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Category Archives: Gear Reviews

Shoe Reviews

Shoes. With all the different brands, styles and fads, it’s hard to figure out which shoe is the right one for you.  Over the past few years I’ve tried out a few different lines of trail shoes, and I thought It’d be fun to share my thoughts on them. I’ve never been the kind of person who buys things simply because it’s “what the cool kids are doing“, so I’ve been hesitant to spend the money on Salomons. I really wanted to do my own thinking and come up with that awesome shoe that noone knew about.

Strike One: the Asics Trail Shoe:

I was pretty excited when I bought these shoes, paying over $120 for them. They looked cool, had good ventilation and seemed lightweight.  Well, to make a long story short..they sucked. The laces didn’t stay tied, they held water and I got a lot of blisters. Running in wet conditions was like wearing roller skates. 

Strike Two: The Hi-Tec Infinity-Lite

At first, I LOVED these shoes. Never before had I experienced so much traction and breathability. While running in these shoes, you can literally feel the air moving through them. They drain water very efficiently, the laces stay tied and they’ve got that handy hoop on the back so you can clip them to your pack while cycling.  All this, AND you can find them at steeply discounted prices on ebay.

The one major problem with this shoe is its lack of durability.  I’ve owned 3 pair of these shoes, and they all fell apart in nearly the exact same way. Before the 2012 Berryman 24 hour race, I bought a brand new pair of these, and the tread literally fell off halfway through the race.  I was understandably pissed off, so I called their customer service people later in the week. Their response: “Wow, that sucks. ” Thanks, Hi-Tec..thanks a lot.

Then one day I got lucky and found a Merrell outlet having a clearance sale…

Big success! – The Merrell Mix Master

What a great shoe. I found these babies on sale for $40. They drain water wonderfully, breathe magnificently, are durable and they look cool .  Win-win, especially for $40. If I could own 10 pairs of them, I would.

My only issue is that since the sole is so thin, I can “feel” the trail a little too well. I suspect this has more to do with my body-weight than anything, so we’ll overlook that. These are excellent shoes for adventure racing, no doubt about it.

The Hoka One One Stinson Trail Shoe.

Best purchase of 2013

Best purchase of 2013

If I could describe the Hoka trail shoe in two words, those words  would be “Holy Shit”. These shoes have literally solved 95% of my running problems, with the other 5% being comprised of obesity and lack of motivation. Shinsplints..gone. Uber painful calf cramps…gone. Knee pain..gone. Shit, I think my teeth have even gotten whiter since I started wearing these shoes.

 My one and only complaint is that they don’t really shed water very well. But seriously, these are the best and lightest  trail shoes you’ll find. You can step on rocks and never feel them! These shoes have given me the ability to run downhill, and that’s not something I’ve been able to do until now.  I seriously think these skins are some gonna be a major game-changer for me.

So…those are my thoughts on AR-specific trail shoes. Someday I’ll own a pair of Salomons, but for now I’m a Merrell/Hoka man.  Feel free to call me a dumbass in the comments section and/or share your own opinions.

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You Go Girl!

***A Note From Luke: This post was originally published on Kage’s personal blog, which you should read regularly. However, we feel that our site needs a feminine touch now and again, so we wanted to share it with all of you Virtusites who may not have seen this before. We’ve had many laughs regarding the Go Girl, and it still cracks me up (yes, I’m still a 3 year-old boy at heart). I’ve added a comment or two in blue. So here you go. Enjoy.***

A note to my more sensitive readers: this is a post about pee, especially peeing outside. In it, I reference pee more than your average 3 year old boy. If the topic of pee offends you, or you simply prefer not to read about pee, let me refer you to some more ladylike topics:

Ummm….

Still here? Ok, then. Alert readers will remember that on the way down to Tennessee for the LBL Challenge adventure race (oh, please…you didn’t really think I was done talking about that, did you?), Bob picked up a little gift for me at Gander Mountain: my very own Go Girl (“Don’t take life sitting down!”) so that I could pee standing up and feel like one of the guys.

