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Review: NES Cooling Towel

From: Chris Jones

Review: I have been using one of these for about 1 month. I sweat excessively and I now always carry this on a training run. It’s small enough to fit in the pocket of my shorts. Its very absorbent, just pull it out and mop away then give it a good snap or good shake and its cooling. I suspect the water is distributed through the material when you snap it so after that you are wiping with a cooling damp cloth. It works a treat.

(editors note: This is a review of the sample that became our NES Cooling Towels, now available in the store!)

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Review: DryRobe

From: Hannah R Hawley

Review: It’s like a HUGE jacket! It’s warm. It’s waterproof. It has a hood. I can wear a ruck or backpack under it. I can carry my keys, phone, and more in the pockets. It’s awesome for ice fishing, supporting/volunteering/crewing a race, hanging out, watching kids play in the snow, changing after a race, changing before a race, not letting my body going into shock when I stop in the cold and am hot and sweaty!

(Editors note: these are available on a pre-order basis once or twice a year only)

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Review: AktivX Lace Locks

From: Justin McGovern

Review: Tied laces? Or Locking Laces? I’ve heard the back and forth and have encountered my fair share of pros and cons to both systems on various shoes. I think Salomon has the best “out-of-the-box” locking laces and Reebok’s were the worst. Depending on the amount of water and mud on a course seemed to factor in how often I’d have to adjust the locking laces. I wore Salomon Speedcross 3s for the NJ Beast and only had to tighten them once or twice. I wore Reebok All Terrain Super ORs for the Killington Beast and it felt like I was CONSTANTLY tightening the lace locks. They stretched and I had them so tight they were killing the top of my feet. I bought the ActivX laces to replace the ones on the Reeboks and their first test was the NJ Super. I never had to adjust them once. They held tight but flexed enough to be comfortable. The locking mechanism also worked like a charm to get off when caked with mud. I find the Salomon’s lock gets gunked up and a bit tough to loosen when there’s mud in it. I’ve just bought my 3rd pair of ActivX laces to replace the regular tie laces on my Inov-8 Terraclaws. Plus for the price (about $8) they’re totally worth a try!! MAKE SURE YOU DONT CUT THEM UNTIL YOU KNOW HOW LONG THEY NEED TO BE TO GET THE SHOE OFF!!

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Book Review: Spartan Fit!: 30 Days. Transform Your Mind. Transform Your Body. Commit to Grit.

Spartan Fit!: 30 Days. Transform Your Mind. Transform Your Body. Commit to Grit. by Joe De Sena and John Durrant is the newest book by Joe De Sena and is geared at getting you fit and ready for a Spartan Race, or life as De Sena would rather you look at it. 

41dirjom-nl-_sx331_bo1204203200_This took me longer to read and longer to write than I would have liked.  That said, I liked this book. There was a bit of wading to do to get through the life that Joe lives and what he has his children do and the unrealistic standards they seem to live by.  Life is about living, not simply surviving.

The book is broken up into sections covering how to get started, the history of Spartan Race and what is Agoge and how is it tied to the new event, examples of obstacles, the pillars of Sparta, a 30 day plan, recipes, options for the elite, and of course, making a case for the Olympics.

Once I got past the braggadocio of Joe De Sena and got to the meat of the book, I found it to be great. For someone who has never ran a Spartan Race or is a seasoned veteran, you can find something worth your time.  The plan is designed to need little to no equipment other than sandbags and things you can make.  It includes a warm-up, cool-down, options to make it harder or easier, and is laid out in an easy to read manner. There are examples of what obstacles you might face, how to execute them, and how to train for them.

While I didn’t take on the 30-day workout, what it offers is a great starting place, something to add-in to your current routine, or something to break you out of a funk!

