Category Archives: Reviews

Gear (and Race) Review: SaltStick / Simple Hydration at Ice Age 50mi

A great time was had this past weekend at one of the most competitive 50 mile trail races in the nation.  Despite some warming temperatures an incredible 26-year-old course record was broken by 12 minutes by Max King enroute to an unworldly 5:41:07 clocking on the sometimes wide, sometimes rolling, but mostly single track technical up-downs of the Kettle Moraine State Forrest. Max’s race report can be found here. Continue reading Gear (and Race) Review: SaltStick / Simple Hydration at Ice Age 50mi


Gear Review: Mio Alpha Heart Rate Watch

I love running and mostly everything that goes with it … especially cool gear.  This particular piece of gear is similar yet distinct to anything I have in my running closet.  I’ve had my fair share of running watches and have probably 3-4 heart rate monitor straps laying around somewhere, but the Mio Alpha is both in one sleek wrist watch for a truly unique and new technology. Continue reading Gear Review: Mio Alpha Heart Rate Watch

Gear Review: Salomon Sense Mantra Trail Running Shoe

Salomon Sense Mantra
Salomon Sense Mantra

Short story: probably the most versatile shoe I’ve put on my feet.

Longer story:I live in Iowa … not the rocky mountains, not the Pyrenees.  Although I’m not able to get to any “real” trails by others’ standards, I do have 7+ miles of crushed limestone out of my neighborhood and some winding single track packed dirt throughout town.  Continue reading Gear Review: Salomon Sense Mantra Trail Running Shoe

GEAR REVIEW: Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek SJ Ultra Vest

Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest
Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest

This video review on the Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest is fourth in a four part series with four various hydration packs by Camelbak, Ultimate Direction, and Amphipod:

  1. Camelbak Marathoner Hydration Vest
  2. Amphipod Profile-Lite Airstretch 20
  3. Camelbak Octane LR
  4. Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek SJ Ultra Vest (below) Continue reading GEAR REVIEW: Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek SJ Ultra Vest

GEAR REVIEW: Camelbak Marathoner Vest

Approaching a new world of ultra running and longer weekly long runs nutrition and fueling on the run is an area I need to embrace – like it or not.  5k – half marathon racing I can get away with zero calories during the run … nothing.  During marathon training, I take pride it heading out the door for 18-23 mile long runs with 0-2 gels … 4 on race day while not breaking pace through the water stops.  Now, with a newer focus on trail ultra marathons for at least the first half of 2013, nutrition and fueling NEEDS to be dialed in.  Not being fueled properly in a road marathon will certainly lead to “bonking” and a poor race result – not fun.  Not being fueled properly on some ultra marathons can leave you walking for hours in the middle of the woods by yourself depleted and completely trashed – not fun but also not safe.  Below is my comparison of four of the best packs on the market.  All different each with their strengths (and some weaknesses)

This video review on the Camelbak Marathoner Hydration Vest is first in a four part series (and my first video review period!) with four various hydration packs by Camelbak, Ultimate Direction, and Amphipod:

  1. Camelbak Marathoner Hydration Vest (below)
  2. Amphipod Profile-Lite Airstretch 20
  3. Camelbak Octane LR
  4. Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek Ultra Vest


Camelbak Marathoner Vest Video Review:

Film Review: Unbreakable – The Western States 100

Unbreakable DVDWhen it comes to sporting events, we’re at no loss of footage.  Instant replay, slow motion, high definition, every play of every NFL game at our fingertips, and so on … we have a lot.  With respect to a somewhat niche sport of distance running in general, we usually have to settle for Diamond League track meet coverage, large urban city marathons, and the Olympics – each of which is very hit-and-miss with competent commentating.  Take it to another level of “niche” sports in the world of trail ultra-running and you’re left with very grass roots coverage – think blogs, personal video / pictures, tweeting, results links, etc. which is actually preferable to most involved keeping the sport “pure” and/or natural feeling.


All that said, “Unbreakable – The Western States 100″ by Journey Film breaks the mold providing an incredible full length documentary on one of the greatest elite fields assembled at one of the most iconic 100 mile trail races in history.  More than simple running footage with splits and athlete placement along the way, this film rings true to their production title and brings you along for the thrilling journey from Squaw Valley to Auburn.  A perfect balance of having a professional production crew yet keeping the grassroots and natural spirit of trail running.  Incredible cinematography of what only the runners encounter along the high country, single track trail descents through the canyons, and crossing the American River were themselves enough to keep this Midwestern distance runner (born & raised in Wisconsin / currently residing in Iowa) on the edge of my seat with my heart pounding and mind flashing back to my younger days growing up in Golden, Colorado ages 4 – 9.  Amidst the incredible landscapes and nature-filled running footage, the personal stories of each top contender’s lifestyle and training was what will capture your attention to the very end.