While I was less than excited, they found the whole thing hilarious. So entertaining that, even though I (wisely, as it turned out) refused to try the Go Girl during the race, every. single. time. I went to the bathroom that weekend Luke would say, “You go girl!” Which didn’t get old at all. 🙂 Since Bob had spent his hard-earned money to extend my urinary options, though, I promised to try it out at home and report back.

Luke: I still think it’s hilarious, and I STILL yell, “You go girl!” whenever Kage needs to stop for a pee break.

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It freaked me out a little to see how similar these containers were. I certainly wouldn’t want to be dumping my Go Girl into my water bottle…

I guess this is as good a place as any to mention that my husband thinks this whole review is a bad idea, that you’ll think I’m weird, and that I’m inviting the wrong kind of attention. I’ve assured him that my weirdness is a well-established fact, but I would appreciate it if the psychos stayed away, because the only thing worse than being chopped up into little pieces by some sit-to-pee fanatic would be having to admit that Jeff was right.

The Go Girl wasn’t an entirely new concept to me; I’d read a mention of it in Athena Diaries (I think) some time ago. The line that sticks in my head is “she peed off a cliff and it changed her life”. Appealing as that thought might be, my impression was a bit less enthusiastic. You might say I wasn’t yet sold on the technology.

My initial thoughts: This seems like too much trouble. Do you have to put it away wet? Gross. How exactly does this work? Wedge the thing into your pants? Otherwise you’d still have to pull pants all the way down, which doesn’t help any in the privacy dept.

A little research turned up this hilariously bad video. I warn you, it’s minutes of your life you’ll never get back. It did, however, clue me in to the idea of using a water bottle to rinse out the Go Girl, because it seems mighty wasteful to spend $10(ish) on a single use item.

Once I’d watched the video, it was time to begin the testing.

Presenting…..the Go Girl

Trial 1: at home in the bathroom with my skirt pulled up and the rest removed, just in case (a good plan, as it turned out). There’s a bit of a learning curve. You definitely don’t want to wait until the last minute when you really have to go. As there’s not much of an opening at the end, it fills much faster than it empties.

Luke: This makes me think of Mrs. Doubtfire peeing standing up. Hey, maybe Mrs. Doubtfire would be another good nickname for Kage since they’re the same age. 🙂

Bob: That picture bothers me; I feel like I’m looking at Kate’s penis or something.

It’s kinda like emptying a bathtub into a thimble.

Oh well…it was probably time for me to clean my toilet…and my floor.

Bob: That picture is even worse; it’s like Kate’s Wenis is looking right at me. *shudders* There’s probably a “deluxe” version with a bigger pee-hole.

Overall, the whole experience was weird. Standing up to pee felt very unfeminine. Because of the fill/drain lag, the pee sound continues for a while after you stop going. And I had to put the toilet seat down after I used it…which is just wrong. The aim part, though, wasn’t difficult at all; I don’t know what guys’ problem is.

Luke: In my house, where I am King of the Castle, the girls have to leave the seat UP for my son and me. Okay, that’s not true. I’m in such a habit of putting the seat back down for my wife and daughters that I even put the seat down at work and in public places. I know… I need to hand in my man card.

Impression so far: no thanks. I was way less dressed and more exposed than using the squat behind tree method.

Trial 2: at home, wearing skirt but no underwear. This trial went better: no spillage, but I had to pee realllllly slowly to prevent it. If I had to pee RIGHT NOW I would totally have had a flood. Between keeping clothes out of the way and holding the Go Girl in place, wiping and such is hard to coordinate. Still thinking it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

Trial 3: at home, skirt and panties on. No spills, but I felt exceedingly unladylike. (Kind of funny in light of Bob telling me during the race that my sneeze was “the most feminine thing I’ve ever heard you do.” He later amended feminine to girly, which is a little better, but clearly I don’t come off as ladylike.) Also, standing up to pee eliminated that valuable phone-checking time you get while sitting (what, like you don’t do that too?)

Note: this is not the tool to use if there’s any question of exactly which # you’re there for. No such problems occurred, but it was a little scary. The test, however, was a success. Ready for field testing…I guess.

