Product Reviews

Salvation

Many thanks to my new running log site – Final Surge – which contains all the elements I need to keep track of my miles, and easily allowed me to upload data from my Garmin.

Even better, through some file conversion I was able to upload my entire SportTracks history, all for free.

The real benefit, though, is that I am finally able to retire my netbook, and say goodbye to Windows once and for all.

Hallelujah!

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mike - May 27, 2016 at 10:30

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Product Review: Garmin Forerunner 10

It finally happened. I went out for my long run last Sunday and my five-year-old Garmin Forerunner 305 DNF’ed. It was having trouble holding a charge and had gotten to the point where I had to keep it plugged in until right before I went for a run. But this time the low battery alert came on a mere 15 minutes into my run, and I knew it was time to put the old girl out to pasture.

Despite the fact that I am an award-winning running blogger (meh), Garmin is not in the habit of handing out free GPS units for review. So I had to shop for and buy one like any other prole.

The process was not as simple as I had hoped, since I kept bouncing back and forth between a watch that had all the features of the 305, and one that had the most important feature of the 305 – the low price. Ultimately I decided that since I hadn’t really been using all of the 305’s bells and whistles, I’d be better off with one that just took care of the fundamentals.

I realize the Garmin Forerunner 10 is by no means a new product. I only just remembered I made fun of it as an “old Casio” back in 2012 when it was introduced. I was surprised to find it met all my requirements:

* Large display – My eyesight is deteriorating, and it’s a detriment to my running form and dignity to have to hold my wrist in front of my nose just to check my pace.

* Reasonably quick satellite lock-on – It rains a lot in the winter here in northern California. It’s a challenge to run in the stuff, but I feel especially stupid standing in my driveway soaking wet with my wrist up in the air.

* Customizable main page – You’re not going to get heart rate or cadence or the alignment of Neptune from this thing, but I want my desired information immediately available on the main display. While running, the only details I absolutely need are distance traveled and average pace for that distance. I was able to set it up that way. If I’m bored, I press a button and can see time and calories. Press it again and I get time of day and date – something that was not easily accessible with the 305.

* Automatic lap – I’m not running 440 repeats so I just want the thing to accurately mark the miles.

* Automatic pause – There is no way I can remember to pause and restart at stop lights, driveways or other obstacles.

* Compatibility with SportTracks – I don’t use Garmin Connect, though I’ve heard some people have problems with it logging their runs. I also upload my runs immediately after completing them, so it doesn’t bother me that this model only stores your last seven runs.

What else do you really need? At the end of your run, the watch tells you if you set a new PR for some standard distances, or if you ran further than you ever have before. And of course, it needs to be mentioned that the Forerunner 10 weighs about the same as a standard watch. The 305, in the words of one runner, was like wearing a birdcage on your wrist.

I got my Forerunner 10 at Best Buy for $130, and it was the same price on Amazon, though it’s possible you can find a better deal with the holidays approaching.

I really didn’t want a new Garmin, but I’m very happy with my purchase. If this one also lasts for five years, it will have been an excellent value for the price.

2 comments - What do you think?  Posted by Mike - November 25, 2014 at 14:11

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Product Review: Armpocket

Before you can understand how excited I was when the good folks at Armpocket offered a sample for me to review, you have to see how I normally carry my stuff while running.

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I have shorts with deep pockets, but carrying my phone was out of the question as I hated feeling it slap against my leg with every stride. The Armpocket is an armband designed to securely carry virtually every phone on the market, including the iPhone 6. I opted for the basic Aero i-10 model in “camo wood,” so that it would be invisible to any bear trying to rip me off during a trail run.

An elastic band holds the phone against the clear plastic face, enabling you to use the touchscreen without removing the phone from the armband. Behind the phone are two pockets for ID, cash and other small items. If you need more room, you would be better off with a different model that holds more stuff.

The compartment zips closed, and there is a small velcro strap to hold your earbud cord in place. The wide strap that goes around your arm is also velcroed, though Armpocket offers different sizes of each model to accommodate all sizes of biceps.

I wore it strapped to my bare left arm for four runs of various durations and speeds, and it stayed snugly in place the entire time. My only caution is if you chafe easily, like I do, it’s worth applying a little Vaseline or BodyGlide to your arm to avoid any issues. After a few minutes, I was completely unaware of its presence.