The significance of this race at the top level was unprecedented – 4 elite ultra marathoners never facing each other in 100 miles before this 2010 running.  That seemed to be the only thing they had in common as each of them shared their own background, strengths, training methods, and lifestyle.  Hal Koerner – 2-time defending champ with an upbeat and infectious personality owns a running store in Oregon.  Geoff Roes – an introverted and insightful organic chef from Alaska undefeated in 100 miles.  Anton Krupicka – a charismatic graduate student enjoying the pure essence of running mountains and undefeated in any ultra marathon distance.  Killian Jornet – a humble and quiet mountain runner / skier from Spain with trekking experience since he was in diapers comes to the USA ultra scene for the first time.

What I enjoyed the most about seeing each of the athletes progress through the course is you never really knew what kind of day each would have until the race progressed  – very similar to distance running in general.  You never REALLY know if you’ll be running average, fighting through a bad patch, blowing up, or having the race of your life until you’re in those moments.  Out of the four featured experienced elite’s, it seemed to be on par with the chances of how any given season or build up might turn out … two running very well and executing, one fighting through some injury trauma, and another blowing up.  I won’t spoil anything for those that haven’t seen it because the drama and unfolding of the race continues right until the very end … do yourself a favor and find out by watching it!


Ok, obviously ultra / trail runners are going to really dig this film … as I mentioned before, it truly captures the essence and spirit of running through the woods for 100 miles.  I challenge any fitness enthusiast – track/road runners, swimmers, triathletes, mountain bikers, road bikers, skiers, mountaineers, climbers, etc. – to indulge in the journey of elite ultra / trail running.  I’m a self-declared running nerd but have been pounding out training and racing on the roads and track since college and couldn’t have enjoyed this more as I look forward to an ultra debut (trail 50km) in a few weeks and explore more in 2013/2014.  I’ve re-watched it a few times just for the mountain trail running footage alone (remember …… I live in Iowa ….. IOWA!!!!).



Gear Review & GIVEAWAY – Tooks Sportec Running Hat

All-season performance Sportec Headband

It’s getting to be colder and it’s never too early to start thinking about cold weather running gear.  One of your staple winter items should be a good hat (or two when it gets to be -20F windchill).  For those that (responsibly) listen to music and/or podcasts during their runs could benefit from the great products at TOOKS HATS.

Their 100% Prostretch Dryfit hat and ear warmer are excellent for working out, sweating, and running.  The hat / material itself is one of the warmest and best feeling hats I’ve ever run in.  I have a monster sized head and it feels snug but not tight.  The earphones can be held anywhere around the head to custom fit where your ears are on your head secured by velcro.  Audio quality is great without having any kind of ear buds shoved in your ears.  The extra long audio cord seems a bit long but is functional being able to wrap around your body into any pocket your jacket / shorts have – much much better than having too short of a cord pulling your head around.  One of the best features is being able to remove the headphones and use as a high quality moisture-wicking running hat! Below is straight from the Tooks website:

100% ProStretch dryfit with ultra-thin microfleece lining, flat stitch seams provide exceptional comfort.  Wear the Skully standalone or under helmets.  The Headband version is great for walking or jogging, or just drifting off to your favorite tunes!


Get a discount on TOOKS gear by visiting the discount page on and using the discount code for 10% off!


All-season performance Sportec Dryfit Hat

Win a Tooks Dryfit Hat!  See below for details and take advantage of multiple ways to enter many times….

Site Review –

Any successful racing plan must be built towards the right event.  Now days, almost all marathons have their own websites with course descriptions, maps, registration, etc.  A lot of helpful information for those registered or maybe looking at running that particular race.  One other website you MUST start using is – an incredibly useful tool in finding the ideal marathon.  There are so many factors and variables that affect a 26.2 mile race – hills, weather, terrain, time of year, and many more.  This innovative site was built from scratch by Greg Hosier in an attempt to gather a bunch of information from all different marathons in one place to see how the events stack up against one another.  On creating the site Greg quotes,


It’s a work in progress.  I really only launched it at the beginning of this year (2012).  The site was born out of hearing people compare marathons to determine which races they thought were the best to PR at or to qualify for Boston/NYC.  However, most of these discussions were subjective and anecdotal.  I thought I could add some objectivity to these comparisons.

– Greg Hosier, creator of


I had a great personal experience working with Greg requesting more information specifically on the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon hoping it would be added to the database to use the time conversion tool.  It was added within one day along with the other courses already analyzed.  What I love about the conversion tool is it breaks out the time difference with elevation (something you can’t change) separate from weather (something that could change drastically year-to-year).

The marathon search functionality is an incredible planning tool letting you filter on month, day of the week, course profile, course surface, course certification, course type, field size, and even average weather temperatures.  I highly recommend using this free tool early in your marathon search to give you the race day experience you can prepare for and expect in your training!