Trial #4: field testing during trail maintenance. The nicely overgrown woods made for good privacy…much better than the bare winter trees. I’ll admit, it was nice not having to pull my pants all the way down, but it still felt kind of weird. Since I was wondering about the time involved in using the Go Girl (also available in khaki!!!) instead of the squat method, I timed myself using it. It took me 1:49 to take out, use, and pack back away GG (in the conveniently included bag since I didn’t have a water bottle for rinsing). Once again, the Go Girl took forever to empty once I was finished peeing. I’m planning a slight modification to see if I can improve that situation.

The verdict: After fairly extensive testing, I can’t say that the Go Girl is going to be a regular part of my bathroom arsenal. As jealous as I am of the guys’ ability to turn away, whip it out, and pee right on the side of the road, even with the Go Girl I’m just not likely to do that. In my opinion, it’s a lot simpler to find a spot, pee, and then catch back up rather than mess with getting something out, using it, then cleaning and repacking it.

That’s not to say that Bob wasted his money, though. I can definitely think of some times the Go Girl would be beneficial. For example, I can’t wait to take it with me this next winter.

I’ve always wanted to pee my name in the snow

Luke: Although Kage may never use the Go Girl again, we will keep its memory alive by saying, “You go girl!” when she pees at a race… every. single. time.

And if my husband ever gets sick of me, the Go Girl could certainly come in handy getting rid of those pesky one night stands who just won’t leave. (Thanks to Mike for the video!)

(Disclaimer: I was given a Go Girl for free, courtesy of Team Virtus and primarily for their own amusement. I did not pay for Go Girl, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

(Disclaimer (b): I stole this disclaimer from Midwest Multisport Life because I’ve never actually needed to make one up before.)

Round TWO of the ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear – Part 3

Well, we’re back with our newest installment in our series of adventure racing gear reviews and recommendations.  If you need to get caught up, you can go to Part 1 and Part 2.  Now, without further ado, here is part 3…

K is for Kinesio Tex Tape

Kinesio Tape for Blisters while Adventure Racing

Stop packing regular old Athletic Tape in your first aid kit.  Kinesio Tex Tape is FAR superior.  According to John Vonhof in his excellent and highly recommended book, Fixing Your Feet, “Athletic white tape is not well suited for taping feet because of its lack of quality adhesive.”  And if you’ve ever tried to use athletic tape on a sweaty foot during an adventure race, then you know it’s a lost cause.  Well, that’s not true with Kinesio Tape, which was actually designed for muscle taping.  A lot of physical therapists and athletic trainers use it.

This tape has a paper backing, so it can be measured and pre-cut before applying to the skin.  The paper backing also prevents the tape from sticking to itself or other items in your pack in hot weather.  It comes in 2″, 3″, and 4″ widths (although I use the 2″ variety), it stretches, it’s porous and breathable, it’s really smooth, and it sticks to your skin better than anything I’ve used.  The adhesive is heat-activated, so you should briskly rub the tape to generate some heat once it’s been applied.  This will ensure that the tape stays in place much, much longer.

Vonhoff, an accomplished ultra-runner himself who has been a medical volunteer at races such as Primal Quest, Raid the North Extreme AR, and the Western States 100, has this to say about Kinesio Tex Tape (also from his book Fixing Your Feet):

“Kinesio Tex tape is my tape of choice for 90% of my taping jobs… Kinesio Tex is thin, easily applied, and sticks exceptionally well.”

If it’s the go-to tape for a guy that has kept feet healthy at some of world’s toughest races, then why in the world would you take some crappy, worthless athletic tape on your next race?  Seriously, get some Kenesio Tex Tape, and you won’t be sorry.

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L is for Layers – Patagonia Regulator Layers

Layering Patagonia R1 and R2 for Adventure Racing

For any outdoor pursuit, you’re better off carrying LAYERS instead of carrying one heavy jacket.  That way you can add a layer when you’re too cold or shed a layer when you’re too warm, easily adjusting to the changing weather or your changing activity level.  During an adventure race, though, you want to carry as little as possible while being prepared for anything and everything.  That’s where the Patagonia Regulator (R) Series works better than anything I’ve tried before.