Although the Armpocket is designed for you to be able to use your phone while it is inside, I’m clumsy and half-blind, so it would be difficult for me to interact much with the phone while on the run. The best part for me was being able to run with my music for the very first time (more on that tomorrow).

I threw it in the washing machine with all my other running gear and washed it on “eco warm” and “active wear.” Air-dried it with my singlets and shorts and it was good to go.

The model I have retails for $29.95, which is pretty reasonable for something that’s likely to last forever with ordinary use. If you want to go high-end, the NightHawk model comes with a white LED light on the front and a flashing red LED light for safety at night. I’m waiting for one with a siren and a loudspeaker.

Here’s a short video of the Aero i-10 model so you get a better sense of how it works.

Not only did the Armpocket free up my shorts pockets for bulkier items like GUs or Clif Shot Bloks, but it completely revolutionized my running experience by making it convenient for me to bring music along. I highly recommend Armpocket for runners and walkers of all speeds and mileage. It performs the essential task of making your workout a little easier.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mike - October 15, 2014 at 11:28

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Product Review: Blue Monkey Coconut Chips

Blue Monkey Coconut Chips HorizontalI love coconut. How many foods go equally well in meals, soups, desserts and beverages? But let’s face it. Real coconut isn’t the most convenient thing in the world to use. So when the good folks at Blue Monkey sent over samples of their new coconut chips I tore into them with great anticipation.

You won’t spend too much time going over the ingredients. The chips come in three flavors: original, ginger and wasabi. The original contains coconut, coconut nectar and salt. The ginger and wasabi have soybean oil and coconut along with corresponding seasoning. That’s it. As such, they are vegan, GMO-free and gluten-free, 100 percent natural.

Coconut products have boomed among athletes because they contain more electrolytes than most sports drinks, but I only care about how the chips taste. They didn’t disappoint.

The original flavor wasn’t too exciting right out of the bag, but they went very well on a salad and especially ice cream. The ginger chips had a mild flavor, great for munching and suitable for cooking something like curry. The wasabi were the best, nearly blowing my head off. Go easy on those.

All three were great, but one fair warning. When they put “HIGH FIBER” in big letters on the bag, they’re not shi–, er, kidding you. Don’t chug down a bag before your long run or you’ll be looking for a detour into a tropical jungle and some handy ti leaves.

Blue Monkey is known for its coconut drinks, and they sent me a packet of instant coconut water as well. It makes a pint, is convenient to store, and goes really well with rum.

The chips are available at select markets nationwide, and if you want them in bulk you can get them at Amazon.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mike - January 6, 2014 at 11:13

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Product Review: Thorlos Experia Socks

experiaThe good folks at Thorlos sent along a pair of their Experia Crew multi-activity socks for me to try out and tell you about. I’m happy to do so because I’ve been running in Thorlos for 10 years.

Of course, I’m using Thorlos standard thick cushion running socks and I love them. The more pillowy my socks feel, the better I like them. But apparently there are quite a few runners who avoid Thorlos because they are too thick. So the company designed the Experia line, which limits the standard Thorlo padding to the heel and the ball of the foot, while using a blend of polyester, nylon and Lycra for the rest of the sock, to give you that thin, glove-like fit.

As this Thorlos video explains, the fat pads on the bottom of your feet thin out as you age. It’s the only fat on your body you never get back! So the Experia cushions those crucial areas while giving you a minimal feel elsewhere.

My review pair came in black and jet orange, making them perfect for Halloween. I normally wear a low-rise sock, so the crew style felt a little unusual at first, but the fit was perfect and the socks did feel thinner than my usual ones.

I ran a hard five miles in them at my best pace in more than a year, and while I don’t attribute my performance to the socks, I never once was aware of any difference in how my feet felt. I can be a pretty bad heel-striker, but after a few runs I could discern no unusual wear on the socks.

As with all Thorlos, care is simple. Turn them inside out and wash them with your other running gear, and dry them on medium setting. If you’re traveling, they dry fairly quickly on their own. They will retain their cushioning and fit for a long time. My first pairs of Thorlos lasted for 8 years. They could have gone longer, and I still use the old pairs to polish the furniture.