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Review: OCRBuddy

From: Nicole Landry

Review: This is the first app of it’s kind that I’ve seen, where I can keep all of my races in one place! I have an iPhone, so I can only speak to the functionality of the app on apple devices. Previously, I have kept multiple versions of my race schedule throughout the year: excel spreadsheets, day planner, google calendar on my phone, iCalendar, a white board…and invariably, I double book at least one thing every month. It’s a pain, and too time consuming to keep cross-referencing every place I keep my schedule.

With OCR Buddy, I can log in, hit “My Events,” and it gives me the list of every race I am planning to do. It also stores the races you have done in the past. When you search the calendar for events, you can click on an event, see if any of your “buddies” (they have to be using the app, as well) are attending, and you can either click “attending” if you have registered, or know you are going to register; or, you can click “interested” so it adds it to your event list.

Each event that you add to your list has a section for notes, so you can add whether or not you have paid the reg fee (or any other info you want to add).

When an event is finished, there is also a place for you to add your finishing time. This makes it easier to go back and compare finishing times, if that’s your thing.

The app itself is really easy to use. You can update your profile with a pic, your regional information, the teams you are on, and your social media “names.” The profile page shows you how many buddies you have and how many races you are attending.

If you’re looking for an event, there are events listed throughout 2017 already (as of this review, there are 911 upcoming races). If there is an event you are going to that isn’t listed, you have the ability to add it, and the moderator will review and add it to the calendar. I’ve actually expanded my race calendar from just looking through the published events and finding races that I wouldn’t have originally planned on running. And the events are nationwide, and international..on vacation and need a race fix? Look at the calendar and find one in the area you’re vacationing in. 🙂

The app also has filters, so you can narrow down your search by only your events, events your buddies are attending; race brand, country (currently US, UK, Canada, and Australia), region, state, length of race, whether or not you’ll get dirty, and whether or not you’ll get swag.

Under the settings tab, you can find a FAQ on the app. It tells you everything you need to know to use the app. It has a clickable menu, or you can scroll through the whole FAQ (which I recommend, there are a few tidbits in there that I didn’t know!). It’s not overly verbose, and it doesn’t miss any of the points you may be looking for.

The only thing the app is currently missing is the ability to export to your daily calendar on your phone. I hear they’re working on it, though. I’ll be very excited when that happens. One less cross-reference to worry about!

The best thing about the app, is I can literally just tell someone to hold on a second when they ask if I’m free to do something, and I can look at my events and give them an answer right away. Before I had to say…Oh let me go home and check my race schedule. Pretty cool.

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Review: FitBit Blaze

From: Barry Regan

Review: I’ve been a longtime FitBit user and recently upgraded from a FitBit One to the Blaze. The driving force behind this upgrade was the addition of Heart Rate monitoring but I was pleasantly surprised by some of the other features. The Blaze is a wrist watch type of activity tracker that monitors the basic stats of steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, and flights of stairs climbed. In addition, it monitors your heart rate and gives you a daily resting heart rate that you track over time. You can also use it as a timer and set silent alarms.

After the latest firmware upgrade, it added in a motivation feature that will remind to take at least 250 steps an hour over the range of hours that you define. At 10 minutes before the next hour the watch will vibrate to remind you to get moving.

It has two addition modes called Exercise and Fitstar. Exercise has a set of pre-defined workout styles like boot camp, run, or treadmill that when activated will track those work outs and provide you some feedback. If you are connected to a nearby phone, some modes will connect to the phone GPS and provide additional info but not on the same level as a Garmin or watch of that type.

Fitstar is utility with built in bodyweight fitness routines so you can do a workout anywhere you are. I haven’t tried it yet so can’t tell you how good the workouts are.

The watch face is a little on the large size so I would recommend checking one out before buying to see if you like it. You can change the look of the watch face by switching between 9 different styles using the app. The unit itself pops out of the wrist band so you can probably get different bands as well.

Overall I like the Blaze. It is definitely a solid tracker and the heart rate monitoring helps me control my workout and running intensity.