The R-1 is comparable to a 100-weight fleece, but it’s much lighter and much more compressible.  It has a “waffle-like” texture on the inside of the fabric that increases the insulation factor while minimizing bulk and weight.  It’s breathable, stretchy, and it wicks moisture like a champ.  It’s also durable.  I’ve had my R-1 for over 11 years.  I got it before my NOLS course back in 2000, and I literally wore it every single day while backpacking through the Rockies for 28 days straight.  It’s been with me ever since, and it’s still going strong.  It just might be my favorite piece of apparel for adventure racing.

The R-2 is comparable to a 200-weight fleece, but it is also much lighter and more compressible.  Instead of the “waffle” design, the R-2 is sort of furry.  This “fur” is called “variegated-fiber” fabric.  All I know is that it is wicked warm for it’s weight.  It’s REALLY breathable, so if it’s windy, a light wind-shell would be a good idea, but for adventure racing, the breathability is a good thing.  Plus, the R-2 just looks cool.  I’ve had many people come up to me to ask what kind of jacket it was, and a few of the braver ones have actually rubbed my sleeve to feel the “fur” (there are so many jokes there, but I’ll let you come up with your own).

Now, here comes the best part.  While the R-1 and the R-2 are amazing pieces on their own, which is how I often use them, the real magic happens when you wear them together.  The warmth-to-weight ratio of these two together just can’t be beat.  If you look closely at the photo above, you’ll notice my blue R-1 under my green R-2.  It’s a great combination.  You’ll also notice that I’m really happy since I’m about to stuff my face, but that’s beside the point.

Patagonia offers an R-3 and even an R-4, but I haven’t tried those out.  Honestly, I don’t think you’d ever need anything more than an R-1 and an R-2 for 90% or more of adventure races.

The only drawback to these layers is the price.  They aren’t cheap, but I truly believe they are worth every penny.  Check out the Patagonia R1 Jackets and the Patagonia R2 Jackets.  Expensive?  Yes.  Worth it?  Absolutely.

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M is for Map Case

Best Map Case for Adventure Racing

I don’t think I’ve ever done an adventure race where a map case was NOT on the mandatory gear list.  I’ve used the Large SealLine  Map Case for years, and it’s never let me down.  It has kept my maps dry and visible in some nasty weather.  I’ll even throw my camera in there when the rain comes down unexpectedly.

The Large Map Case is big enough for most maps if you fold them appropriately, but it’s small enough that it doesn’t become cumbersome.  I just throw a couple of small carabiners on the D-rings and tie some reflective cord (which makes it MUCH easier to find at a TA in the dark) to them, and then I throw the map case around my neck.

There really isn’t anything else I can say.  For 20 bucks, this map case is fantastic.  In fact, for longer races with lots of maps, it’s nice to have two map cases (like in the photo above).  So protect your maps (and camera!) at your next adventure race by picking up a map case right here.

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N is for New Insoles – Sole Softec Insoles

Sole Softec Insoles for Adveture Racing

If you don’t take care of your feet, your race is NOT going to go well.  Most shoes (yes, even expensive trail shoes) have pretty crappy insoles in them.  They break down quickly, they offer very little support, and they take forever to dry out.  But who really wants to shell out tons of cash for custom-made orthotics?  Not me.

Sole Softec Ultra Insoles are the in-between that you’ve been looking for.  You pop these guys in the oven for a little while, and then you stand on them to mold them to your feet.  It’s super-easy, and it’s effective.   For about 40 bucks or less, you can have “custom” insoles.

I’ve had mine for almost 2 years now, and they’re still in great shape.  In fact, I’ve trashed two pairs of trail shoes since I’ve had these, but I just keep moving these over to my next pair of shoes.  At first, I thought they were not soft enough, but after using them, I love them.  They provide the perfect amount of support, comfort, and cushion for long days on the trail.

If you have foot problems (I’m looking at you Bob Jenkins!), then you should try these out.  Do your feet a favor and pick up a new pair of insoles.