Considering all the time and energy we expend on finding just the right pair of running shoes, it only makes sense to spare some thought on the apparel closest to your foot. The Thorlos Experia provides a nice blend of cushioning and lightweight fit. I expect they’ll have the durability of other Thorlos socks, so you’ll get good value for your money. Highly recommended.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mike - October 7, 2013 at 11:37

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Thanks, But No Thanks

I’ve made jokes in the past about the types of products you’re asked to review when your web site is called Running Is Funny, but this week I was offered free samples of a supplement designed to boost the body’s production of its natural human growth hormone (HGH). The come-on invited me to “take a dip in the fountain of youth.”

There’s no end to the list of benefits it’s supposed to bring, though even a cursory amount of research indicates these claims are overblown at best, and definitely not supported by any reputable authority or peer-reviewed evidence.

I have limited experience with supplements, in both cases prescribed by a doctor – fish oil and niacin. I’ve stopped taking them both.

I’ll stick with the diet and exercise program, which has withstood the test of time. Of course, if any company is marketing its new line of donuts, pancakes or knishes, I’m more than willing to give them a try.

1 comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mike - July 25, 2013 at 11:42

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Food Product Review: ProBar Core and ProBar Bolt

The good folks at ProBar were kind enough to send along samples of their new protein bars (ProBar Core) and their chews (ProBar Bolt) for us to review. And since it involves food, I am very happy to do so.

The protein bars differ from most others in that they are organic, vegan, dairy-free, and certified gluten-free (more on that in a minute). I eat meat and dairy, and often ask for extra gluten in my food, so my main interest was in how they taste, and whether they were reasonably nutritious.

I received a variety pack of four flavors: Peanut Butter Chocolate, Brownie Crisp, Cookie Dough and Mint Chocolate. The basic ingredients were the same across all four bars. Soy protein isolate, organic tapioca syrup, organic agave syrup, organic dried cane syrup, and an omega blend of chia and flaxseeds. This mixture doles out 9 grams of fat, 20 grams of protein and 33 grams of carbs. You also get 300 mg of Omega 3 and 500 mg of Omega 6. All of it comes to about 280 calories.

Nothing to complain about here and much to admire, unless you’re part of the resistance to the Great Soybean Conspiracy. But the best part is that each and every flavor was delicious. Your taste buds will never know it’s also good for you.

I have a couple of suggestions for maximum enjoyment. The texture and mouth feel of the bars were much better after being stored in the refrigerator. I don’t like gooeyness in my post-run snacks, but suit your own taste. Have some water or other fluid handy as well, especially after a hot run. If you’re a real zealot, you can wash them down with iskiate.

I passed the mint chocolate to some runner friends on a gluten-free diet. They liked the evenly balanced flavors and that the bar was not overly sweet. But there was an issue. The packaging warns that the bars are “produced on equipment that also processes peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, wheat, sesame.”

For some celiac sufferers, even trace amounts of gluten can cause problems. So I did a little research on labeling.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows a product to be labeled gluten-free if it tests at less than 20 parts per million. The ProBar Core is certified gluten-free by the the appropriately named Gluten Free Certification Organization, whose standards ensure the finished product contains less than 10 parts per million of gluten. No testing method measures to zero. So be mindful of your personal tolerances and act accordingly.

I immediately put the ProBar Bolt chews to the test on a Sunday long run. I switched to chews from gels a while back because I wanted a more gradual introduction of sugar while running, instead of a jolt every 30-40 minutes. I ingested a chew every mile, which for me took between 9 minutes and 9:30, and washed it down with plain water.

Once again, each of the four flavors – strawberry, raspberry, orange and berry blast (blueberry) – was terrific. Just the right burst of fruit flavor without being overpowering. You get the same 24 grams of carbs per serving that you get from Clif Shot Bloks, but be aware you need half the pack in both cases – 5 chews out of the 10 in a pack of Bolt, 3 chews out of the 6 in a pack of Bloks.

Bolt, however, is also a hippie’s dream: certified organic, certified non-genetically modified organisms, dairy-free, and gluten-free (with no equipment warning). Organic tapioca syrup is the first ingredient, along with sugar, citric acid and natural flavors.

All told, I highly recommend both ProBar products. I would buy them even though I don’t really care about gluten or genetic modification (I often have potatoes with eyes). I suspect those of you who desire organic and vegan alternatives will be excited that these products are very tasty as well. Go try them.

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Mike - June 19, 2013 at 07:30

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