly was mostly worried that I would have roll-over, and I definitely could not wear this outside my shirt, which is how they show all their fitness models wearing it. That is definitely not going to happen. It's an inner for me.

I lifted my shirt up enough for you to see how I am wearing it. Compare this picture with what you see on with the models. How many of them run for ASICS? The FlipBelt has several slits, no zippers. You can insert your mobile phone, your personal effects such as money and cards (I kept those in my shorts pocket as I don't want to experiment with valuables, especially cash and credit card.) Then you "flip" the belt over, so that it stays stationary against your body. That worked well enough, as I used it for two runs, a 10K and today's four-miler. The best thing I can say about the FlipBelt is that it is super-soft and snug, a satiny wraparound that just feels good to have around your body -- especially if it's against your skin, as I used it, and not OVER your shirt. One major issue I had with the actual product (besides the marketing problem) was the use of an iPhone with a cord for your earbuds. Every time I needed to reach down and pull out my iPhone during my run, I found that the cord was tangled. I was pulling it out of a slot that was on the other end of where I inserted it, so the cord was coming out the other slot, and it became increasingly frustrating for me. I never got the hang of that. On today's run, I brought my phone but ran with Rachel so I did not bring my earphones. I would need to experiment with different slots and really get the hang of that element; Spi-Belt was definitely easier for me in terms of music usage. But its main advantage over the Spi-Belt is that you don't have the buckle. You just slip the FlipBelt over your body. I haven't figured out whether to put it over my head and pull it down or step into it, so I have been doing it both ways. In summary, the FlipBelt is a great idea in a very evolving sector of running gear, but it needs to address some key points before it is a prime-time player at the average race. I appreciate FlipBelt sending me the item to review and will continue to test it out.

PowerICE: Great before you walk out the door

I have had two boxes of PowerICE in my freezer this entire year. Thanks to the crew at PowerICE in Boulder, Colo., for your patience with my review. Here's the deal. I was not even going to think about packing more ice near my body in all those months of the most brutal and endless winter that we can remember in New York. So I was not going to even think about PowerICE until it got hot out. I know it's great for snowboarders in Colorado, but for a runner like me, I'm only interested in it for fighting the sun.

I grew up with freeze-pops and that's what I think of when I look at PowerICE packs. They are roughly the same size with similar colorful flair and the promise of cold and tasty goodness. I was given a box of orange and a box of lemon-lime to review. I had to keep a nephew out of the freezer because it turned out that this was his favorite go-to item in our fridge, as he has some dietary issues and PowerICE made him happy and gave him a good infusion of healthy electrolytes. So let me begin by saying I already know that kids looooooooove PowerICE, and parents should have it whether they run or not. Based on the Health testimonials on the PowerICE site, I can say with certainty that our nephew would fit in perfectly. I have a feeling that the greatest thing about PowerICE is in the medical field moreso than the fitness community.

My wife Lisa took that photo of me chunking down a PowerICE before my 10K last Saturday on a hot day north of NYC. In the time that I pulled the PowerICE out of our fridge and walked out my front door to the side of our house, it already had changed from solid frozen consistency to mostly watery slush. It was still cold, and I eagerly poured it into my mouth (I got most of it!). I loved starting my run that way. I used to always drink a glass of Accelerade before my runs, mixing water with a scoop of that powder, and for some reason I got away with that and lately just drink water beforehand, or coffee. This felt like I was doing something right before hitting the trail. Indeed, I started the first mile or two strong, and while I do not have enough data for any real quantitative analysis here, let me just say that I would be happy recommending that you pop a PowerICE before you head out for your run. Too clunky, warm and tangy during the run, too cold for the cold, but I want to recommend this as a prerace blast to get you on your way now.

CoCoGo: Solid for the long haul

I still have a sample box of CoCoGo that I've used off and on over the past year, and I have good feelings about this every time I use it. For starters, we love coconut water in our house and always have the fridge stocked with it. I tear off the top of a CoCoGo packet and dump the powder into my handheld water bottle, and it gives me a supplement on straightforward water as I train. It tastes good, and from what I can see there are some fueling values along the way for a guy like me.

That's where I'll stop, though, as I tried to get Rachel to run with it this morning and she said it's too sugary for her to even consider. The CoCoGo site says it is "Real fruit, real flavor" and "Nothing but natural" and gluten-free. That isn't winning over her, unfortunately. She's a more health-conscious person than I am, so that's probably a little bit of a warning flag for CoCoGo -- better win over the 19-year-old runner-in-bloom as they sell you over social media and are the future for your product. It is not happening with her. Me, I really enjoy it and I'd keep buying CoCoGo. It's not a clean sweep for us but I'll keep using it.

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