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O is for Orienteering Gadget – the i-gotU GPS Travel Logger

i-gotU GPS for Adventure RacingGPS devices are not allowed during an adventure race for obvious reasons… IF they have the ability to show you where to go or where you’ve been.  Basically, if your GPS device has a screen then it probably isn’t allowed.  But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see exactly where you traveled during your race?  Maybe you had trouble finding a certain CP.  Or maybe you made a wrong turn on the bike leg of your last adventure race.  Or maybe you gambled and decided to bushwhack when others took the trail.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have the ability to upload all of that onto your computer?

Well, it’s possible with the i-gotU GPS Travel Logger.  Just strap this little gadget to your shoulder strap, turn it on, and you’re good to go.  You can even drop a waypoint by pressing the button.  This is a nice feature for marking the CP’s on the course or for marking the location of a cool photo that you may have taken.

Scott, from Team Bushwhacker, is the one that actually turned us on to the i-gotU GPS device.  Big thanks to him.

We’ve only scratched the surface of what we’ll be able to do with this thing.  We’re planning some navigation practice sessions using this to see how well we did.  And we’ll use it to see how closely we followed our planned route at any future adventure races.  In short, this thing is going to make us better racers.  And it will be a lot of fun as well.

Pick up this handy orienteering GPS tracker to see where you traveled the next time you race.

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We’ve come to the end of Part 3 of our ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear Reviews ad Recommendations.  Be sure to check back in with us for Parts 4 and 5 in the near future.  And be sure to let us know what you think about all of this in the comments below.  Until next time, Peace OUT!

Round TWO of the ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear – Part 2

Welcome back to all of you ravenous Virtusites!  If you missed our last post, you can go back to Part 1 of this series to get caught up.  You can also check out last year’s series for more adventure racing gear recommendations and reviews as well.  Now it’s time for part 2.  Enjoy, and let us know what you think.

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F is for Foosh Mints

Foosh Caffeinated Energy Mints

This was one of our best discoveries this year, and it’s one of our secret weapons (although it’s not so secret anymore, huh?).  You may have read about Team Virtus using Foosh Mints at several races, and you may have been wondering what the heck they are.  Well, I think they should be called Life Savers since they’ve saved me on more than one occasion, but I guess that name is probably trademarked.  When I ran out of them at the Berryman 36 Hour AR, the Sleep Monster nearly destroyed me, and it got ugly in a hurry

So let me enlighten you to the ways of Foosh.  These little mints are basically Altoids on Steroids.  Maybe they should be called SterAltoids, but I understand the “Foosh” name, too.  Each caffeinated mint is the equivalent of one cup of coffee, and you can feel the energy boost hit you in a hurry – FOOOOOOOSH!  Not only does the caffeine kick in quickly, but the taste and the icy-hot burn in your mouth really perk you up as well.  Delicous!

The mints come in handy little “blister packs” holding 6 mints in each sleeve.  They’re the perfect size for tucking into a pocket of your pack or jacket.  These things are mandatory gear for Team Virtus, especially on longer adventure races and rogaine races.  I love these things so much that I keep a pack in my drawer at work and in each mini-van (yes, I own two mini-vans… With four kids it was either that or a short bus).  If I need a little pick me up, I just pop a mint, and I’m good to go (with minty-fresh breath, I might add).

You can get 18 packs (108 mints) for 28 bucks and free shipping right here.  That comes out to roughly 26 cents per mint which is actually cheaper than a cup of coffee.  They’re a heck of a lot easier to carry in your pocket than coffee too.  I flat-out love these mints, and I think you will too.

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G is for Garmin 305 GPS Watch

Garmin Forerunner 305 for Adventure Race trainingAre you tired of driving your running/biking routes to see how far they are?  Are you tired of planning your route using online services?  Do you travel a lot and run/ride in different cities?   Then you, my friend, need a Garmin 305.

This thing will track your route, distance, speed/pace, elevation gain/loss, and heart rate.  You can customize the screens to display exactly what you want to see during your training (total time, lap time, heart rate, distance, pace, speed, calories, etc.).  If you wanna use it as a watch to track your indoor workouts, you can even turn the GPS off to conserve the battery.You can also upload your workouts and routes to help you keep track of your training or to share them with friends.