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Review: Icebug Aurora BUGrip

From: Amber Galindo

Review: I got these shoes in preparation for Blizzard Blast and WinterDash with the expectation of running in the snow. Unfortunately, we had quite the mild winter and Blizzard Blast was well over 50 degrees and no snow for WinterDash. I only got to run in the snow with them one time and the traction was phenomenal, but it was one time.

With that said, I have also used these at FIT Challenge and other trail races or events with lots of wooden obstacles and climbing and the spikes provide extra help getting over obstacles.

They are very light and low profile and kept my feet super warm when it was cold outside.

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Review: Quest 2L Hydration Pack

From: Amber Galindo

Review: So this was my second hydration pack after another pack didn’t fit me comfortably. I was able to go to a Dick’s Sporting Goods and try it on right in the store. The price point was great for me at $25 and I like that it has nice, thick back pack style straps.

I have now used this at almost every race I’ve run since I got it – even 5Ks simply because it is comfortable and does it’s job. It has extra storage in the front where I can keep gu, keys, phone, etc. for longer runs. It has mesh pockets on both sides, which is an easy place to put empty gu packets when on the course or when you pick up trash discarded by others. The mouth piece is very similar to the camelbak style, which I like. I has lots of adjustments that make it so it should fit just about anyone.

Given the price point of $25, frankly I can’t see how anything else in the price range could even compare. It has really served me well.

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Review: Merrell All Out Charge

From: Amy LaPanne

Review: Based on how much I liked my Merrell All Out Rush shoes for hiking, I decided to try out the All Out Charge for OCR. They were super comfy right out of the box. There’s enough padding at the back of the heel but it never rubbed. I wore them hiking a few times to break them in before wearing them all day (literally, all day) at the Killington Beast. The only modification I made was that I added the Sof Sole Athlete insole for some extra padding. My best battle buddy wore her Charges with the Merrell provided insole and had problems with it slipping down under her toes. She eventually took her insoles out and put them in her pack. My Sof Soles never moved and provided just enough extra padding so that my feet didn’t hurt as much as expected by the end. But…back to the shoe.

I went a half size up, knowing that we’d be going down hill a lot and that my Rush shoes were a little short, and that was a good move for me. Even with the Sof Soles inside, I had enough room without being squished or my feet sliding around (I have an average width foot).Unlike the Solomon’s, these have regular tie laces which stayed tied the whole time for me.

I remarked during the trip several times that my feet were dry all day. Drainage was excellent. Also, thanks to the tongue of the shoe being attached on the outer side, I had very little debris in my shoe. Grip was very good, too. There are lots of nubs on the bottom that got the work done both up hill and down.

Found mine using shoekicker – but noticed Nordstrom’s Rack has them on sale right now, as well as

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Review: Garmin Forerunner 230

From: Rob Baynes

Review: After fighting with a fitbit surge for over a year, I finally did some research and bought a real GPS tracker.

I chose the Garmin Forerunner 230 because:
A) I don’t do heart rate training, so I didn’t get the 235 and saved a few $.
B) It is very accurate, comfortable, easy to read, lightweight, long running and waterproof.

After wearing it for a month of training and races, I love it and would recommend it to anyone for OCR training / races and fitness tracking. I was surprised how well the smart watch features work (text / email / calendar notifications). I like them so much I keep my phone on silent now and just use the watch to decide if I answer a call / message (handy in places where pulling out your phone would be rude).

I could not get the watch to use bluetooth to sync to the Garmin app on my iPhone 6s, and I tried for days and asked their support for help. No dice. But it turns out I don’t care – the phone app is pretty confusing and the watch still works with the phone as far as smart watch features go. Just no syncing GPS data. I found using the USB cable to my mac a great way to sync GPS data while charging it.

The only other negative thing I could say about Garmin products in general is that they have many features, more than most people ever use, and the navigation on the device suffers. Many menus, different paths to the same feature, etc. But once you learn where the features are you use, you are fine.

I highly recommend this device. The $250 price is awesome for what you get.

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