The Runner’s Holiday Wish List

With the holiday shopping season upon us, I am going to join in on the plethora of “holiday shopping ideas for runners” blog posts and offer my own thoughts on what might cause the eyes of that special runner in your life to sparkle a little brighter this season.  Runners can be hard to buy for because we usually impatiently buy things without waiting.  If this is the case, you should look for things that they either must continuously have to re-buy throughout the year or for those things that have a cool factor, but may have been difficult for them to justify buying themselves.  Here are a few ideas including some of my personal recommendations from some of my sponsors.

Socks

I absolutely LOVE a fresh new pair of socks, so I tend to go through more than the usual runner, but the bottom line is that replacement is inevitable.  Socks lose their cushion, develop holes, or take on a rather permanent smell.  This makes running socks are a no-lose gift idea for runners.  While many runners are also picky about the brand they use, I personally recommend Injinji.  Aside from being super comfy, the individual toe design provides maximum protection and reinforces proper toe splay.  They have models for all types of runners, but during the winter months, the Outdoor wool line is great for running through snow or kicking the feet up by the fire.  Use code JOEULTRA at injinji.com for 10% off.

outdoor_mw_mini-crew_oatmeal

Stocking Stuffers

Continuing with the theme of “things runners continuously buy”, you have those items that are constantly being restocked, such as Food and other nutritional supplements, body glide, headbands, hats, etc.  A random grab bag of essential accessories would be a welcomed gift for any runner.  My favorite accessories that I love to collect are the hats from Headsweats, the best performance hats in the business.  Use code ULTRARUNNERJOE at headsweats.com for 25% off.

Headsweats-Go-Hat

Relief and Recovery

I know so many runners that severely neglect themselves when it comes to stretching, recovery, and working out trouble areas in the body.  What better way to nudge your runner toward a more healthy and productive season of running than buying them the tools needed to take care of their aches and pains throughout the year.  I recently came across and started using the kit from RAD.  They have a wide array of tools for self-enabled trigger point and myofascial release therapy.  They literally have something for every need and their kit is built tough!

RADRoller_Aii_In_Kit

Eliminate the Boredom

We all know that running can be a solitary (lonely) endeavor.  Sometimes it can be a welcomed escape, but other times it can be a drag.  When I want to listen to music, podcasts, or anything for that matter, I hate having wires running all over the place.  Wires constantly get caught on things while running or cross training.  Why not help your runner go wireless with a pair of bluetooth headphones.  The best I have found out there so far are those from Red Fox Wireless.  With about 8 hours of battery life and a great fit, these can help pass the time.

redfox

Instagram Models

They are out there; the runners that like to take lots of pictures of themselves, nature……themselves in nature.  The best add-on I have found to make my photos Instagram-worthy are the iPhone lens attachments from Olloclip.  I especially like the macro photography options!

4-in-1_middle_img

Of course, this list is by no means complete.  Runners love gear and would probably be happy with anything that you get them.  I will say though, these are my personal favorites.  For other ideas, check out some of the stuff from my sponsors on my “What I Use/Discounts” page.

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Product Spotlight: Injinji Compression 2.0 Socks

The compression market is certainly a crowded and finicky one.  Som runners use full-length compression socks and others that use calf sleeves.  Some use them while running, others use them for recovery only.  No matter what your style or method if use, if you are a fan of Injinji, you should at least take a look at their Compression 2.0 product…the only compression performance toe sock on the market.

Description
Injinji Compression is a full-length graduated compression sock using Injinji’s toe sock design.  It is made of a blend of polyester, nylon, and lycra.  They are designed to provide graduated compression from bottom to top of the calf in order to enhance circulation, performance, and muscle recovery.

Injinji Compression 2.0

Price: $49

Review
I am typically one of those finicky compression users that I mentioned at the start of the article.  I usually wear calf sleeves during events so that I can easily change socks if needed and socks during recovery for the full benefit.  Either way, I decided to give these a try in both scenarios so that I could provide a well-rounded review.

Comfort
In terms of comfort, you really need to rate compression socks a bit differently and I would rate these as positively.  The compression was consistent and not overbearing.  There were no spots where the sock felt or rubbed weird. On my 20 mile long run in them, never once did I have to adjust them or did I find myself wishing I would have worn different socks.

Protection
Protection was a non-issue on the road.  It provided a solid amount of padding underfoot to protect my feet while on the pavement.  On the trail, I am not sure I like it as much.  The overall feel of compression sock material tends to be a bit more abrasive in my opinion.  I should call out though that I have this problem on the trails with EVERY compression sock I have tried.  This is why I typically use calf sleeves and my Trail 2.0 socks when running longer trail distances.  Others may be different and not have the same issues.

Breathability
Nothing really to note here.  My feet seemed to stay a pretty consistent temperature during my long run, which indicates to me that they were pretty breathable.  They didn’t feel hot whatsoever during my test runs.  I also experienced no issues wearing them around for recovery during the day.

Moisture
I didn’t get them too wet during my use, but the bit of dampness I did experience wasn’t an issue.  They do a good job at wicking away water and sweat.

Conclusion
The Injinji Compression 2.0 offers consistent, graduated compression from the foot to the top of the sock.  I would say that it is at least as effective as any other high quality compression sport sock on the market, plus the added benefits of individual toe design that Injinji does better than anyone.  The one thing I did notice about this sock is that it does take some time to get it on.  I am not saying that the time required to put them on is some long, drawn out process, but the compression material combines with the individual toe design does require a bit of patience.