Making the Forerunner 305 even more useful, there is also a bike-mount kit (which I use and love) and a bike speed/cadence kit (which I haven’t used, but it looks pretty sweet) that will allow you to seriously dial in on your training.

Yes, it’s a bit clunky for a watch, but it’s not bad at all.  And yes, it’s a bit expensive, but the price has come down quite a bit recently.  And I really do believe that it is worth the price.  There are more expensive models like the waterproof 310XT (which Casey has and really likes) and the 405 (which Robby has and really likes).  If you don’t want or need the heart rate feature, you can save 30 bucks by getting the 205.  I think it’s worth the extra money for the heart rate monitor, though, since I use that feature all of the time for interval training.

In my opinion, you definitely get the most bang for your buck with the Garmin Forerunner 305.

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H is for Hydration Bladder – The Camelbak Omega Hydrotanium Bladder

Camelbak Omega Hydrotanium

Camelbak pretty much revolutionized the way we stay hydrated in our outdoor endeavors.  While many companies have caught up to and even surpassed Camelbak with regards to backpack design, they are still the leader when it comes to the hydration bladder.

There have been several improvements over the years, and the Omega Hydrotanium Reservoirs are simply the best.  They come in a wide range of sizes to fit any of your backpacks.  And even if your pack came with a different hydration bladder, then you’d be wise to switch to the Omega.  Why?  Just take a look at this video right here.

These bladders are seriously indestructible.  I’ve witnessed Bob crash or trip (several times) and land completely on his backpack with one of these Omega reservoirs inside.  The Omega was perfectly fine, and it has saved Bob from a few scrapes an bruises as well.

The wide-mouth opening with the easy-to-fill handle is a great feature.  The bite-valve with the shutoff switch is the best I’ve ever used.  And get this… There is a lifetime warranty on these babies!  You just can’t beat that.  I love these so much that I actually have two – one for my small pack, and one for my bigger pack.  I won’t use anything else.

You can pick a bladder ranging from 35 oz to 100 oz by going right here.

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I is for the Innovations Ultraflate Plus Tire Inlfator

Bike Tire Inflator

I don’t go on a ride without my CO2 inflator.  I always keep it tucked under my saddle with my Awesome Strap (reviewed in Part 1 of this series).

Yes, there are smaller inflators out there, but I really like this one.  There is a locking switch to make sure you don’t accidentally release the CO2.  It fits both Presta and Shrader valves easily. It’s durable, and it’s never let me down.  It’s also compatible with both threaded and non-threaded CO2 cartridges, making it easy to find new cartridges.  You can get the threaded cartridges or save some money and get the non-threaded variety at Walmart (which is what I do since I’m cheap).

The last thing you want to do in a race is waste time and energy by using a tiny hand pump, so be sure to grab the Ultraflate Inflator for your next ride or race.

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J is for Journal

Training Journals for Adventure Racing

My actual training journals from 2007 through 2011

This might seem like an odd pick for a list of Adventure Racing Gear Recommendations, but stay with me.  I’ve used journals to track my training and racing for the past several years, and they are invaluable.  I can look back to see when I was at my fattest (246 pounds on 1/2/07 – Yikes!) or when I was at my strongest (December of ’08 – I won’t put up my numbers since they’re pretty pathetic compared to most people).

I can also look back and see what I wrote about regarding the first ride I ever did with the one and only Robert L. Jenkins III on 1/3/09:

“Lots of fun, lots of tough uphills & very fast downhills.  I was slow.  Had beer afterwards at the winery.  Then ate a lot of pizza.”  Bikes, beer, and pizza – that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Or what I thought about our first race together on 2/7/09:

“Racing w/ Bob was great – Team Boats ‘N Hoes!!”

I can also look back and see how my training (or lack thereof) leading up to a race affected the outcome of the race.  For instance, a cracked rib on Thanksgiving in ’09 led to very little training and a 31st-place finish at the Castlewood 8-Hour Adventure Race.