Olympic Stadium History

Today’s guest post is from across the pond!  Colin is from the United Kingdom – a professional British writer and occasional runner with a passion for sports and history. 


First of all I am going to use “stadiums” as the plural of stadium. There is a school of
thought that says the correct plural is “stadia”… but life’s too short to get into the
trenches over that issue!

The Olympic Stadium is the name that is usually associated with the largest centre-piece
stadium used for summer (as opposed to winter) Olympic games. The winter Olympic
games doesn’t use a centre-piece stadium for the events, although sometimes the opening
and closing ceremonies are held in a stadium such as a skating rink, that will be called the
Olympic Stadium just for those purposes.

For the summer Olympics, the Olympic stadium will usually host the main track and
field events. Usually once a country has been invited to host a future Olympics, they will
begin preparing facilities, sometimes including the construction of on Olympic stadium,
sometimes housed in an Olympic park.

The construction or refurbishment of a stadium to get it up to Olympic standards is only
part of the complex logistics required to host the Olympic games successfully. As the
number of events included in the Games has grown, more and larger facilities have to
be readied. As the event is always one that evokes feelings of national pride among the
citizens of the host country, every effort is made to make sure they are successful.

Then transport infrastructure has to be able to accommodate a huge influx of people into
an area to take part in, officiate, or watch the games. Even in a gigantic metropolis like
London, there are concerns as to whether the transport system will become overloaded at
peak times, and cause delays to those wanting to see or return home from the games, as
well as all those going about their usual non-Olympic business.

The first Olympic Stadium to be constructed from scratch was the White City Stadium
in London, for the 1908 Olympic games. Why are we not using it for the London Olympic
Games? It was demolished in 1984, after being used first for Greyhound racing (not an
Olympic sport!) and then for motorcycle Speedway racing.

The most recent new Olympic Stadium, apart from the one just completed in London, is
the one constructed for the Beijing Olympics, known as the Bird’s Nest.

The 2016 Olympics, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will use the existing Maracana

Many stadiums are situated within Olympic Parks, which can house additional Olympic

sporting facilities and provide open space, along with restaurant and other facilities.

One of the issues has been to make sure that any area where an Olympic stadium has been
built, and regenerated, remains regenerated after the games have been and gone. This is
particularly important given that to host an Olympic games is very expensive, particularly
if an Olympic Stadium and a park has had to be built. Given these bad economic times, it
remains to be seen whether London 2012 can be a model for hosting games and not ending
up in debt and with a ghost stadium that is rarely used. But so much thought and effort has
been input that I strongly suspect that not only will the games be a success, but that the Olympic Park and stadium will continue to flourish for years to come!

More information on the London Olympics here!

Gear Review: RoadID

Not the traditional gear review of the latest racing flats, lightest socks, and/or best tasting gels … today’s long overdue post is something much much cheaper that could save your life … SO LISTEN UP!!!



We’re endurance athletes right?  We’re driven and full of energy – nothing can stop us attaining our goal – we’re invincible right?  Well, not really.  Besides the battery of curse words and yelling that can be thrown our way by non-runners, we’re also subject to a certain level of health / safety risk weather we’re out on the roads, trails, alone, or with others.  Don’t be foolish and mistake your physical endurance and strength as human invincibility – we are all subject to needing medical attention on any given run / ride.

The folks at RoadID have taken their original simple idea of carrying your most important emergency medical / contact information and exploded their market into innovative, attractive, and sporty gear for any fitness enthusiast out on the roads.  The prices are reasonable and you can always find major discounts and free shipping deals around – especially at local races and/or outdoor events.  The latest innovation of theirs is the Interactive ID giving first responders access to your most up to date emergency and medical information via telephone and online.  You’re able to update changes in phone numbers, medical history, allergies, addresses, even your emergency contacts online – your RoadID won’t have to be replaced to be up to date!

The first year being free and a measly $10/year beginning the second year is the price of the Interactive ID service.  We spend hundreds of dollars in-car insurance, right?  Running on busy roads and/or with certain health conditions increases some of the same risks and we (or others) should be prepared to take action when something happens.  We all have $0.84 in our monthly budget for something that could be the difference between life and death.  Let’s get uber-running-geeky and think of a quick MILEAGE BUDGET as a runner:

Good running shoes – $65 to $120 lasting ~400 miles = $0.16 to $0.30 per mile

Important race entry – $50 to $100 for ~4 months training @ 10 miles / day = $0.04 – $0.08 per mile

Life Saving RoadID Interactive ID service – $10 per year @ 10 miles / day = $0.0028 per mile


Who knows which mile you’ll need help … for me, with my family back at home (or with me while running), it’s worth less than 1/3 of a cent per mile to get the right people the right information.  I ended up ordering the original FIXX ID – the dog tag style necklace to be on me wherever I am – on or off the roads.