As far as personal preference, the materials that are required to make a good compression sock are not what I would choose for long trail runs since I prefer a thicker, softer feeling sock.  The polyester/nylon/lycra blend just doesn’t provide this for me.  At the same time, they provided a good experience on the road and an even better one as a post run recovery sock.  It offers solid compression on top of the unique features that I love about Injinji.  I am definitely glad that they decided to introduce it into their lineup.

Race Report: 2015 New Year’s Revolution Run – 5 Hour Indoor

Looking back on 2014, I am pleased with how it went overall.  Although I had a couple minor injuries that impacted two of my races, I didn’t have any long-lasting, debilitating injuries that completely derailed my season like I did in both 2012 and 2013.  Minor injuries and aches happen to all runners that do what we do and they typically amount to nothing more than speed bumps over the course of a season.  For me, these usually consist of rolled ankles, of which I had no shortage of this year.  Still, the fact that I was able to run all year, and log my first 2,000 mile year in the process, was a huge success for me.  So as I consider 2014, I decided that I am in a great position to up my game even more.  I want to build on 2014 and push myself to levels I have not achieved before, so I have set a few goals to help me get there:

  • 50K Indoor PR
  • 50K Outdoor PR
  • 100 Mile Finish
  • 2,250 miles

To accomplish this, I needed to start my training and race season earlier than usual and so why not do it on day one with the New Year’s Revolution Run in Kearns, Utah.  This race is not unlike many other fixed-duration races that you see out there, although at 5 hours, it is a bit shorter than most.  Still, it does hold some appeal to Salt Lake City locals looking to start off the year on a good note and, for me, represented a perfect kickoff to 2015.  This particular race does have somewhat of a “cool” factor (no pun intended) when compared to other track-style races; it is held at the Utah Olympic Oval, home to the 2002 Olympic speed skating events.  The running track is a 442m track that extends around the outside of the ice, which gives runners a nice view of the ice skaters and Olympic hopefuls in training.  This serves as a great distraction to the otherwise monotonous act of running around in a circle over and over again.  In short, it doesn’t erase the fact that you are running in circles around an indoor track, but helps dull the reality a little bit.

2015RevolutionStart I look so excited about running around a track at 8am!

This year, 360 runners towed the line at 8am on January 1st, each with his/her own goals (one could argue that only in Salt Lake City would you ever see that many people NOT still hung over at 8am on January 1st).  I was also happy to see that a majority were out there with the intent to go the whole five hours, including a bunch of my ultrarunning buddies from the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers.  For me, my goals were simple…stay consistent, go the whole five hours, and run at least a 50K (with 55K being the sweet spot). For the most part, I did what I set out to do.  Although I got caught up in the crowd and started out a bit too fast, I managed to settle into a nice pace for the last four hours, staying close to my aerobic zone for much of the event.  In the end, I managed to run 115 laps, which was a 50K + 1 extra lap for good measure.  This was good enough for 10th place overall on the day; not a bad start overall for the 2015 season!

2015RevolutionFinish Just a few Top 10 Wrangler finishers afterwards!

As far as play by play, there really isn’t much to tell about a race that is run NASCAR-style around what amounts to a track that is only slightly longer than a quarter mile.  Instead, I will focus more on the lessons learned and what I got out of it personally.

First, running around in small circles for 5 hours is a completely ridiculous endeavor.  Of course, for me, that was the appeal of this particular race.  I signed up for this purely as a mental exercise in preparation for my first 100-mile race in a few months.  In this respect it certainly met my expectations.  There were times, particularly during the 2 1/2 to 4 hour window, where I was going insane and didn’t feel like doing it anymore.  I had to push through it mentally, and that is what I did.  My hope is that this experience will serve me well in about 10 weeks when I am suffering through my 100-miler.  I can only imagine (and hope) that other fixed-time races that are run on longer, one- or two-mile tracks would be a bit more tolerable. Certainly, if I ever do this format again (which I am sure I will) it will definitely be on a longer course.

Second, I forgot how different this type of event is on the body versus the trails.  The track surface at the Oval is a carpet material over the top of concrete.  It is slightly softer than running on pavement, but harder than a typical outdoor rubber track.  Combined with no change of direction and having a repetitive cadence, my legs were definitely beat up the next day, especially my quads and hips.  I guess there is probably some benefit to running like this, even for a trail runner, but it definitely reminded me of one of the reasons why I prefer to do all of my long runs on the trails.

Lastly, with over 250 people on the track for a good part of the race, it did get a bit crowded at times, but still ended up being a fun social event.  It was great chatting with people and seeing so many of my ultra buddies out there running too.

In any case, while I without a doubt prefer running the trails, I still had a great time.  I think this type of race is certainly something that you shouldn’t hesitate to try at some point.  In branching out and doing different things, we can only get stronger and learn more about ourselves as runners and as people.

Now time for thanks.  First and foremost, my family gets the most props.  This race kicks off what is going to be a busy year and their constant support is what makes it possible.  Thanks to my 2015 product sponsors, Orange Mud, Injinji, Gargoyles, Honey Stinger, and Virus for giving me the opportunity to represent them and their fantastic products.  Thanks to all of my Wasatch Mountain Wrangler friends, some of which joined me on this crazy run.  Thanks to all of the race staff and volunteers for their support and in creating an awesome event!

What I used:

  • Orange Mud HydraQuiver Single Barrel hydration pack (didn’t really need it on the course, but I feel naked without it!)
  • Injinji Compression OTC socks
  • Hoka One One Clifton shoes
  • Honey Stinger waffles and chews
  • Virus compression shorts
  • Headsweats race hat

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