I also learned that I tend to sabotage myself by slacking off with my training in the 6 weeks leading up to a big race.  I have no idea why I would completely drop the ball during the crucial month and a half before a race, but looking back through my journals allowed me to clearly see this pattern.  Realizing my weaknesses led to me refocusing my efforts in the weeks leading up to the 2010 Berryman Adventure 36-Hour Race, and that turned out with a VERY unexpected win in our division.

I know there are many online tools and apps that allow you to track and plan your training.  I guess I’m just old-fashioned.  I love being able to actually flip back through the pages and see what was going on with my training and my life – Like this entry from 1/15/09:

“Found out we’re HAVING A BOY today! Great news on my birthday.”

So you can do the online thing, and I think it can be a great way to do it.  Or you can rock it old-school style and pick up a journal at your local Walmart or office supply store, or you can go right here to get your training journal.  It’ll be the best buck or two you’ve ever spent.

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That wraps up Part 2 of our gear reviews and recommendations for adventure racing.  Let us know what you think, and stay tuned for Part 3! (Part 3 can be found right here.)

Round TWO of The ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear

Well, it’s that time of year again, boys and girls.  Time to dust off our aluminum poles, air our grievances, and perform feats of strength.  That’s right!  Festivus is right around the corner.  What’s that?  You don’t celebrate Festivus?  Well, that’s okay.  Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Boxing Day, to name a few, are some holidays coming up quickly as well.

So I thought it was time to update our ABC’s of Adventure Racing Gear Reviews and Recommendations.  We still use most, if not all, of the gear we recommended in last year’s ABC’s, but we thought it was time to update the list with some of the other AR gear, clothing, and accessories that we use and love.  So, here is part one of this year’s series.  And if you have anything you’d like to recommend, let us know in the comments!

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A is for Awesome Strap

Awesome Strap Race Gear Review

I was fortunate enough to win an Awesome Strap (made by Backcountry Research) at the 2011 Dirty Kanza 200, and I have to say that this little guy is aptly named… Awesome.  I still love and use my Simple Straps (which actually made our gear-of-the-year list in 2010), but I really like the awesome strap for carrying a tube, CO2 cartridge, and an inflator under my saddle.

The Race Strap seems to hold everything in one bunch a little better, whereas I needed two Simple Straps to hold everything I need before I got this guy.  I’ve never had anything come lose using the Race Strap, and it never makes a sound or jiggles around at all.  The Race Strap is durable, it’s affordable at only 10 bucks, and it comes in all kinds of colors and designs (mine has a cow pattern, but you can get camo, argyle, chili peppers, flames, tie dye, and many more).

They offer a beefier version called the Hitch, and for a limited time, they are offering the “Whammer Deal” where you can get any 3 straps for just $24.  That sounds like a perfect idea for stocking stuffers… Especially if you have 3 sons that love to bike (Mom and Dad, are you reading this?  Hint, hint…).

Trust me.  You’ll make any cyclist or mountain biker in your life very happy for just 10 bucks (or 8 bucks if you go with the Whammer Deal).  How can you beat that?  Pick up a strap or three by clicking here.

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B is for Battery Charger – Lacrosse Technology Alpha Power Charger

Wait… What?!?!  A battery charger as a recommendation for adventure racers?!?!

Absolutely.  This thing has saved me some serious cash over the last couple of years.  If you train and/or race at night like we do, then you know you go through batteries like crazy.  This thing is waaaaaay better than any other charger that usually comes as part of a bundle with a digital camera or other electronics.

It has 4 modes: charge, discharge, refresh, and test.  It will charge AA batteries as well as AAA batteries.  You can charge between one and four batteries at a time in any configuration of AA/AAA batteries (see my recommendation below for batteries) unlike a lot of other chargers that make you charge batteries as pairs.

It is a bit pricey, but over the long haul you’re going to save money.  It has kept me running, riding, and paddling in the dark for the last two years, and it’s still going strong.  Plus, if you have a Wii (which eats through batteries pretty quickly) or children with tons of battery-powered gadgets like I do, then this thing will more than pay for itself within the first year.  Grab one right here.

