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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.)

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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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