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C is for Compass – The Suunto Arrow 6 Thumb Compass

Okay, I’m a convert.  I used to rely solely on my clip-on wrist compass, but I have since changed my ways.  Yes, I still use the wrist compass for my “dirty navigation” when all I need is to double-check my rough direction of travel, and it’s a great deal for $5.  However, when I’m doing more serious navigation (like during an orienteering meet or a rogaine section of an adventure race), my new go-to compass is the A6 Thumb Compass from Suunto.

Bob is actually the one to bring me to my senses after he spent some time with Scott Fredrickson of Team Bushwhacker while volunteering at Checkpoint Tracker Nationals this year.  If it’s good enough for the navigator of an elite team like Bushwhacker, then I figured I’d better see what using a thumb compass was all about.  I used this compass at a Rogaine Race a couple of weeks ago, and I fell in love with it.  I’ll be using it again at an O-meet this weekend, and I can guarantee you’ll see it on my thumb at any adventure races I’ll be doing in the future.

This little compass is suh-weet!  For me, the best part of the compass is how steady the needle is and how wickedly fast it settles when you’re moving.  This is crucial for navigating on the fly.  The A6 Compass stays attached to your thumb so you can always have it right where you need it while you’re holding the map.  The bezel even rotates to take a direct bearing if you really need to.  No, there are no numbers around the bezel, but I have never (literally – never) needed to know exactly how many degrees my bearing is while adventure racing.

It’s a little expensive compared to some other compasses, but you’ll be blown away by how quickly and steadily the needle finds north.  Once you try it, you’re going to love it.  I promise.  Go here to pick one up.

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D is for Duct Tape – Travel Rolls of Duct Tape

Duct Tape for Adventure Racing

Whether Duct Tape is on the mandatory gear list or not, you should always take some with you.  You don’t need to (or want to) take an entire roll of tape, though.  It’s too big, bulky, and heavy for adventure racing.  In the past, I used to make my own “race rolls” of duct tape by wrapping a few feet of the tape around a pencil and then breaking off the ends of the pencil.  You can also make a “flat race roll” by wrapping the tape around an old credit card or hotel key-card.

However, it’s a real pain in the butt to wrap your own rolls.  You have to be very careful to make sure no adhesive is exposed, and it’s really tedious.  Sure, you can save some money by rolling your own race rolls, but the convenience of these rolls more than makes up for the difference in price.  I think it’s definitely worth $6.50 for two 50″ rolls of duct tape.

We all know how useful Duct Tape is, so make sure you take some on your next race.  Throw a roll in your first aid kit, and keep the other roll in your gear box or foot-care kit.  You can thank me later.  Grab some race rolls of Duct Tape right here.

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E is for Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries

Eneloop Batteries for Adventure Racing

If you burn through batteries like I do, then do yourself a favor and pick up some Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries to go with the Lacrosse battery charger (mentioned above).  These are by far the best rechargeable batteries I’ve found.

I’ve tried the Duracell and Energizer rechargeables, and they are… Meh… okay.  They just don’t have as much juice as Eneloops, they don’t hold a charge as long as Eneloops, and they wear out a lot faster then Eneloops (The Eneloops can be recharged up to 1500 times vs. just “hundreds” for Duracell and Energizer rechargeables).

Compared to regular batteries, the Eneloops may seem expensive, but in the long run these rechargeable batteries are waaaaaaaaay cheaper.  You can get an 8-pack of AA’s for less than $2.50 per battery, and you can get and 8-pack of AAA’s for less than $2.40 per battery.  You can also buy them in 4-packs or 16-packs. Seriously, go get some.

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Well, that does it for part 1 of this series.  Have you used any of the above items?  Do you have any other gear recommendations for adventure racing?  Let us know in the comments section, and be sure to stay tuned for the next installment of gear reviews (Part 2 can be found here).  You can follow our blog on the right side of this page.  Or you can follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook to stay up to date with us.  Oh, and one more thing…

Have a happy, happy Festivus!

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